Herstatt, Cornelius Stockstrom, Christoph Nagahira, Akio
Year of Publication:
Working Paper 34
In this paper we report on the results of an interview research about new product development (NPD) processes and planning in 15 Japanese mechanical and electrical engineering companies. We asked the companies to describe one successful and one less successful project. All in all, we collected data for 29 projects, 15 of which were successful. We explore how these companies structure their NPD processes and conduct their planning activities in order to strike a balance between the needs for efficiency and flexibility, which often carry opposing implications for organizing and managing new product development projects. While the majority of the companies in our sample build their NPD efforts on a similar process model, we find them to employ diverse procedures to achieve their aims. In the companies we interviewed, there is a strong inclination towards planning R&D activities. New product development projects are based on well-defined procedures and written documents, which represent a standard approach to the companies' ; R&D efforts. However, not all aspects are planned in equal depth and later phases of NPD projects, such as the implementation of the product concept into production, which exhibit lower uncertainty, are planned in much more detail. The need for flexibility in planning is highlighted by our finding that the less successful projects failed to anticipate changes - especially within the environment - and therefore were often carried out according to outdated plans and information. Our results suggest that the quality of the initial project plan with regard to the information it is based upon is closely linked to success. Despite the environmental turbulence, there seem to be no pronounced differences between successful and less successful projects concerning changes of the plan throughout the course of the project. Consequently, our interview partners consider the project managers of the unsuccessful projects to be less skilled in marketing and management than their successful counterparts.
New product development Japanese firms planning success innovation project management