"Many organizations have adopted the unfortunate philosophy that repeatable processes lead to success, yet in reality what you really want is repeatable results (that is, the delivery of a high-quality system). The quest for repeatability often leads to templates, and because each system has its own unique set of issues, these templates have a tendency to grow over time into all inclusive monstrosities that do little more than justify bureaucracy."
The context of Ambler's observation was documentation strategies in agile programming environments. His comments are consistent with what I have observed in many new product development and launch efforts.
Senior managers commonly put a lot of trust into established processes. Some of the problems with product launch templates and checklists are presented below:
- Templates and their associated checklists are efficient at highlighting uncompleted items that have been identified previously.
- Traditionally, the lengths of the lists grow as diverse items from many sources are added. Unfortunately after a critical size, longer lists do not produce better results. Every organization has a bandwidth limit. Soon, individuals begin to assign personal priorities to the items and then team efficiency is reduced.
- Even worse, lists are missing critical information that is vital to the success of a particular launch. These missing entries are the "I don't know what I don't know" items or the unk unks. One possible result of unk unks is missed milestones. Another possible result is unrealized sales.
- A subtle problem with checklists is that an item with a status of "completed" does not guarantee that item will be effective. Items such as "Add appropriate content to existing company web site" or "Create brochure" are too fuzzy.
What is the best way for a development and launch team and their managers to design and deliver a high quality system that produces repeatable product launch results? How are the appropriate items selected in the appropriate proportions at the appropriate time?
The answers are not too surprising. The answers include:
- Enlist the appropriate people on the team at the appropriate times.
- Management's roles include clearing roadblocks and ensuring that the environment is conducive to the tasks.
- Leadership is more important than management. Someone should be designated to combine their extensive knowledge from disciplines that range from engineering sciences to social sciences to create an innovative launch plan. For the best results, the disciplines do not work in parallel nor in series. For the best results, the disciplines are interconnected. To describe the design of the successful product launch that provides appropriate leadership and incorporates effective feedback, I have coined the term launch architecture.
Process is not enough to ensure success with complex activities of development and launch. For more about this, see Launch Architecture.