Managing High Performance Teams to Gain Product Leadership

Take a look at organizations that are considered to be product leaders in their respective fields like Intel, Google, Microsoft, Apple, GE, 3M, and Phillips etc. It is evident that the Organizations are totally focused on innovation and R&D. Developing, improving and creating products for tomorrow as well as thinking of the future. It is their innate passion and drive to innovate combined with smart management of business that makes them the leaders.

These Organizations that bank heavily on R&D and Design are faced with several challenges in managing the creative developmental process. Apart from having to invest huge sums into R&D, they have got to hire the best talents available in the industry. More often the creative design and development teams can be quite huge and comprise of hundreds of engineers and scientists working on one project. These Organizations hire the best talent from the Universities and industries and provide them the best environment to work. To be a product leader, the Organizations have got to have the best performing and most talented teams that can break all boundaries and think of the unthinkable.

Managing and nurturing creativity at individual level and managing large teams of highly creative individuals can be quite challenging. You will see that these Organizations promote an environment that allows teams to think freely, take risks and experiment. Every idea that the individual or the team comes up with need not fructify as a product. In fact there is an interesting story that is recounted at the University classes about IBM. An employee at IBM happened to think creatively and his experiment cost the Organization thousands of dollars. When his experiment failed, he was called to the CEO’s cabin. Expecting that he would be asked to give in his papers for causing such loss to the Organization, the employee went in ready with his resignation in his hand. The CEO turned around and said that the Organization had just invested such huge amount in educating the employee and was expecting him to continue to innovate and experiment. This is true of all the Organizations that are innovation and product leaders. However, allowing people to think and innovate and take risks does not mean that they are not accountable. On the other hand, these Organizations have perfected the art and process of managing innovation, in managing huge teams developing one product or cross functional teams working on any developmental project. Detailed processes are drawn up to ensure that every idea is captured, qualified, tested and experimented as well as documented.

Managing hundreds of scientists or engineers and multiple teams working closely on any one project or product calls humongous effort on the part of the management to co-ordinate the progress on all fronts. This apart the Organization has got to look at and plan other important functions including manufacturing, marketing and advertising etc at the same time. Moreover, time becomes a very critical factor in such cases.

Managing such challenging environments, ensuring that there are no organizational barriers or bureaucratic tendencies that can hinder the progress at all levels calls for exceptional organizational and management talent and skills on the part of managements. Managing innovation is not easy. More difficult is the process of commercializing the product as well. Furthermore, the management cannot lose time or focus on developing the existing product further in order to provide increased product value and product extension and at the same time continue to innovate for the future too.


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