Dimensions of product improvement and the product improvement cycle
While I am not a car person, per se, there are a few models that I tend to keep an eye on for what changes are made year after year, One year, there might be body styling changes, another, there might be a better engine, another year, they might have added airbags or something to that effect. The expectation has been that in a car’s first year or two in production, it still has “kinks” to get out of it before becoming what it could be.
The question begs to be asked, of course – why not keep the car the same once it has been produced? Why do engineers and other members of the product team need to continue to evaluate how the vehicle can be improved year after year?
I would guess there are more than a few reasons:
- Greater profitability – perhaps there are ways to replace parts with less expensive yet just-as-effective components, or perhaps switching vendors
- Greater efficiency – perhaps the change allows the manufacturer to produce more vehicles at a lower cost due to a change
- Strategic Advantage– perhaps there is an innovation or some other component that will create separation between the manufacturer’s vehicle line and the line of competitor
- Compliance – there are times when compliance issues are faced that require certain changes in the vehicle, such as EPA regulations
- Customer demand – if customers complain about a certain feature or lack of feature, sometimes changes are made to meet the demand
- Competition – while no brand wants to be perceived as a follower, a reproduce-able, or one-up feature may give a brand greater market share
- Buyer Loyalty – Manufacturers want their customers to repurchase vehicles in the same way cell phone manufacturers want customers to repurchase phones, so manufacturers must give consumers a compelling reason to upgrade.
All of these reasons boil down to being strategic business decisions.
The way this is done is through regular product reviews with all stakeholders. This would include evaluating any and all ideas that come across the table and actively listening to both what is being said and what is not being said (or done).
Of course, stopping at evaluating your offerings is no better than looking at pictures of your ideal vacation spot and never going. You’ve got to do something!!
So the process should look like this:
- Make the changes.
- Test them in production and in the market.
- Evaluate the results.
- Determine how the offering can be improved.
Think about your products in terms of being in a state of continuous improvement.
Think about your company as one that would settle only for producing what is extraordinary regardless of how far the bar is moved.
Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni, a Business Consultancy that provides Management Consulting, Implementation and Managed Services to business leaders and entrepreneurs seeking to improve or expand operations. We are the the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth. Our entrepreneurial multidisciplinary team works with clients to develop differentiating solutions and provide direction focused on lasting, strategic results. We exist to help our clients CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD extraordinary businesses.
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