Thursday, July 24, 2014

Implementing Product Development Methodologies across Cultures and Organizations

Implementing Product Development Methodologies across Cultures and Organizations

After experience at trying to bring various methodologies and ways of approaching product development to different types of organizations in different countries, and often not succeeding as well as I would like, I thought I would attempt at finding some explanations.

I currently think of 3 dimensions that are the most important in terms of how they impact a generic methodology or approach. This is not an exhaustive list, however, after much thought these are what I feel are the key contributors to success or failure of putting an effective methodology or approach in place within an organization. 


The way that people communicate within the organization or team significantly affects the process of product or service development. Different cultures communicate in different ways, some more "open" others more "closed". Some "hierarchical" others less so.

Language can also be a problem, often nuisances are lost in translation. The same holds true when communication is between differing teams within an organization, i.e between the technical staff and the marketing department.

Key dimensions of communication:

  • Open or closed communication
  • Inter departmental or organizational "translation" issues
  • Hierarchical communication path
  • Conflictual or Non-conflictual 


Planning is related to communication, but the way in which planning is conducted and the hierarchy of stakeholders, how they get involved and who has the final say, differ. Also the way in which different cultures follow a plan differ, some might use it as a "loose" guide and others might use it almost in a "biblical" fashion.

Some organizations skip the planning stage or do not believe that it is needed or productive. Others won't do anything without a comprehensive plan, they may be paralysed by "not knowing".

Key dimensions of planning:

  • Valued or Avoided ?
  • Loose guide or biblical ?
  • Rapid or slow ?

Decision Making

Who makes the decisions is very important, in some cultures the leaders has the final say and is not argued with, in others he is guided by staff. In some cultures even if an idea comes from a team and is well thought out, any idea that comes from senior staff is immediately seen to be superior (observations in Brazil). Other cultures need consensus (observations in Japan) and things cannot progress until the entire team is convinced of the idea.

Key dimensions of decision making:

  • Leader driven or consensus
  • Logical or political
  • Rapid or Slow



  1. Hi Avron

    This article struck a cord with me as it is something I am thinking a lot about at the moment and it is very interesting so see things from your point of view, particularly in this case how you have separated out these three important factors, all of which I had considered as the part of the bigger picture but had not spent much time thinking about as isolated concepts.

    My initial thoughts are that in all of these areas a very delicate balance needs to be found; Open communication facilitates ideas but control of that communication, particularly in a business environment, is likely to be important. Conflict may typically be a bad idea but can also open up otherwise unexplored paths. In my opinion planning is absolutely essential, but definitely shouldn't be so strict that we spend all our time planning and none of it implementing. Decisions have strength given by a hierarchical leader and that is critical, but wisdom comes from listening to a range of opinions.

    I would be very interested to know what has worked for you in practice and thanks for the blog post - very interesting.



  2. Nick, thanks for the comment. I think the three dimensions mentioned in the post are complex and so is their inter-relationship. I am trying to become more aware of how the organization "works" (to some extent) and not how the organization is laid out. By doing so, I can get a better idea of a strategy that might have a chance of succeeding. Unfortunately, I don't have a great answer to your question as yet. As soon as I do I will let you know, if one exists !

  3. Very true, bridging the gap between reality and the perfection of a flow diagram is where the real work happens. But I'm sure there is an answer, even if it is a separate answer for each organisation.

  4. Work in progress, would be interested to hear your thoughts ....


Please post your comments, I am interested in your views