Characteristic 1: Built-in instability

In this post and the following ones I will reflect on the Harvard Business Review paper titled “The New New Product Development Game” published in 1986 here. This paper was the origin of Scrum and Agile movement. Leading companies who produce innovative products assume six characteristics. This post discusses the first characteristic, which this paper suggested that top management creates built-in instability by:

  • Setting broad goal and providing broad direction while leaving complete freedom to the team in taking charge of the development process.
  • Setting very challenging requirement from the team which creates element of tension.
  • Pushing development team to the extreme so that it emerges innovation.

This instability introduced from the three previous actions ultimately leads to creativity and innovative products.

Reflecting on this paper, I felt that we missed the opportunity which this paper called for by narrowing the implementation into specific tactics. From what I have seen, product companies use Agile (mainly Scrum) in new development, which in reality is any of the following:

  • Developing new product resembling or beating that of existing competitor.
  • Overhaul the architecture of existing product.
  • Enrich the functionality set of existing product.

In my view, Scrum is a vehicle to realize the promise of this paper for providing conducive environment for developers to produce innovative products.

What I have found in implementation

Top management enforce strict project management, demand predictability, enforce a process and even intervenes in team dynamics. The goals set are specific and management calls for detailed requirements up-front instead of allowing emergence of the requirements.

There is a gap between the intended scenarios to implement this approach and its associated management behaviors and what have been implemented. I found that even teams who do repeatable development work still use Scrum.

————————————————————————Next characteristic 2. Self-organizing project teams

2 thoughts on “Characteristic 1: Built-in instability

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