The purpose of this paper is to study two aspects of new product development (NPD) success – the impact of learning and the impact of structure – are studied.
A multiple case study method within a single setting consisting of in-depth interviews of two teams that developed successful, award-winning products and two teams that developed unsuccessful products.
Case 1: flexibility and expertise permitted learning and radical redefinition of the product mid-project and commercial success. Case 2: flexibility enabled adding expertise which was instrumental in success, iterating permitted optimizing pricing. Case 3: flexibility led to focusing on technical issues to the exclusion of commercial viability. Case 4: flexibility led to skipping market definition and partnering with a particular customer whose situation was idiosyncratic. Cross-case analysis: flexibility in teams with both technical and commercial expertise yielded success. Flexibility permitted teams consisting of narrow experts to invest development resources in products with insufficient market.
This paper argues that the right balance between structure and flexibility is dependent on the level of expertise of the members of the NPD project teams. However, getting this balance right is not a sufficient condition for NPD success. The cases were theoretically blocked to develop theoretical insight, but additional cases are needed for a strong test of theory.
The more experienced team members are, the more the project benefits from flexibility. Conversely, an inexperienced team will benefit from a more structured process. Projects require iteration. The dichotomy between structure and flexibility is false: the most expert teams benefit from some structure. The most inexperienced teams must employ flexibility to learn.
The analysis combines the virtues of the stage-gate school and the flexibility school previously thought mutually exclusive.
Robey, D., Hellman, K., Monlouis, I., Nations, K. and Johnston, W. (2019), "Between flexibility and discipline in new product development: expertise as a boundary condition", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 33-49. https://doi.org/10.1108/MIP-02-2015-0042Download as .RIS
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