Principles of Good Product Development

Highly skilled, well-trained people

The Engineering workforce is a key factor in achieving better performance levels. Even though use of computers will increase, and down-sizing will reduce headcount, people will still be needed. Engineering organizations will be looking for highly skilled and adaptable engineers. Such people will be in short supply, so organizations will have difficulty in finding them, and will need to treat them well if they are going to retain them.

Organizations will be looking for people with different types of skills for different activities. Even though teamwork will be common, people with very specialized skills will still be needed. For example, certain types of analysis can only be carried out by people with in-depth knowledge of a subject and long experience in interpreting results. Even a large team of generalists without this specialized knowledge, skills and experience can not carry out such analysis. This should not be taken to mean that specialists will not need to work in teams, only that specialized skills will still be needed in the team environment. Alongside the need for specialists will be a growing need for generalists - people with skills in several areas. Generalists will participate in or lead teams, act as an interface between specialists, and provide links to customers and suppliers.

Everyone, specialists as well as generalists, will need to be skilled in the systems, practices and techniques of the organization. They will need to understand the tools the company has chosen to work with so that they can make best use of them and so that they can understand what their colleagues are doing. People will also need softer skills, such as the ability to work in a team, the ability to communicate well with their colleagues, and the ability to work with people who come from other functional, cultural and national backgrounds. They will have to be adaptable, and open to new ways of working.

Engineering organizations that don't have a skilled, trained workforce will find it very difficult to improve performance. After all, without competent people, how can change occur? Additional computer systems will not improve performance unless people understand them and are able to use them. The same is true for new techniques, practices and technologies. Without appropriate people, the potential benefits will not be achieved. Without good people, the company's product development performance will not change. It will continue to be too slow and too expensive, and the company will continue to suffer from quality problems. As time goes on, the organization will become less and less competitive. It will be difficult to modify organizational structures to meet market requirements. Without people with the basic skills it won't be possible to take advantage of advanced systems and practices, so the company will slip further behind.

Engineering organizations that have skilled, trained people will find it easy to improve performance. Their people will be trained in the techniques of working together effectively. Teams will be formed to improve the product development process. Best practices will be introduced and the corresponding training given. Training will be given to ensure that everybody understands and benefits from the computer systems they are using. Cycle times and product costs will be reduced, and product quality improved.

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Page last modified on March 10, 2000
Copyright 2000 by John Stark