Much more leadery leadership

I thoroughly enjoyed the article about the new product development (NPD) teams.  And the style of leadership that is encouraged for them.  I like that the leaders workto make the teams non-competitive and goal oriented.  This is much better than other cases we have read where every salesman in a company is out for themselves.  By making team goals the priority, team work necessarily becomes a priority as well.  This will build a sense of camaraderie that many companies often struggle for years (and often in vain) to achieve.

I also really like the idea that team members should “own” the process with which they develop products.  In my operations class we often talk about the linear nature of development and how one group may not be able to start their process until another is completely done.  This isolation can also create problems where an unseen error comes up at step six of development, and the problem has to go all the way back to square one.  By having the R&D group work together they can not only expediate the process, but also communicate with one another to hopefully avoid the pitfalls of working in small, isolated, pods.  Secondly, the ownership concept is good because it will lead to the employees caring more about the projects that they are working on.  I they feel that it is “their baby” they are more likely to work harder, and with more care on it, to ensure that it comes out the best that it can.

Of course, none of this is possibile without the concept of the the team leader as a “coach or facilitator”.  This helps because it creates an environment where employees are not afraid of, and do not have to bend to every whim of, the boss.  By letting the employees work to the specifications that they think would be best, the leadership is allowing the engineers and researchers to do what they do best.  By not handing down mandates from on high, the leadership ensures that what the engineers think are the best ideas (and they’re probably right about that, they’re engineers after all) is used.  Furthermore, they allow R&D to take chances and make mistakes.  While it is true that it may be costly for a researcher to make a mistake every once and a while, it is nowhere near the cost of stifled innovation.  Even if it takes five misfires for the R&D team to come up with one breakthrough, the risk is worth it.  Also, it goes a long way to creating an environment where more of the best people want to work.  If most engineers had the choice between working somewhere where they were allowed large amounts of freedom or somewhere where there boss was “the star”, they would choose the former every time.  And if the best work there, than maybe the mistakes won’t roll in so frequently.

It was refreshing to read a case about a company who is doing leadership right.  Especially after the two stinkers we had earlier.


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