In today’s #innochat, Gwen Ishmael’s introduction had me thinking about what R&D skills each different leaders need in order to be successful. In a broad generalization, R&D project managers tend to manage internal and external resources to develop innovations for individual projects, while directors tend to also have a focus on how the work of R&D managers and project teams as a whole is aligned with the company’s business strategy.
In recap; Gwen Ishmael @Gwen_Ishmael kicked off the chat with the following intro:
“Assume you’ve been put in charge of developing a robust group of innovation practitioners who would be responsible for helping your organization create and/or execute innovative processes, services, or products. One of your main tasks is to give each person the tools, knowledge, and experiences they need to fulfill his or her responsibility.”
Project management is no longer the challenge that organizations need to focus on. It’s not about doing the project right…it’s about doing the right projects. R&D project managers, as much as anyone, want to be working on projects with the greatest impact on the business. Being responsible for a “win” is both personally and professionally rewarding. So managers need to be thinking about how their projects fit with the organization’s overall (strategic portfolio management), and often complex, strategy, goals, and metrics. Collaborating with R&D Directors to understand the (capital V) Value of their projects and how they need to manage their work efforts (project management) in order to create the maximum Value with their resources.
Unfortunately, the skills and tools to do this effectively are 1) expensive and time consuming to use and 2) not part of the curriculum taught to either management or technical professions.
Without going into a long discussion about it…the challenge of selecting the “right” projects and managing them to maximize the “right” attributes is difficult in the early stages of product development because there is a high level of ambiguity about what are the “right” attributes. Making selections and building consensus on project selection across business functions is a challenge unless this ambiguity is acknowledged and addressed within the processes and tools utilized.
R&D project managers have to think beyond progressing through a stage-gate process. A manager can do everything right within their innovation process, but still “fail” because their project didn’t meet the overall business strategy needs. R&D project managers need to think beyond process, and work in collaboration to maximize their alignment with business strategy.