Flexible Product Development: Building Agility for Changing Markets

Preston Smith Author

Flexible Product Development is a new book written by Preston Smith aimed at restoring the flexibility needed to innovate in new product development. Flexibility is essential to move with the changes that are inevitable during the development cycle as customers change their minds, markets shift, and new technologies arise and fade. Unfortunately, most development organizations have declined greatly in their flexibility in recent years.

Flexible Product Development: Building Agility for Changing Markets, was published 14 September 2007 by Jossey-Bass (a John Wiley & Sons imprint):

  • 304 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0787995843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787995843
  • US$39.95 (US$26.37 on Amazon.com)

The book is listed and available for ordering on the publisher’s website and Amazon.com. For bulk orders, contact the publisher or 800CEOread. You can download a flyer about it.

Several parts of the book are available online without charge:

From the Book’s Cover
Innovation drives the marketplace, but the path to successful products is more uncertain than ever. Today’s customers are more vocal about what they want, competitors introduce disruptive new products, and new technologies are appearing more frequently. While senior executives continue to boast about the importance of innovation within their organizations, surveys show that over the past decade there has been a dramatic decrease in new-product innovation.

In this landmark book, Preston Smith attributes the recent decline in innovation to pressure from financial markets that drives management toward rigid development approaches, such as phased development processes, Six Sigma, and project office. These processes have unintentionally (but effectively) made changes during development more difficult, disruptive, and expensive, while the need for change continues at an accelerating pace.

Flexible Product Development is a hands-on resource that provides the tools and strategies needed to restore flexibility to any organization and remove the obstacles that stand in the way of responsive new product development. Preston Smith introduces approaches that can enhance development process flexibility by creating and maintaining development options, delaying decisions, and, in general, reducing the cost of change. Step-by-step, he explains the basics of flexible product development, provides a broad array of flexibility-enhancing tools, and guides the reader in modifying the organization’s values to embrace this new way of operating.

Flexible Product Development was inspired by the great gains in flexibility made in the allied field of software development by the agile software movement. While software agility depends on unique characteristics of the software medium, Flexible Product Development supplies a comparable set of effective tools for developing new non-software products.

For companies, both large and small, that need to become more limber in launching new products, Flexible Product Developmentoffers a guide for an age of change.

Praise for Flexible Product Development
“Speed has always been a critical element in the product design process. But as Preston Smith points out, one must be extraordinarily flexible as well in one’s development and innovation processes. In the light-speed world we live in today, as Smith so poignantly points out, one’s ability to use intelligent, knowledge-based flexibility is an imperative to winning each day, every day.”

—Michael D. Thieneman, executive vice president and chief technology officer, Whirlpool Corporation

“Preston’s previous book, Developing Products in Half the Time, was chock-full of time-to-market gems. This one goes further, showing time-to-market in a new light and providing even more wisdom that’s right on for today.”

—Chuck Blevins, Ph.D., director, Office of Program Management, LifeScan, Inc. (Johnson & Johnson)

“Preston provides exceptionally detailed treatment of techniques to help any program manager lead difficult, constantly changing projects. His many examples show how these tools work in the real world.”

—Jim Callahan, PMP, senior program manager, C-Cor

“This book addresses what’s concerned me lately: how to make product development more effective and quicker. It emphasizes that project leaders should manage decisions and risk rather than tasks and processes because decisions are what really drive the project.”

—James Joseph Snyder, product development manager, Medtronic, Inc

Reviews of Flexible Product Development
In the Journal of Product Innovation Management, May 2008, Volume 25, Issue 3, pages 303–304

In the Agile Journal.

At the Product Development Advantage Group (see the Book Recommendations section)

On Amazon.com

More Links to Relevant Material
Flexible Product Development
 is a sequel to  Developing Products in Half the Time for the 21st century. As the time-to-market field has matured, emphasis has shifted from the raw cycle time addressed in Developing Products in Half the Time to the necessity for changing quickly in today’s turbulent world.

The book’s content is explained on this website and in recent Quick Tips newsletters.

This book presents a broad variety of tools and approaches in several categories so that you can select the most appropriate ones for your application. It balances the strengths and weaknesses of each tool and of flexible development as a whole.

Implementing flexibility in most organizations will require significant changes in organizational values, so the book provides a concluding chapter on organizational change, presented from several viewpoints.

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.