If You Are Lost… Grab Your MAP!

Jan 24, 2022

We can MAP the journey to profitability in a new product introduction with a client. That is something that most don’t do. Here is the story of the process that we can help them deploy….

A challenge that has existed since the beginning of creating new products by manufacturing companies is that of effective collaboration of those involved and the creation of measures of excellence in that journey. Today more than ever, advanced manufacturers must create new products that will make the most profit in the least time. And the search for a simple metric that can be used to spur that along had been searched for extensively. But what metric can managers of inter-functional teams use to direct their employees’ efforts toward this outcome?

Ideally, such a metric would encourage the ongoing monitoring of a new product development project. It would allow people from different disciplines to assess the impact of their decisions and their colleagues’ decisions on the entire project. The metric would encourage collaboration among different functions: engender challenge and criticism without encouraging presumptuousness. It would serve as a prompt for learning and improvement. It would be easy to read and interpret, something to sketch on the back of an envelope while in a coffeepot discussion. And it would provide a way of visualizing progress holistically.

In fact, Hewlett-Packard has been using just such a metric since 1987—they named it the “Return Map”—and it is so simple and elegant that it has become a staple of the company’s product development cycle. The Return Map graphically represents the contributions of all team members to product success in terms of time and money. First and foremost, it includes the critical elements of product development—the investment in product development and the return or profits from that investment. But the Return Map also shows the elapsed time to develop the product, introduce it, and achieve the returns.

Not surprisingly, the Return Map’s crucial coordinate is the point at which product sales generate sufficient profit to pay back the initial development investment, that is, when the project breaks even. But the map’s greatest virtue is not in what it says so much as in what it does. It provides a superordinate goal and measure for all the functions and thus shifts the team’s focus from “who is responsible” to “what needs to get done.” Even more important, the map forces members of the team to estimate and reestimate the time and money it will take to complete their tasks and the impact of their actions on overall project success. In giving a comprehensive picture of the common task, it helps to create the only discipline that works, namely, self-discipline.

So, what does this have to do with our use of SMEs and UNDERSTANDING?

A lot!!!

By caring enough to UNDERSTAND our client and bring a MAJOR amount of SME expertise to the party we can have a MAJOR impact on several things. Through the use of the Return Map (google HP Return Map and read the HBR article) at the start of the client’s new product development cycle and our deployment of well-orchestrated SME teams, we can significantly reduce the amount of time that our clients take to bring their products to market and have them break even in terms of development cost. Our data shows that we can reduce that break-even time by as much as 40%. Have that conversation with a client and see IF they are interested in reducing their ‘time to money” of their new products by 40%. I know what the answer will be…. “tell me more”! Time for SMEs to come do their magic.

There is an even more impactful aspect of the SME utilization process. Let’s dig in a bit.

In our normal cycle of client engagement, we have a multitude of things to do. Actually, plan/do/review! Elements such as client engagement plan creation, deep understanding and analysis sessions, strategic fit, and implementation ideation. If this was a process flow, the steps would be many and really quite circular in nature. With all of the process variables in play, there is just ONE that can make the true difference of the measure and creation of success from beginning to end. SME utilization. Every step of the journey we take with a client must have the component of SME utilization included in the thinking. In the beginning, we ask, what SMEs can we bring to create curiosity that matters to the client. As we dig in deeper we look for more breadth of expertise to the conversation. EVERY step of the way and every conversation should have an element of SME inside of it… What SMEs now, what next, what more, what have we missed? Have we asked the clients about what more they may want to know about the current situation, the future of their direction, what we see in their industry? More, more, more….

This variable drives outcomes. This variable is measurable and can be acted on every day for maximizing that outcome. This one conversation can make a difference, unlike almost anything we can ask. And it matters to the client because it is all about THEM!

Client engagement teams… have this conversation amongst the entire team every day! Start the day with a 5-minute client team-based SME round-up!

We CARE! We work hard to UNDERSTAND!

Time to start to SERVE for real… next week!

SERVE without expectations!



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