Standardization of product development processes in multi-project organizations
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division.
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An important question for a large company with multiple product development projects is how standard or varied the sets of activities it uses to conceive, design, and commercialize products should be across the organization. To help address this question, this project is comprised of three research activities to improve understanding of the influence of standardization of product development processes on performance. Previous research indicates that process standardization has many positive (improved efficiency, knowledge transfer, decision making and resource allocation) and negative (reduced creativity, innovation, adaptation and learning, employee satisfaction) performance effects. Even focusing on specific performance outcomes, the influence of process standardization is contested. The first phase was a set of theory-building case studies at five large companies that develop electromechanical assembled products. One important lesson from the case studies was that to appropriately evaluate the impact of standardization on performance it is essential to disaggregate the process into its individual 'dimensions' (activities, deliverables, tools, etc.) because standardization on different dimensions of the process impacts performance outcomes quite differently. Another lesson was that companies differ in their process standardization approach because of differences in their portfolio characteristics and in their strategic priorities across performance outcomes. Based on the importance of focusing on individual process dimensions, a broad and systematic literature study was conducted with the aim of better capturing the current state of knowledge. This literature study resulted in a framework to characterize the problem space, a comprehensive set of relevant project characteristics, process dimensions, and performance outcomes and a summary of the established links, contested links, and unexplored links between these elements. Focusing on one set of contested links from the literature, the final research activity was a detailed empirical study at one company. The goal was to study the effect of variation in project-level product development processes, operating under the guidance of an established process standard, on project performance. The purpose-assembled data set includes measures of project characteristics, process dimensions, and project performance outcomes for 15 projects. Statistical analyses were performed to examine the relationships between process variation and project performance outcomes. Where possible, the statistical analyses were supported and enriched with available qualitative data. The results indicated that, at this company, process variation in the form of both customization and deviation was associated with negative net outcomes. Customization (in the form of combining project reviews) was associated with reduced development time and development cost, but also with lower quality, likely because of reduced testing. On net, in dollar terms, combining reviews was associated with negative outcomes. Specific deviations (in the form of waived deliverables) were also associated with negative performance consequences. Results also supported the lessons from Phase 1. Variation on different process dimensions was associated with different performance outcomes. Disaggregation was important, with many insights lost when deviations were aggregated. This project enhanced our understanding of the performance impacts of product development process standardization. The case studies highlighted the importance of disaggregating to individual process dimensions to correctly evaluate the effects of standardization. The systematic literature study resulted in a framework for organizational decision making about process standardization and a summary of the current state of knowledge - elements, established links, contested links, and unexplored links. The detailed empirical study at one company examined one set of contested links - between process standardization and project performance - and found that process variation in the form of both customization and deviation was associated with net negative effects on project performance.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Engineering Systems Division, 2011.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 120-126).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Engineering Systems Division.