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Do You Need Three Project Managers for One Project?
By Maarten Rijken

New Product Development is all about a new Product. That’s a no-brainer. But to develop this new Product you need a Project, and to execute this Project you need People.

So, NPD is about Product, Project an People. These 3 dimensions of NPD each have their own typical characteristics and should be managed on different aspects and levels. And the 3 dimensions should be managed simultaneously.

The picture below gives an overview:

Product, Project, and People

Figure 1: The Promise “triple P perspective” of NPD

An example:

In the early stage of a NPD project many decisions should be taken with regard to the Product architecture. Sometimes these are just technical decisions, but often these are decisions about trade-offs that have impact on the value proposition. At the same time these architectural decisions have impact on other levels of the product dimension, like product technology, material choices, or on production processes or logistics.

For decision making also the Project dimension is very important. Decisions should be carefully planned, actions should be defined and planned up front to generate the information needed for decision making. So, architecture decisions effect your planning because they should be planned, but then again the outcome of such decisions can also effect the project planning and the other control factors money and quality.

But that is not all. Making decisions, is above all a People thing. People have opinions, people have stakes and interests, and many people are afraid of taking decisions. Therefore stakeholder management is important, and managing of the decision process is crucial for project progress and success.

This example illustrates that all aspects of each dimension are related and can and will interact. Therefore, managing an NPD project is about managing 5x5x5x5x5x5=15,625 interactions!

On top of that, each dimension requires a specific management style. The Product dimension requires a product champion who is determined to get the best possible product for the customer. The Project dimension requires a task-focused, operational approach, eager to deliver on commitment. The People dimension requires a people manager, blessed with sufficient soft skills.

Actually, you would think that it requires 3 different project managers with 3 different profiles, to fit the required triangular, square and round profiles.

But of course you don’t want three project managers on one project. You want to have a project manager with an unique profile that perfectly fits in all three shapes.

Such a profile is hard to imagine, but fortunately, such a profile does exist.

Of course there are different ways to become such a triangular-square-round-shaped project manager. At Promise we believe that a background as product design engineer is a strong starting point. After all, in the end NPD is all about a new Product.
So when you are a good and experienced product design engineer, and you showed over time that you also have talent for organizing, planning and tracking, and you have mastered some soft skills, then you just might be perfectly in shape to fit the triple P profile of a NPD project manager.

Maarten Rijken is a Senior Consultant of Product Innovation at Promise, a project management consultancy company.

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