We have characterized a series of common skills over many years of coaching and working with high performers that successfully manage new product development projects. We outline these qualities below.
Planning - know how to break a problem down and organize it into a project
Managing - once you have the plan, go out and use it to drive daily activities - be a manager to drive tasks to completion on time - this also involves developing sufficient subject mater expertise to technically know what is going on
Leadership - have leadership skills and the ability to convince others to follow them
Resilience - be able to ignore and/or work around roadblocks
Openness - have a willingness to learn new things, not stuck in old methods and practices
Critical Path Method - strong understanding of CPM (we've found a majority of people with program manager titles don’t really understand CPM)
fastProject - knowledge of how to use Microsoft Project, understanding of basic functions to build a proper schedule using fastProject, score above 90% on the Schedule Analyzer, and be quick enough to do live facilitation of plan development and refresh planning with core teams
Are systems thinkers. They can “step outside” the problem/situation to discover solutions.
Have the ability to think and manage outside their functional/professional paradigm.
Have the ability to “drill-down” technically, while holding focus on the project vision (e.g. macro-micro versatility).
Understand customer’s value structure and priorities: a) have high customer consciousness and b) they understand the customer’s business issues (problems today, and downstream markets)
Command respect from both Host (functional organization that supports the team) and Team which enables acceleration of the project cross-functionally.
Have the strength and versatility to maintain the discipline of team accountability for milestone accomplishment.
Looks for and takes complete ownership of the project (e.g. as if it were their own business).
Have a broad-based knowledge of the business segment (e.g. comprehensive understanding of the market place, historical and predicted trends, directions and drivers).
Have the ability to sell key decisions, action ideas, and changes that facilitates speed.
Have the ability to learn and adapt in real time: they apply the “do-it, try-it, fix-it...learn, recycle” process instead of taking time to make sure everything is “right.”
Continually push the “envelop” of the development effort to the edge (e.g. knows where it is and has been there before).
Have the confidence to break the rules, yet know how to “work within the system” (e.g. continually stretch the cultural/organizational envelop).
Understand the techniques and the value of detailed scheduling (i.e. critical path) and recognize it as the key driver of team performance.
Have operational experience in engineering, marketing, manufacturing, and finance.
Have the ability to infuse and maintain a “mindset” for speed.
Are End-in-Mind thinkers.
Gain “grasp” quickly; know what it takes to produce the desired result.
Don’t compromise on tradeoff decisions involving development speed, product functionality, product or development costs, customer requirements, and product quality.
How long does it take to train FTTM Managers?
It depends on his/her skills and professional background. These factors affect how much input in needed. Some people can look at complex and confusing problems and organize them; break them down into component pieces. This turns out to be a hard skill to teach. We find that people either have this or don't, and if they don't they tend not to be good at managing FTTM Projects.
An "FTTM Project" is one that finishes on time or early. It delivers the right product customer want on time. This is a different outcome from just managing a new product development project that finishes late and lacks the right features and functionality. Very few projects fall into the FTTM space. There are even fewer people that can manage a complex project such that it finishes on time.
Your effort-investment and the duration of the training program will depend on the candidate's proficiency in the 7 skill areas (outlined above). The most important is his/her interest in doing this sort of work. If it is low, then you might never be successful no matter how hard you push. We typically spent about 4-6 months, 2-3 days a week with FTTM Manager candidates developing these skills through a combination of classroom training and hands-on practical application on live development projects.