Problem: The company was in the business of designing and building engineering products that were sold to other manufacturing industries. Over a period of time, the company had gained considerable competitive advantage through its ability to get innovative new products to the market, on time and in budget. This left their competitors in the position of always playing catch up. The problem was that in the previous two years, new products had started to arrive in the market both late and over budget. The competitive advantage was rapidly eroding; the drop in performance had resisted all conventional attempts to fix it, including re-engineering the NPD process.
Result: All the information generated demonstrated that the NPD process was generally in good shape, with Marketing driving it, as hoped. There were, however, high levels of frustration and wasted energy devoted to trying to implement 'house rules', known as 'compliance with protocols', that had arisen through the company's efforts to meet the requirements of a variety of new employee H&S and product liability legislation. The difficulty stemmed from the fact that the protocols had been written by a small, dedicated department in the company head office, whose members had little appreciation of the realities of R&D, product testing and manufacturing.
What evolved through the Networker workshops became known as the 'zero references metric'. All departmental heads in the engineering functions in the organisation had the same target - 'no references under any of a list of regulations. Hence safety became a line responsibility, and the HO department was disbanded. Rapidly, the NPD programme got itself back on target.