Mourning the Dead: Why You Should Have a Funeral after Killing Your Product

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My Mardi Gras hangover cure didn’t involve a greasy breakfast with an aspirin, chased by a strong cup of coffee. My hangover cure was delivered via the brilliant idea Brandon Rowberry of United Healthcare Group shared at the recent Frost & Sullivan Innovation in NPD & Marketing conference in New Orleans. Brandon discussed how his team had a product that just wouldn’t die.  They would launch the product to less than rave reviews, bring it back inside for tweaks, and then launch it again only to have it fail again. Not wanting to forfeit, the team tried in vain to make it work until someone finally had the courage to put a stake in it and call it what it was – dead.

We’ve all been there.  Every company has had that idea that they were certain was a winner and it just didn’t make it. There is emotional attachment and you don’t want anyone to call your baby ugly.  So much energy, time, money, creativity, and resources helped to birth it, only to see it killed. It is sad. But what Rowberry did that shook me out of my beignet stupor, was proper and perfect. He held a funeral. He gathered the entire project team, everyone that had touched the product in its rocky history, met them in the auditorium and they had a funeral.  An executive even gave a eulogy. People mourned the loss but also got to focus on what they learned. They learned that failure isn’t bad. And most important of all, it was closure.

Jazz FuneralThe image of this funeral got me thinking. I was in New Orleans after all and what a better frame of reference for killing a product or project than to have a jazz funeral. For those unfamiliar, locals often have jazz funerals for their dead.  On the way to the cemetery, it’s sad jazz with a somber tone. It’s the time to grieve the loss. But after the dead have been buried, the jazz turns upbeat as those closest to the dead celebrate the impact that person had on their lives.

We can do the same thing with our killed projects and products. You tried hard and did the best you could, but let’s learn from it and realize the positive impact it had on our team, our brand, and our company. Lessons were learned about what doesn’t work so you can do better the next go around. (As one of my idols, Dr. Maya Angelou says:  “When you know better you do better.”) And here’s the bonus:  by making the kill, you’ve saved time, saved money, reallocated resources to winning products, and released the mental energy that was being consumed by keeping the project on life support. Hooray! Strike up the band!

You might be asking yourself, “How do we know for certain a project should be killed?” Answering this simple question is often a struggle for development teams. The Fourth Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study shows the leading causes of this pain are the kill criteria being unclear or nonexistent and the lack of rigor in determining the highest return, highest value products.

There’s also a softer side. No one wants to hurt the feelings of innovators or give up on a project that’s already consumed so many resources. Organizations must also change their culture so a product’s success or failure isn’t personal and feelings aren’t a metric. Product development companies and team leaders can’t be afraid of failure. They need to raise their hurricane drink (or white flag; whatever you prefer) high into the air and call it like it is. Dead.

The jazz funeral plays out this way, dealing with the emotional side culturally and celebrating the lessons learned to make future decisions with confidence. Take a hard look at your portfolio. What projects are on life support and draining resources? It might just be time to make funeral arrangements.

Hallmark Delivers Heart-Warming Products this Valentine’s Day

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Magic Message Reveal Heart by Hallmark

Another holiday is upon us and retail stores everywhere are filling up with a variety of red and pink keepsakes for loved ones. I was recently at a Hallmark store stocking up on my own Valentine’s Day gifts and stumbled upon their latest product, Magic Message Reveal Heart. I was automatically impressed because I know the planning, product development, and time it takes to ensure products are delivered to the market on time – and for consumer goods companies like Hallmark, these dates cannot be missed! On that note, I invite you to read a recent article published on that features Hallmark’s CIO Mike Goodwin as he discusses how they apply portfolio management tools to run consumer products development and the competitive advantage they are experiencing.

Portfolio Management Isn’t Just for IT Anymore

“On February 14, 142 million Valentine’s Day cards will be exchanged, not even counting packaged kids’ valentines. It’s the second-biggest holiday for greeting cards (Christmas is the biggest), and a critical time for Hallmark¹…” Continue reading the Portfolio Management Isn’t Just for IT Anymore article on

Another interesting fact is that Hallmark’s Stage-Gate processes are integrated into their portfolio management solution supporting innovation, commercialization, and customer special requests. Read a recent interview with Monica Alderson, business services director of consumer solutions at Hallmark as she discusses innovation challenges and the tools and processes that support their innovation process.

I’d like to hear from you, what you think about Hallmark’s approach to meeting fixed deadlines? What are some of the best practices you use to advance your innovation strategy? Share by leaving a comment below.

¹ Overby, S. (2013, December 17). Portfolio Management Isn’t Just for IT Anymore,, (744609), retrieved from:

Top 5 Most Popular Innovation and Product Development Resources of 2013

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Last year we focused heavily on primary research pertaining to people, processes, and tools as it relates to product development innovation and maturity. The research itself was well received by the product development community and got people thinking about how they can improve maturity within their organization.

In 2014, we will continue to dive deeper into these topics to help you better understand the challenges as well as uncover best practices to help you advance the innovation strategy in your organization.

Before we get too far into 2014, I want to share the top five most widely read resources for product development across the globe in 2013. Ranging from innovation to product development to portfolio management, you will find these valuable as you define your goals in the New Year:

We want to hear from you. What resources did you find beneficial and why? Did you find a particular subject valuable that did not make the list? Tell us why by posting a comment below.

The State of Product Portfolio Management in Europe

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More than 500 product development professionals participated in a global survey on the state of product portfolio management (PPM). The outcome is the Fourth Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study which provides product development executives key trends into the priorities, risks, and pain points as well as perspective into how they compare to their peers.

After the initial report published, we elected to take a deeper dive into the results by region and found there are few notable differences between PPM maturity levels when comparing the complete dataset versus the sample from Europe (European respondents=127). Continue reading

When It Comes to Innovation Maturity, Where Do Medical Devices Firms Rank?

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The findings from the Fourth Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study and the Innovation Management Maturity Model™ have spawned some important dialog around innovation maturity across multiple industries.

Medical Design OnlineIn a recent article published Dec 3 on Medical Design Online, Jim Pomager poses the question, “Does the medical devices industry have an innovation problem?” Continue reading

The Results Are In: Product Leaders Report a Need for Speed and a Roadmap to Sustainable Innovation

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Findings from the Fourth Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Survey

Imagine sailing in the World Cup race without a strategic plan or a map. It is a sport where speed is of the essence, decisions (and perhaps more importantly the timing of those decisions) are paramount, and team talents must be optimized at any moment. With competitors abound displaying their impressive spinnakers and advanced technology — only the risk takers advance. The will to win is apparent, yet without a strategy and a map, a team would drift into execution mode and lose the race. Continue reading

Maturing Innovation Management One Step at a Time

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Comparing Industry Frameworks to Increase Maturity

The fall conference season is winding down and this year I’ve had the privilege of attending and speaking at some great innovation events, sharing the newly launched Innovation Management Maturity Model™. From regional PDMA meetings in Dallas and Atlanta, to the national PDMA PIM conference, the Optimizing Innovation conference in NYC, to the Planview Horizons Annual Customer Conference, it’s been a brain-filling couple of months. Continue reading

How Do You Stack Up When It Comes to Innovation Management Maturity?

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I am excited to introduce the Innovation Management Maturity Model™. Earlier this year, more than 700 product development professionals across the globe evaluated their organizations using this model in the upcoming Fourth Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study — scheduled to publish this November. Watch my colleague, Carrie Nauyalis provide a brief overview of the approach to this year’s benchmark study. Continue reading

Part 3: The Six Characteristics of Mature Organizations and Impact on Time-to-Market

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#4 & #5 Characteristics of Mature Organizations in the Areas of Capacity Planning and Resource Management

I’m back to uncover two more characteristics shown by organizations that have mature capacity planning and resource management practices in place. A research study identified common features of best performing companies in these areas. These attributes can be used by you and your organization to improve planning, meet incoming demand, and ensure maximum productivity and optimization of finite resources. Continue reading

Improve Time to Market with the Resources You Have Today

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Earlier this year, Planview sponsored the Resource Management and Capacity Planning Benchmark Study 2013, where more than 280 globally-based product development executives shared their top pain points, business risks, pain causes, software impacts, and process improvements relative to resource management and capacity planning.

In the latest edition of the PDMA Visions Magazine is the article Improve Time to Market with the Resources You Have Today: Key Results from the Product Development View of the Resource Management and Capacity Planning Study, where I share several key findings from this study as well as applications for organizations worldwide. Continue reading