wardell books

Making Your Decisions

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can't measure something, you can't understand it. If you can't understand it, you can't control it. If you can't control it, you can't improve it.”

- H. James Harrington

Make Your Final Decisions

The final step in this process is the leap of faith into production, and possibly promotion. When all is said and done, a decision must be made. Your research will help, but your entrepreneurial gut instinct will play a big part as well. Assess your risks, gather your input, and make your decision.

When the Coca-Cola Bottling Company introduced “New Coke” into the market, it appeared to do all of the right things. It conducted independent taste tests and found that in blind comparisons, most people preferred it to the original product. Why then did it fail so miserably that the company reintroduced it's original product as “Classic Coke” and eventually took “New Coke” off of the market completely? Theories abound, but one thing is for certain. Their market research missed the mark. The fact that people preferred “New Coke” in blind taste tests was apparently less significant than their attachment to the original product.

In another example, when the Chrysler Corporation introduced the Dodge “Viper” in 1992, they did so based primarily on then President Bob Lutz's gut instinct and very little on market research. The idea for the high-performance sports car came to Lutz in 1988 while out driving in his Ford powered Shelby Cobra. Lutz started feeling guilty that he was finding so much pleasure in driving a competitor's product and began fantasizing about a new high-performance Chrysler product. Despite opposition, he pushed his idea through to production and the rest is history. The “Viper” became a huge success.

The fact is, however, that these two examples are exceptions to the rule. More times than not, market research plays an important role in a successful new product launch. Coca- Cola has clearly had more successes than failures and Bob Lutz of Chrysler has certainly not made a career of sidestepping market research. Nonetheless, these examples do imply that research alone is not enough. There are just too many variables when dealing with people's needs, to ever be absolutely sure. This is where the entrepreneurial instinct comes into play. Don't be afraid to use yours.

Improving your products and services is an exciting process. Enjoy it.

Entrepreneurial instincts need not rest exclusively with you, the owner. If your company is to be truly outstanding, it is a quality you will want to seek out in those who work with and for you as well. The long-term solution is to nurture an entrepreneurial Corporate Culture within your organization.

R&D Decision Making System

What steps will you follow in order to decide if a change is to be made to your current product set? Certainly you will review the research done in your testing system, but what further steps will you take? For example, you might set up a task force to make a recommendation. Then you might take a day away from the business in order to make your final decision. Alternatively, you might leave the decision to someone else, depending on its potential company-wide impact. It is usually helpful to have all departments or functions that will be impacted by the decision formally weigh in. For example, you may end up with some valuable information from your finance or production team that you might not get from your design team.

The specific format will vary from business to business, but the inclusion of a timeline is essential for all. Without it you are in danger of staying forever in research mode. Once ideas have been proposed and approvals given, deadlines must be set. Heading into any project without a timeline is asking for trouble.

Consider your sales cycle as well. It may be that certain times of the year are slower and consequently may be good times to focus on research and development. There may also be times of the year that are more conducive to releasing new products or services than others.

Create your R&D Decision Making System.

In this chapter you should have designed, shared, and made a plan to review your:

  • R&D systems.
  • Idea Generating System.
  • Idea Screening System.
  • Virtual Prototype System.
  • Working Prototype System.
  • Prototype Testing System.
  • R&D Decision Making System.