First Case Study

05/01/2016 by Bill Harkins

One of the Golden Hour Associates has prepared a case study following our work with a domestic property letting agent that were needing some assistance with planning. A copy of the case study can be found here.

Success in new products – where is the challenge?

21/11/2015 by Graham Duncan

Business Challenges – would you mention ‘our product journey’?

When asked to list potential ‘business challenges’, most people find it reasonably easy to come up with a list of topics; depending on the nature of the business, such as cash flow, securing finance, clarity of plans for the future or even ‘just’ people problems. And yet, despite products of one sort or another (virtual, physical or service-based) being at the centre of most businesses, seldom is the ‘success rate of new products’ mentioned as a challenge. This is even more surprising when you consider the results of the many studies on this subject. For example, it is often quoted that only about 10% of new product projects reach the stage of being launched – yet most company bosses consider that they are good at understanding the needs of their customers!

Which bit of ‘product’ would you mention?

There are many parts to the jigsaw puzzle of making new products, so perhaps when things go wrong (products late, design targets changed multiple times, customers disappearing when you launch) there are many individual topics that might be the underlying challenge. Or to put it slightly differently, you might hear phrases like ‘it was a technical success, but a marketing failure’, ‘it was a great business plan, we just couldn’t get the right product’; ‘the prototype version was fine, we just couldn’t scale it up’.

On the surface, these sound like justifiable explanations and so corrective actions are diligently put in place. The individual parts of the business focus ever-harder at what they are doing in order to be better. This is a risk to the business for two reasons:

1 The approach misses the possibility (likelihood?) that the real challenge is not in one specific business function, but rather in how the functions and activities dovetail.

2 Working harder on the same things as a means of improving equals a good chance of leaving you standing still instead.

Therefore, the broken piece of the jigsaw is not one of the component functions, but rather how the business is endeavouring (or not) to put them together. The question of how to go about the process of creating successful new products is a holistic business process and this can be a difficult concept to appreciate.

Time for some thick skin!

So, when you are considering the challenges in your business, and trying to focus on what your priorities are to ‘get better’, challenge yourself on your own approach to creating and improving products. Imagine what it would be like if some of the failures were taken away.

And, when you conclude that things are ‘OK’ or ‘good enough’ or ‘well, that’s just how it is with innovation’, put on some thick skin and challenge yourself again: Would you have the same reaction to your other business-critical activities such as issuing invoices and getting paid?

What if you could have an hour with someone to help you take an honest first look at what you are actually achieving with your products, help you to find ways for the results to be better and for those better results to become a habit? Well, you can of course – we call it Golden Hour Thinking!

My First Blog

20/11/2014 by Bill Harkins

In an episode of the BBC’s classic ‘Yes Minister’, the Minister and Sir Humphrey are speaking about a fully staffed hospital that has no patients. The Minister asks, “Do you think that employing more and more administrators is a good way of spending the money voted by Parliament and supplied by the tax payer?” Of course, Sir Humphrey thinks this is a perfectly reasonable way of spending money and the tax payer won’t mind – provided they aren’t told about it!

As this was first screened in 1981, you would be forgiven for thinking that political satire from then would not reflect reality now, but what’s changed? Project after project fails, millions of pounds of aid finds itself in the bank accounts of corrupt officials and children are exploited on an industrial scale. Decisions made in good faith by Parliament on our behalf are still leading to tax payers money being wasted.

This is my first venture into blogging and I plan to write about Public Value. Where tax payers money is spent on services that deliver outcomes that the public do want to know about. Where decisions made by politicians on our behalf lead to the sorts of action that the tax payer expects. Where we learn from the mistakes of the past.

No one sets out to deliver a project with the intention of failing, nor do they deliberately fund corrupt regimes or want child exploitation to continue. However, we are all guilty of not learning from past mistakes and it is vital that we break this cycle and think about the delivery of public services in a different way.

In future postings I will set out some ideas on how to improve public services by focussing on the outcomes that will really make a difference, show how to measure these outcomes and how to learn to do things differently.