How to select your first project, team members, and team leader when you’re getting started with Blueprinting.
After you learn New Product Blueprinting, you can apply it over and over to a wide range of projects: Existing and unfamiliar markets… new and existing technologies… line extensions and transformational innovation… entire market segments or a single large account.
But for your first Blueprinting project, it helps to be more selective. You want your first project to be one where skills are learned well, the project timeline doesn’t get “bogged down,” and success builds enthusiasm to apply this to many other projects. Given that, let’s cover some tips for picking your project, team members, and team leader.
Pick your project: Here are some considerations for selecting a great initial project with your untrained team…
- High priority: This shouldn’t feel like “extra work” for the team. Choose a project they would be doing anyway. Now they can do the project better, applying new skills and tools to the job.
- Easy to schedule interviews: You want your team to move fast on its first project… so new skills don’t atrophy and enthusiasm stays high. Two things can slow you down... and together they can turn your first project into a sluggish crawl:
- If you don't have any prior relationship with most targeted interviewees, it will take more effort--and time--to set up interviews.
- If your target market is "concentrated" with just a handful of potential customers, you could run out of willing, near-term interviewees. With a fragmented market, you can keep requesting until you get enough interviews.
- Natural team: Ideally, you’ve already got the right functional people in the organization that would naturally be assigned to this team. In other words, you don’t want the team comprised of people wondering why they’ve been assigned to this project.
- Proper stage: It’s OK if work has already begun… as long as the project isn't “too far” along. Two questions: a) Is there still much investment ahead? b) Are you unsure of market needs? If the answer is ‘yes’ to both, the project is viable. Just make sure management understands project completion will be delayed as you take time to “do this right.”
- Attractive market: You don’t want the team doing beautiful product development in an ugly market. Be sure the target market segment is attractive, consistent with the business’s strategic intent, and acceptable to management.
Pick your team members: Consider the following as you assemble your team.
- Functions: Make sure the team is multi-functional. This typically includes marketing, product development, technical, business development, sales and similar functions. Don’t skimp on the technical function: Even those traditionally “hidden” back in the lab can be a great asset.
- Size: The “sweet spot” for a team is typically 4-to-6 members. Successful teams have had more or less, but here are the constraints:
- 2-3 members: Everyone on the team will be working hard… and you may find it difficult to schedule customer interviews in a timely manner.
- 7+ members: Some people might get “lost in the shuffle” and not apply their new skills. Exception: If you have a large project—perhaps with multiple global regions or market sub-segments—a large team is great to ‘divide and conquer’ the workload.
- Global projects: If you are conducting a project with interviews in multiple regions, consider a larger team size, perhaps 8-10 members. This lets you have a Moderator, Note-taker and Observer to conduct interviews in each region.
- Availability: Try to select team members who can step up and invest enough time in team meetings and interviews. If someone is in the middle of another major initiative, consider waiting to engage them on another project.
- Competency & Attitude: Nothing breeds success like success. You want this first project to go so well that others will be “standing in line” to learn and apply Blueprinting. Give yourself an unfair advantage by loading this first team up with your best performers.
Pick your team leader: Here some factors to think about…
- Proven skills: Do you have someone who is respected, exhibits strong people skills, and has a track record for finishing what he/she starts? Sounds like you’ve got your team leader.
- Availability: Availability sometimes trumps ability. You need someone who will give this sufficient time. As long as they have the right attitude, the AIM coach can supply much of the experience they may lack.
- Development: If you have a high-potential individual you want on a strong development track, this can be a big part of that.
The most common reason for a project to "stall" is this: The team is relying on their sales colleagues to set up customer interviews, and this simply isn't a high priority for your sales team. Some antidotes:
- Include sales colleagues on your team that have the most relevant customer relationships.
- Inform sales colleagues early on about Blueprinting, using www.blueprintingforsales.com
- In your team role-playing, invite sales colleagues to play the role of the customers.
- Encourage your sales team to attend the single 4-hour workshop, Everyday VOC. They'll see how B2B-optimized VOC probing can help them in their jobs, be better equipped to support you as an interview Observer, and be more enthusiastic about setting up your interviews.
A common question is, "How much time will this require by project team members?" Because this is your first Blueprinting project, team members will be both "learning" and "doing." For a 6-person team that completes Discovery interviews, Preference interviews, and a Market Case over 6 months, the average time commitment for each team member is approximately...
- "Learning" time: About 1 day per month for time spent receiving AIM coaching advice and completing self-paced e-learning and BlueHelp reading assignments.
- "Doing" time: About 1-2 days per month for team planning meetings, requesting customer interviews, and conducting mostly virtual interviews. Assuming this is a project you would have pursued anyway, you probably shouldn't consider this "extra work."
It's about developing skills...
As you’re selecting your project, team members, and team leader keep this in mind: Many people think this is about getting this project completed. But that’s just a small part of the story: It’s more important to a) have a highly-successful first project that will breed more successful projects, and b) develop skills that will used over and over for many projects.
Keywords: project, select project, choose project, identify project, first project, Blueprinting project, team members, multi-functional team, team leader, availability, development, competency, attitude, priority, natural team, attractive market, getting started