ANBA Solutions NPD Top 5 Challenges

NPD: New Product Development. THE Top 5 challenges to implement it. But WHAT is REALLY HOLDNG YOU BACK?

There are many views on the challenges associated with developing a new product, but here (in this article) I would like to explore the challenges which can be faced within an organisation when implementing a process to develop a new product. 

I have stated it before, that in my opinion, any business which provides a product to market, must have an NPD process. 


An NPD process ensures the right product is taken to market in the right way and minimises risks to the business and stakeholders. Risks are minimised because the NPD process challenges the business to consider:

  • the market situation.
  • manages operational risks.
  • provides transparency.

NPD - In short…

To elaborate further, an NPD framework assists the business to deliver a robust solution with the minimal risks to the business by employing a workflow which engages all relevant functions within the business. The most common and widely used NPD framework is a stage gate workflow and is an extremely successful method to implement and manage a development project. 

The overall project is broken into typically 4 macro steps; 

Within each step there are a number of requirements and deliverables from the various business functions, along with reviews and sign off’s (or approvals) to authorise progression to the next stage of the project. Hence the common term “stage gate”.

So, YOU THINK Challenges the implementation challenges are…

At this point, it is natural to be thinking the challenges to implement an NPD framework are :

  • Major organisational change
  • Additional resources needed
  • Costly implementation of automated systems
  • Increase in lead times

These can be challenges, only if they are allowed to be. To use a classic cliche which is very relevant for NPD is: “you have to crawl before you walk”.

If approached in the correct manner the above points are negligible in terms of challenges to implement an NPD framework.

But the REAL challenge is…

In fact the greatest challenge to be faced when implementing an NPD framework, which doesn’t get a mention above is with the staff and their resistance to change.

There is nothing “bad” or “negative” here which should prevent any business from using and benefiting from an NPD framework. 

However, it always amazes me the amount of energy lost or wasted in an organisation because of staff resistance when organisational development or improvement occurs. This energy loss occurs even when the change or improvement is to help the business deliver outcomes such as with implementing an NPD framework.

In essence, there is really only one challenge to implementing an NPD frame work and that is: People. However, this one challenge has 5 main reasons for resistance.

This resistance to implementing and NPD framework is typically due to:

1. Fear of Failure: “Now there is a process, what happens if I get it wrong!

2. Accountability: “This NPD process is a lot of work, do you see how long the list is with things I have to do now!”

3. Undermining Teamwork: “I already have a job, how am I going to find the time to do this also?”

4. NPD Ignorance: “This is not how we normally do this!. We have no flexibility now…No room to move…It's going to slow us down and make us too expensive.”

5. Change Resistant: “Why can’t we leave things how they were. We were doing ok!”

I have written in a previous post that NPD is important because it “ensures that an organisation understands its market, delivers favourable outcomes and objectives, and minimises risks to the business and stakeholders.”

Why is “ PEOPLE” the greatest challenge to implementing an NPD framework into a business?

People either as individuals or a collective are creatures of habit. If an organisation does not have a structured way of developing product, then in many cases they will also have a low or poor organisational culture in terms of:

  • due diligence, 
  • risk management, 
  • ROI (return on investment),
  • team work,
  • collaboration,
  • accountability
  • innovation
  • transparency
  • stakeholder engagement, and so on…

This often results in laziness and complacency with ones self and the overall scheme of things. This does not mean that all people involved who are weak in the above are not trying their hardest to make their company the best it can be. This is a classics example of “ you don’t know what you don’t know” and being deficient in the above is just the “norm”. 

I have seen this first hand, where an organisation I was involved with lacked capability and most (but not all) people in that organisation lacked the basic skills and necessary competencies to fulfil the above list. This was mostly due to them being long term employees in an industry which was insulated from the typical market competition, demands and pressure, and as a result very little was done over time to develop the organisational capabilities and its people. All of this aside, every person in that organisation worked for the “good” of the company and were passionate about it, but they were pulling in their own individual directions and not a consolidated direction which was the “norm”; “they didn’t know what they didn’t know”.

1. Fear of Failure: 

Now there is a process, what happens if I get it wrong!

This is a very natural behaviour or reaction, especially if the organisational culture is poor or not mature enough to deal with outcomes when things do not go to plan. This makes individuals feel vulnerable and insecure and is strongly linked to accountability. 

I have seen people (including middle management through to senior management) who are responsible for marketing, sales, product management and product development duck and weave and employ stalling and deflection tactics due to their “fear of failure” because for the first time, they are being held accountable for their respective actions and responsibilities. 

2. Accountability: 

This NPD process is a lot of work, do you see how long the list is with things I have to do now!

Excuses are created to undermine the benefits of NPD. The activities and deliverables typically prescribed by NPD are what any responsible business should be doing and despite the long list of excuses, you will most likely find that many of the activities are being conducted anyway but no one is held accountable of who does what and by when. This is prevalent in organisational environments where accountability is not part of the culture.

I my opinion, no business can be successful without ensuring its people understand their roles, responsibilities and for what they are accountable for. Without this basic understanding, no company will develop into a highly capable and competent organisation.

3. Undermining Teamwork. 

I already have a job, how am I going to find the time to do this also?

I have stated this many times, that NPD is a framework which an organisation must use to take its idea to market which engages all relevant functions within the business. In order for this to happen, each NPD project must have a number of resources assigned which represent the relevant business functions. That is, every NPD project must have an NPD team. NPD is not about generating additional workload. It is about ensuring the correct work or activities are undertaken to support the successful project delivery. In short, NPD provides focus and identifies the priorities needed to achieve success.

4. NPD Ignorance. 

This is not how we normally do this!. We have no flexibility now…No room to move…It’s going to slow us down and make us too expensive.

There is a misconception that using an NPD process is bureaucratic, is clumsy, slows everything down (impedes nimbleness) because of all the requirements, requires extra manpower and doesn’t support innovation. 

In reality the contrary occurs:

Bureaucratic: NPD is a  “horses for courses”  framework. Meaning, that it is as detailed as it needs to be to service your business objectives with minimal risk. As mentioned above, “you have to crawl before you walk” applies with NPD. It becomes bureaucratic if you allow it to!
Clumsy: An NPD framework is far from clumsy. It provides a clear workflow from start to finish, ensures due diligence is conducted with respect to the market requirements and ROI, engages all relevant resources and stakeholders and challenges the business to demonstrate progress through fact-based analysis and results analysis.

Impedes Nimbleness:  The workflow, stage gates, requirement and status reviews provide clarity, purpose, direction and focus for the NPD team. As a result, “realistic” lead times are used as the basis for project delivery. Depending on the circumstance for the NPD project, the workflow, requirements and respective deliverables can be adjusted depending on how much risk is prepared to be taken, such as in the case of an urgent speed to market need. A “horses for courses” approach can be easily applied here and element of the workflow can be turned off to meet the urgent need, while still following a proven process. It doesn’t get any more nimble than this. 

Manpower Need: One of the first concerns raised as soon as you start mentioning or revealing any new organisational system, is that it is never ever going to work unless more staff are hired in order to cope with the extra workload. This is in most cases will be a “knee - jerk” reaction and an avenue to express change resistance. Over time, it may be discovered that additional people are needed within the business, but not as a result of NPD. In fact, the outcome of NPD will most likely result in a significant improvement in efficiency of the existing resources; in turn allowing them to be more effective and thorough.

Kills Innovation:  Excluding those rare occasions of serendipity, successful innovations which have resulted in game changing growth have been possible through calculated and intensional acts. NPD allows an organisation to take those ideas and develop them while also exploring the market potential, the challenges and risks. NPD is fundamental in my opinion to nurturing and encouraging innovation because it provides an objective means to assess the opportunity to add value.

5. Change Resistance. 

Why can’t we leave things how they were. We were doing ok!

Dealing with change is always a challenge and needs consideration, but quite often is under estimated or not considered at all. The amount of effort and/or the approach required to deal with implementing change will vary depending on the health of the organisations’ culture and the demographic of the people involved. The greatest challenge to change typically occurs when:
  • organisation culture is poor
  • leadership is not unified
  • there is a climate of mistrust
  • individuals or groups do not like to step out of their comfort zone

In addition to these, the first four challenges are strongly related to Change Resistance:

  • Fear of Failure, 
  • Accountability, 
  • Undermining Teamwork, and 
  • Ignorance.

The Wrap Up.

NPD like any organisational tool, will not doubt be challenged by many and the success of its introduction into any organisation lies with the leadership team; their message, their actions, their support and their willingness to understand it.

The benefits of NPD far outweigh any of the excuses which might be used as to why is shouldn’t be implemented.

Like with any business plan, a strategy on how to win is essential and this also applies with organisational development. A strategy on how to implement NPD (or any organisational development tool ) needs to be considered in order to make the greatest positive impact possible.

If you need help with understanding NPD further or with implementing an effective NPD system into your business to support your innovation opportunities to deliver growth, contact me at ANBA Solutions.

What do you think?

Andrew Baldacchino
Director - ANBA Pty Ltd
Andrew's LinkedIn Profile

Andrew Baldacchino, applies his industry experience and world class practises in simple, logical and effective ways to help businesses and their people to develop innovative solutions and implement strategies to grow their business, improve sustainability and brand value in the market place.

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