Enactment of Technology Strategy

What are the three areas of promise associated with the commercialization of new products and processes, that is, of successful development projects? Give a specific example of each.

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The commercialization of new processes and products can result in market success in a rapidly changing, intensely competitive industry (Burgelman, Maidique, & Wheelwright, 1996). New products and processes can leapfrog the competition, establish strong barriers for competitors, and result in market leadership. New products and processes can be a vehicle for entering new distribution channels and reaching new customers. This is because they may complement the already existing products, targeting untapped market niches. A good example of this eventuality would be the introduction of a product with unique design features that are favored by customers. Other companies would lose their market since they do not have access to the processes necessary to introduce the unique features on their products.

New processes and products improve the utilization of resources. They ensure that an organization capitalizes on previous research while leveraging and enhancing the existing assets of the organization (Burgelman et al., 1996). They also provide a way for an organization to overcome any past failures or weaknesses, establishing a larger resource base for the future. An example of this would be the improvement of the performance and motivation of an organization’s sales force with the introduction of a new product that is performing well in the market. The sales team works harder as a result of motivation, resulting in increased productivity and sales for the company.

The commercialization of new products and processes also promises organizational change and renewal. When growth opportunities are captured through the introduction of new products and processes, the people within an organization are excited and motivated. This introduction provides employees with an opportunity to receive training to improve their skills and have the ability to operate new machinery, for instance. Organizations that introduce new processes and products invest in the improvement of their workforce to achieve an edge over the competition.

According to Exhibit 2, successful development projects occur when attention and influence by management are allocated at the onset of development projects, not in the prototype building, pilot production, and manufacturing ramp‐up phases. Traditionally, why is the management of resources focused at the end phases of the project?

            The management of resources is focused on the end phases of a project because the senior management is keen to see what the project has been focusing on and the outcome of the project activities. Many managers do not pay attention to new projects until there is some material object that can be shown – the outcome or the prototype. It is during the end phases of a project that senior managers step in to see what has been achieved and how it can be developed. Some managers disregard the value of new projects until they can see a prototype that has been developed from a project. Projects are assigned to mid-level managers until they reach the end phases, in most organizations. However, senior management should be involved in the initial project stages, as shown in Exhibit 2 (Burgelman et al., 1996).

What are the shortcomings of go/no‐go decisions on a handful of projects by senior management? What does the development strategy leadership approach entail?

            The go/no-go decisions assume that the concepts proposed by an organization fully cover the organization’s needs and opportunities for new processes and products. They also assume that senior management will have all the information necessary to make proper decisions on which products and processes to pursue or develop regarding the present strategies and business activities (Burgelman et al., 1996). The go/no-go decisions approach also presumes that the advanced technology and development work will have been completed before each project receives initial funding and approval. Lastly, the approach assumes that senior management will adequately consider the resources and capacity requirements for proposed individual projects and the approved projects. In contrast, the development strategy leadership approach is primarily based on the idea of the development funnel, which creates a more involving and proactive role for senior management. It puts the senior management in the position of motivating, leading, and guiding the organization towards the development of the best projects. It also places senior management in the role of setting guidelines, charters, and general boundaries for individual projects (Burgelman et al., 1996). This way, the approach ensures maximum involvement of senior management.

Regarding the widening of the mouth of the funnel theory when creating an aggregate set of projects, it is encouraged to investigate alternatives before making the go/no‐go decisions on just a few. How can these costs be justified to pure financial branches of management who may well see this as a waste?

            To justify the costs involved with the widening of the mouth of the funnel theory, it is important to ensure that purely financial branches of management understand the need for and the importance of the process. It should be explained, by production management, that the process is important since it helps in the identification of the most viable or profitable projects to pursue. The management should understand that there is no single best or an appropriate mix of projects for all companies. Investing in the widening of the mouth of the funnel helps in the identification of where opportunities exist, ensuring the selection of the best or most profitable mix of projects to develop. The costs involved are justified because this process increases the chances of project success and increased organization profitability.

State the characteristics of a functional team structure. What type of development project is a functional team structure best suited for?

            A functional team is usually organized or grouped based on discipline. The team has a senior functional manager and a sub-functional manager (Grant, Graham, & Heberling, 2001). The main benefit of using a functional team structure is that an organization benefits from the experience of the team members since they are individuals that hold the organization’s depth of knowledge. The main disadvantage of using a functional team is that the objectives and performance requirements for each development project are different, making projects more complex and time-consuming. When a functional team is used for product development projects, the responsibility for the project will be passed on from function to function, lengthening the process. When used for competency building, or technical problem solving, however, a functional team is highly effective.

State the characteristics of an autonomous team structure. What type of development project is an autonomous team structure best suited for?

            An autonomous team is also referred to as a tiger team. It is a team that begins projects with a clean sheet of paper – no previous experience or building on from previous work. An autonomous team establishes its policies and procedures, taking full responsibility for the success or failure of the project at hand (Grant et al., 2001). These teams have no set boundaries when undertaking projects, which enables them to provide unique project results. The main disadvantage of autonomous teams is that their autonomy often causes problems and misunderstandings. An autonomous team is best suited for the creation of new business ventures or the creation of new products and services.

State the characteristics of a lightweight team structure. What type of development project is a lightweight team structure best suited for?

            A lightweight team is formed by grouping individuals selected from every functional area within an organization (Grant et al., 2001). Each individual is a liaison person for each functional area. The team is managed by a junior or mid-level manager who has little power, status, and influence. The team leaders usually spend very little time on a project. The weaknesses and strengths of a lightweight team structure are similar to those of a functional team structure. However, a lightweight team has better coordination and communication. The disadvantage with these teams is that the leader may feel ignored. A lightweight team is best suited for incremental product improvement projects.

State the characteristics of a heavyweight team structure. What type of development project is a heavyweight team structure best suited for?

            A heavyweight team structure is made up of individuals who hold power within an organization. The manager of the team is an individual with direct access to top-level management (Grant et al., 2001). He or she is responsible for all the work assigned to the team or involved in the project. A heavyweight team is composed of dedicated, influential, and experienced members. The organization benefits from the experience and dedication of the team members. Heavyweight team structures are best suited for projects involving the development of next-generation products or components.

Three post-project learning elements are required to successfully learn from past projects. Describe how each of these could be executed in a firm. They are:

  • Step 1:   The need for learning must be recognized.

The need for learning has to be recognized for an organization and its members to learn from projects (Williams, 2003). In an organization that operates through development projects, the project team must involve younger employees, who are the future of the organization. These people should work closely with the project leader to learn how projects are managed and the importance of projects. They should understand that it is only through observation and learning that they can become project managers in the future. Recognizing the importance of learning is the first step in the process of learning for past projects.

  • Step 2: Identify, analyze, capture and incorporate lessons learned.

This can be done in an organization through the evaluation and assessment of projects after their completion – project audit.  Project audit identifies areas that have been successfully developed and those that could have been managed in a better way (Victor, Panikar, & Kanhere, 2007). The challenges faced in the execution of a project, as well as the lessons learned from a project, are captured through audits of projects carried out. Any additional resources that would have improved the project and resulted in better or faster results should be identified through the audit.

  • Step 3:   The additional resources identified in Step 2 for future projects must be allocated.

In future projects, an organization that conducted a project audit and identified the challenges faced and the necessary additional resources needed should ensure that adjustments are made to improve outcomes (Victor et al., 2007). For instance, if the project audit revealed that a larger workforce would have increased the success of a project, adequate manpower should be allocated to future projects.

References

Burgelman, R. A., Maidique, M. A., & Wheelwright, S. C. (1996). Strategic management of technology and innovation (Vol. 2). Chicago: Irwin.

Grant, K. P., Graham, T. S., & Heberling, M. E. (2001). The project manager and project team involvement: Implications for project leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies, 7(4), 32-42.

Victor, G. J., Panikar, A., & Kanhere, V. K. (2007). E-government projects–Importance of post completion audits. In International Conference of e-government (ICEG) (pp. 189-199).

Williams, T. (2003). Learning from projects. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 54(5), 443-451.

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