Many parallels can be drawn between drag racing and new product or service development. Getting your development team to think of themselves as a drag racing crew is a creative way to instill enthusiasm and urgency by increasing awareness of each member’s contribution to the big picture, or “the run.”
We will begin with analogies derived from a car’s run, including the signals provided by the Christmas Tree (or simply the tree). For this discussion, we will use a Sportsman, or Full Tree. If you’d like more detailed descriptions of the tree (including timing), drag racing terminology, or general information, several sources can be found online.*
We will also explore the similarities between support functions that both types of teams rely on, processes that both follow, and other characteristics that they share.
The series of images that follows depict progression of the tree through its various lighting conditions. Each image is accompanied by a description of the application of the drag racing metaphor to product and service development – drag racing in the left lane, product and service development in the right lane.
Perhaps you’re not bothered by a slow start and would be satisfied with second place, planning to use second-mover advantage to make up for it later. Surely, the market can support two providers, right?
Until you realize that’s not the race you’re running…
After completing a run, or entering a market, feedback, in various forms, becomes available. Public information and proprietary data can both be used to evaluate performance and make adjustments.
The pre-run burnout is exhilarating for spectators; it and the actual run down the dragstrip get most of the attention. Likewise, the pre-release publicity and initial launch of a new product or service is where most attention a company receives is focused. Unfortunately, even when well-done, neither is a good predictor of terminal performance. However, the people and activities that make either high-profile launch possible may be and, therefore, deserve consideration.
The team members and responsibilities described below are only a sample. There will be many more people than mentioned involved, each with responsibilities that vary according to the needs of the team and the project.
An important consideration for both types of teams is presentation. This is how each makes an impression on customers before performance can be observed or evaluated.
This metaphor can be extended using additional terms not discussed in detail here, such as deep staging, trap speed, reaction time, elapsed time, and others. In a future post, perhaps. For now, focus on the tree, inject your team with some high-octane enthusiasm, and get some rubber burning in your development projects.
If your product or service development needs a “driver coach” to help you run the tree, I’d be happy to help. After all… speed thrills!
* Some examples:
[Link] Staging Basics for Beginners
[Link] Dragstrip Lingo & Definitions – Dragstrip Slang-Defined!
[Link] NHRA 101
Jody W. Phelps, MSc, PMP®, MBA
JayWink Solutions, LLC
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