Organizing the Cross Functional Team

How Can You Improve Them Today?


Cross Functional Teams are groups of people, performing specialized tasks, coordinated to deliver value.

What specific steps can you take right now to improve the effectiveness of your product organizations?

One approach is to replace the leaders and many team members and start from scratch, but that is painful and costly.  Often the most rapid progress takes place by simple, elegant and targeted actions by the team leaders and members. We have developed seven specific tools for targeted actions that you can use to improve the effectiveness of your teams beginning immediately. With the tools we have also created examples and templates that make them easy to understand and apply.

There is no argument that people and their relationships are incredibly important to innovation. How much more effective do you think your most productive developer is in relation to your average developer? 


Many organizations assert that they could easily be 10x or 100x more effective. Learn how you can improve your organization’s effectiveness


Whether you think this ratio is this high in your organization or not, no one can argue that individuals make a huge difference. 

And on the downside, how many times have you had to deal with an individual in product development who was detrimental to the team? Even though some individuals have significant technical skills to offer, they may fail to play well with the rest of the team and can cause disruption or significant delays.  Here are some commonly experienced problems that are the result of dysfunctional organizations:

  • Products that run over budget, late to market or lacking expected functionality.

  • The market desperately needs innovation, but organizations often fall short.

  • Team members have low engagement and often burn out and leave the company before their product is launched.

Over more than 25 years in product development, including working with some of the biggest and best technology companies in the world, we have observed a disturbing pattern. Most companies continue to make these same product development mistakes. Repeatedly. And we’re talking about big mistakes. 

We don’t expect these failures to disappear anytime soon, but we can minimize their frequency and impact with best practices for product organizations. We have tested and honed our product organization practices through more than 50 of our client engagements, with measurably successful outcomes. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit


Our methods have been tested and codified, with clear instructions on how to implement them. You can apply them across different industries (technology, medical devices and consumer products) and a wide range of organizations from startups to Fortune 100 companies. Modify them, adapt them; take the concept and create your own solution.  

No off-the-shelf tool is a silver bullet for new product development. But senior managers at brand name technology companies have told us that our tools help managers “make better decisions faster.” 

Managers are busy and inundated with information, yet they still want to learn about best practices for product delivery. These professionals are accustomed to getting instant answers and are not interested in wading through a tome to find what they need.  

That’s why we’ve assembled a collection of go-to tools that cut through the underbrush and make it easier to innovate – and to do it faster.

Learn more about High Performance Teams

Best Practices for Innovation and Speed

The conventional wisdom about product development says there is a fundamental dichotomy between innovation and time-to-market. Managers think that they can have either speed or innovation, but not both. 

Companies can have both innovation and speed. But it requires mastery of tools and methodologies that support managers to make better decisions. We’re not talking about heavy processes or systems that require large IT installations. We’re talking about techniques that managers can quickly understand and implement. These solutions are tactically straightforward, but strategically powerful.


Seven best practices for organizing a cross functional team

  • Team Wheel
  • Circle Dot
  • Staffing Ratio
  • Attitude Influence
  • Change Impact
  • Global Teams Map
  • Half-Life Targets


Organizing a Cross Functional Team for Innovation

People and their relationships are incredibly important to both innovation and speed. The best strategy and the most promising product definition will underperform if the team is poorly resourced, if roles and responsibilities are unclear, or if the team is stymied for political reasons beyond its control. 

We have found that too many organizations do not account for the entire environment in which product development teams operate. Not only the organization of the project team but the organization surrounding the team, i.e. the management interface and forces external to the team, i.e. shared services like Legal, Business Development, Sales and adjacent organizations, have an impact on product development effectiveness. We provide tools to optimize the organizational effectiveness of each of these areas: the team, its management, and external forces that act upon it.

The tools described below target team effectiveness and outline methods for coping with the management environment surrounding the development team and adjacent organizations. Finally, we present tools that optimize global teams and that help gauge the speed of improvement.

Use Scenarios 

The first two tools below concentrate on how to compose your team with the Project Team Wheel and to how to clarify roles and responsibilities with the Circle Dot Chart

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Using the Project Team Wheel at the beginning of a project ensures that you have a clear team structure with established leadership, and with all necessary functions on board. Use these tools at the beginning of a project to establish who has responsibility for top-level deliverables.


The last team level tool, the Staffing Ratio Matrix, shows how to optimize teams by balancing resources between key functions. The matrix ensured that the right resources are in place and helps you to avoid overloading functions, creating bottlenecks.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit


If you anticipate internal, political barriers to your project, the Attitude Influence Map, is instrumental for product developers and change managers to understand who might create political barriers and how to address them

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit


You can apply the Change Impact Matrix in situations where you are rolling out a new system and need to ensure that you pave the way for transformational change. This matrix captures the details of what is likely to change over time for everyone involved in your project. It helps project teams prepare for the future and serves key stakeholders as a discussion guide for planning risk-mitigation activities. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit


If you are using dispersed teams then our Global Teams Map can you select the right approach for outsourcing by using a framework for evaluating options based on strategic and technical dimensions.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

If you are fortunate enough to have begun this journey the Half-Life technique can help your organization predict how fast you can improve depending on organizational and technical complexity.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Project Team Wheel: Staffing a Cross Functional Team

Rarely do cross functional teams start a project with adequate resources to deliver on a predictable schedule.  More likely, one of the key risk mitigation efforts is to manage the ebb and flow of resource availability as individuals work on different projects at different times. And then, invariably, something falls through the cracks, and throws the project off the rails because you didn’t have the right resources in place. Unclear definition of the program manager, the core team, and the adjacent team, lead to communications and credibility gaps that lead to schedule slips, cost overruns and organizational chaos. Complicated capacity planning tools are often ignored or obsolete. To take a quick snapshot of staffing gaps, teams can use a simple graphical tool to gain clarity on how and when a team is fully staffed. 

What is a Project Team Wheel?

This diagram identifies, by function, the roles and names of people on the core project team, as well as part-time extended team members.  While simple, it is a powerful tool to quickly identify gaps in staffing, or resources that are overextended across multiple projects. The tool is scalable for large or small projects, start-ups or large global corporations. It provides a consistent model that helps you manage the risks associated with an understaffed team.

What are the Benefits?

  • Ensures that all stakeholders (internal and external) are accounted for.

  • Clearly identifies resource gaps on a team.

  • Provides the platform for making risk-based staffing decisions.

  • Minimizes surprises (or project failure) caused by failing to have the right resources in place.

What Business Problems Does It Solve? 

It’s not uncommon for projects to start before all the required resources are available. This easy-to-use tool provides the platform for making risk-based decisions around staffing, while it clearly communicates how to mitigate or resolve these gaps. It is an effective communications tool for large companies that have a high number of stakeholders. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

This graphic ensures all stakeholders that their interests are represented in a program. It gives the entire cross functional team a consistent methodology to identify resource gaps. It is also extensible, accommodating companies that reach outside of the corporate walls to create extended project teams. 

What Else You Need To Know

 While this tool measures the degree to which projects are staffed at the core team level and quickly identifies resource gaps, it does not evaluate the quality or effectiveness of the resources assigned. Two factors that often drive the effectiveness of assigned cross-functional resources are level of skill and resource availability due to conflicting priorities. These issues can have an impact on a team’s ability to deliver. Both scenarios require the vigilance of Project Management. 


Read more on the Project Team Wheel and how to construct it and then download the template and instructions.

Circle Dot Chart: An Improved raci

Sorting out who does what on a project is pretty basic. Clear tasks, with clear responsibilities and deadlines, is Project Management 101. But how many projects have you managed where it was unclear who was responsible for a deliverable until it turned into a mess? 

The Circle Dot Chart, an advancement on the “raci” approach, addresses this issue. It codifies the cross-functional contracts you create when you make key deliveries. This process of communicating about key deliverables and decisions, and who is responsible for them, is often more important than the chart itself.

Distributed, global teams are now becoming the default way of organizing rather than a rare exception; however, with this kind of organization communication is essential. Given the distributed complexity of development, creating a clarifying picture of who is responsible for what will help prevent dropped balls in any type of project: Development, Design, IT, HR, or Change management.

What is a Circle Dot Chart?

The Circle Dot chart is a matrix with graphical icons – circles with dots inside – indicating the key deliverables on one axis and the key roles (or key individuals) on the other. Similar to a raci chart, the diagram consists of lines that indicate the tasks going down the page; open circles indicate an individual function involved in the task; a filled circle indicates the Directly Responsible Individual (DRI), the one person responsible for a deliverable/decision. There should be one and only one DRI for each deliverable or task. The person who is known as the Circle Dot or DRI knows and agrees that they are responsible for delivery of the task.

This document can be stored on the project team Wiki for reference.  When the key tasks are coming due, all understand who is ultimately responsible. This is a living document, and if responsibilities change, the chart is updated to reflect the change.

What are the Benefits?

  • Makes certain that each deliverable/decision has one and only one responsible individual.

  • Provide a visual representation of roles and responsibilities.

  • Helps prevent wasted effort by having two people working on the same thing.

  • Creates a shared, common understanding of roles and eliminates infighting.

  • Translates well to other languages for distributed global teams

  • Very easy to create, store and update.

What Business Problems Does It Solve?

 Besides unclear requirements, unclear responsibilities are one of the leading causes of program delays. By providing the team with a clear picture of the key deliverables tied to key functions, this problem is greatly reduced or eliminated. It is created at the beginning of the project because The Project Manager gets buy-in up front from team members who indicate that they’re on board and committed to a given task.  It is used during the project because it provides a reference sheet that is reviewed periodically to ensure that the tasks are properly staffed and that there is a clear DRI indicated for each deliverable or decision.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

What Else You Need to Know

Obviously in very large or very small programs, this tool should be modified accordingly to match the scope of the task at hand. For large projects, it is best to have two levels of Circle Dot charts – one for the project overall and several others at sub-system levels. 

For example, in platform programs, there might be three second-level charts to cover the web, client, and device portions of the program – plus one for the entire project, a total of four Circle Dot charts. Sometimes there is a need for even more task clarity and specificity in the roles and in this case the three levels of involvement in the task (uninvolved, involved, responsible) are insufficient and you may need to add other roles such as approves and consults. There is a related technique called “RACI” you can apply in this instance.  RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.


Read more about the Circle Dot Chart and how to construct it and then download the template and instructions.

Staffing Ratio Matrix: Optimizing High Performance Teams

Successful outcomes require a high performance team, with all the skills needed to win. In many projects, there are skill shortages that can lead to programs that are late, over budget, or cancelled - and with the increased complexity of development, this is becoming more common than ever. Often inadequate staffing in a given function leads to bottlenecks, and/or low-quality work.

For example, when there is an economic downturn, many organizations let go of many functions that support Development. Inevitably, business picks up, new projects come along, but they often lack the key resources to support Development (product management, project management, user experience, and quality). 

The Staffing Ratio matrix is a simple tool that provides the ratio of a given function’s headcount to the total team. It helps managers restore balance and execute more effectively. For example, Product Managers should be one-seventh to one-twelfth of the total team.

The tool can also help you pinpoint overloaded individuals while looking at the number of projects they are supporting at any given time. For example, in the core team you would expect one to two projects per person. If an individual on the core team must support as many as five projects, the quality of work tends to decrease in proportion to the overload.   

What is a Staffing Ratio Matrix?

The staffing matrix contains a list of all the projects in a given function containing the key functions found on a cross functional team. Typically, in technology companies, these functions would include development, product management, project management, user experience, and quality. Adapt the matrix to your products and functions. These functions include all of those, besides development, required to ship a product. These are the functions that often contribute to delays if they’re insufficiently staffed.

The columns consist of a list of the names of the team members in each function for the projects on which each individual is working. Columns can also summarize this information so that an additional column consists of the total number of projects for each staff member.

With the matrix in hand, the first step is to see if any individuals are overloaded. Often, the best producers are loaded up with an increasing number of projects until they break down given the workload. Unfortunately, this is a common problem that commands Management attention. 

The second step is to compare the average ratio in a given function to benchmarks. According to our benchmark research, the average ratio is 1.0 product manager per product family (or major product), and the average ratio for a project manager is 1.5 projects (a large and a small project). Ratios for other key functions vary, but for core team members they tend to range from 1:1 to 1:4 (ratio of function to the number of projects). 

Our interest in staffing ratios started with a benchmarking project for a Fortune 500 company that wanted to assess best practices in new product development. We benchmarked over a dozen companies all over the world and found that the most successful had one dedicated product manager per major product. Furthermore, these product managers only focused on inbound marketing – i.e. getting the voice of the customer into the organization. 

Similar research for the project management function found that performance tended to vary based on the number of projects managed. The curve peaks between one and two projects. The research found that the optimum workload for a project manager was one large project and one small project. This ratio allows the greatest throughput because whenever there are activity gaps in larger programs, the project manager can turn their attention to smaller ones. Our benchmarking study of staffing rations suggested additional research that eventually led to a Harvard Business Review article we published with BCG. 

What Are the Benefits?

  • Reduces burnout while resulting in better products.

  • Makes Development much more efficient by eliminating functional shortages.

  • Improves project outcomes because only qualified workers are assigned tasks.

  • Provides a quick way to cut through politics whenever a manager asks for more resources.

What Business Problems Does It Solve?

Throughput in the organization greatly increases when you have a high performance team of skilled individuals working on key deliverables rather than engineers filling in and doing their best. That’s a double win because you are no longer asking the Development staff to work on non-engineering tasks, and you also have better execution of tasks since you have trained individuals working on them. 

You can have balanced staffing with no increase in budget. For example, if you redeploy a small number of open requisitions from Development to these critical functions, you can solve most of the imbalance problems. If you transfer some Development personnel who would like to try working with different functions, you can improve the balance and create a better learning environment for employees. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

What Else You Need to Know

There are many risks in applying this best practice since skill levels vary to a high degree, projects vary so much in size and complexity, and the definition of some roles is not iron clad. Factor in all of these variables. 

When you are setting benchmarks on your own, the same concerns apply to the benchmark targets. A case in point: when we discovered that one product manager per product is best practice, we also discovered that the role of these product managers in those benchmark companies was limited to inbound marketing (no promotion, advertising, or sales force management). This means that if you do not also adjust their role when you change the ratio, you solve only half the problem.


Read more on the Staffing Ratio Matrix and how to construct it and then download the template and instructions.

Attitude Influence Diagram:
Limiting Politics in the Product Development Process

Have you ever had an excellent product concept derailed by internal politics or transformational change? Of course, you have, because almost everyone who has been through a product development process time has experienced this. It is frustrating since good ideas that could benefit the company, as well as the individuals involved, are blocked for irrational causes. Can anything been done to help eliminate these roadblocks? 

The Attitude Influence Diagram is one tool that helps to overcome political obstacles. It is a scatter plot of your project’s supporters and detractors that helps you to isolate and manage the key individuals that might impede your success.

This graphical technique can help you predict who may block the success of your program by helping you visualize friends and foes, while pinpointing and eliminating blockers.  Believe it or not, relationships can be mapped and while such an analysis is always subjective, it is easy to do relative pairwise comparisons between people who are supportive of your program and those who are less so. 

What is an Attitude Influence Map?

The map consists of a scatter plot of supporters and detractors. One axis plots how friendly they are, the other plots how influential they are. Determine influence by combining how high they are in the organization (their position) with how much influence they have over critical resources or decisions (their knowledge/experience).  By looking at the quadrant of high influence, and negative support, you pick your battles and work on individuals who may threaten your success.  

After isolating blockers to your program, create a strategy to mitigate their negative influence. This could include one on one meetings, an email to them or to their boss, or asking someone close to them to work on their attitude. Obviously, working directly with the individual in question should be tried before going over their head. 

What are the Benefits?

  • Provides a visual political map of your project’s environment.

  • Exposes managers who can block or disrupt your project.

  • Enables your team to manage blockers before they affect the project.

What Business Problems Does It Solve?

Every organization has politics and not everyone is aligned with your objectives. The result is that managers sometimes stifle innovation because they are risk-adverse and want to preserve the status quo. Political blockers in your organization can also increase time-to-market because their negative attitudes often result in demands for more and more evidence to convince them that the project should move forward.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

You have a limited time to negotiate the politics. This graphical technique pinpoints people and their position so that you can use your time wisely. Provided you have a menu of solutions, you can start to act, drawing from proven change management techniques to deal with the detractors.

What Else You Need to Know

Knowing who is in the way is a far cry from eliminating their influence. The political skills to influence the outcome of the product development process is more important than this graphical technique.  Also, you need a small team or inner circle to create this diagram (the “team” can be as small as two people).  

Sometimes it is challenging to agree on how negative someone is – so use pairwise comparisons. Comparing Bill with Chuck, and then Chuck with Phil, helps you find out how Bill and Phil stack up. Some may feel this technique is political, so be sensitive about how you manage creating it. Think hard about who really needs to see this diagram.


Read more on the Attitude Influence Diagram and how to construct it and then download the template and instructions.

Change Impact Matrix: Front End Planing for Organizational Change Management

With shrinking technology lifecycles, as well as economic and technology developments happening every day, people are confronting the reality of organizational change management as an ongoing process. Managers are looking for tools that can help them prepare project teams for change initiatives. The Change Impact Matrix is a descriptive tool that details the scope of the changes that everyone involved in a project will face. The matrix is useful for designing the change plan to target select groups with special tools, training, or coaching.

What is a Change Impact Matrix?

The Change Impact Matrix is a descriptive device that captures the details of what is going to change for everyone involved in your project. It helps the project team prepare for the change efforts and allows those impacted to get a feel for what will be happening to them. 

The Change Impact Matrix is a living tool. Your project team derives benefit by using it at the start of an initiative to scope the organizational change management approach. The matrix is useful for presenting the project plan to upper management and planning the implementation, including the budget. It describes in a graphical and succinct way the drivers behind many of the program’s steps. 

The program manager creates the Change Impact Matrix with the key core team members in the room. The best way to quickly complete the Change Impact Matrix is to assign your business owners from within affected functions to fill in the map for each role within their areas. These individuals can become your change ambassadors, and this exercise is a great way to ensure they fully understand the impact of your project on the people in their business areas. The tool includes four columns that highlight the relative degree of change in roles, processes, technology and culture, highlighting areas that require most attention.

What are the Benefits?

  • Provides an at-a-glance understanding of high/medium/low change impacts.

  • Serves as an input to change management implementation.

  • Informs project leaders about areas requiring greater and lesser degrees of communication and training.

  • Informs stakeholders about the degree of impact in advance of major changes.

  • Helps focus detailed planning and budgeting.

What Business Problems Does it Solve?

The success of most business improvement projects hinges on the ability to implement change. Preparing people for change is often the most difficult part of the initiative. A structured approach that focuses on the details can quickly target the roles that are most affected by changes to process, hierarchy, and technology.

In a world where teams have greater autonomy than ever, they need tools that they can use by themselves because top management no longer micromanages. The team must be more self-sufficient. The Change Impact Matrix gives your team insight and clarity to implement change programs without needing top management input at every juncture.

Finally, when your project has a limited budget, you may not have an assigned change manager. This tool helps equip a project manager to have both program manager and change manager roles.

What Else You Need to Know

When building this matrix, make sure you cast a wide net and include as many impacted groups as you can think of – and then add a few more. Secondly, make sure you invite senior people and experienced change managers to your review session. Once you have completed the Change Impact Matrix, you can begin detailed change management planning. Based on the degree of change, you can define your approach and budget.

Understanding is only the first step to making change stick. If you have even one or two roles or functions that are medium or high on the map, you probably need to assign owners to manage training and communication work streams. Be sure these two work streams have capable leaders and detailed work plans and that the other project team members understand what they need to deliver to training and communication. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

If your project/change manager or communication leader does not participate in key team meetings, they will not have the message content they need to keep your stakeholders informed. If training does not have detailed as-is and to-be process flows, role descriptions, and changes to policy and procedures, your communication leader will not be able to develop training content and materials.


Read more on the Change Impact Matrix and how to construct it and then download a template and instructions.

Global Teams Map: Harnessing The Global Workforce

Although you may be using global teams, you probably are not doing it right. Why? Because you haven’t considered how to best push the authority to outsource down to the team level. If you have tried it and have not been successful, you have made the wrong choice in partners and need to step back and assess your decision. The Global Teams Map will help you select the right approach for outsourcing by using a framework for evaluating options based on strategic and technical dimensions. 

What is the Global Teams Map Scorecard?

The Global Teams Map is a tool consisting of a set of questions organized by strategic importance and technical difficulty, a scale to rate the answers to the questions, and a results grid. 

To apply the Global Teams Map, you answer a set of questions about the strategic importance and technical difficulty of the portion of the project you wish to outsource, using a scale of “high,” “medium” and “low.” You should apply this process individually to the different types of work you intend to outsource to determine the best approach for each type (e.g., outsourcing software development would produce a different Global Teams Map than the one produced by outsourcing payroll administration). 

 You then average the answers for the strategic and technical dimensions to yield two numbers from one to three. The results of your ratings will appear on the Global Teams Map by locating the center of a circle, using the averages as X and Y coordinates. The circle will then enclose the suggested outsourcing choices. 

What Are the Benefits?

  • Provides a checklist of factors to consider before selecting a partner.

  • Recommends an alternative to explore for outsourcing.

  • Reduces risk in determining the best approach to outsourcing.

  • Supplies real sources of assistance that you can apply to your project.

What Business Problems Does It Solve?

This tool catalyzes action and provides a roadmap to staff up your project quickly by leveraging international resources. It takes some of the guesswork out of the process and minimizes risk by providing meaningful recommendations. Finally, it does all of this in a way that helps provide justification to management, thus speeding up approval. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

What Else You Need to Know

While it is not fully possible to reduce this complex decision to a set of black-and-white rules and methods, the Global Teams Map will help you come to a decision fast. However, you should also consider factors such as internal culture, sensitivity to intellectual property, cost, and prior experience (good or bad), which might dictate different approaches. 

If you are also new to outsourcing/remote development, be aware that there are a broad range of issues that can affect the quality of the resources you consider, including communication problems and resource turnover. The Global Teams Map will help you minimize these risks. One recommendation if you are using low-cost resources on small projects is to hire two individuals at the same time to work in parallel on a small time-bound task. Then choose the one who provides the higher-quality output 


Read more on the Global Teams Map and how to construct it and then download the template and instructions.

Half-Life Diagram: Predicting The Speed of Process Improvement

The Half-Life Diagram predicts how fast you can expect to make process improvements in your organization, a metric that depends on organizational and technical complexity. The diagram provides a continuous estimate of progress, against which you can plot your actual progress and course correct if you see an early deviation.

What is the Half-Life Diagram?

The Half-Life Diagram consists of an equation, and a graphical plot of expected process improvement over time. It uses estimated degrees of technical and organizational complexity (high, middle, and low) as an input to the model, and based on research of prior programs. It then estimates the rate of improvement based on similar projects out of a study of nearly 100 programs.

This Half-Life Diagram generates a target curve over time that a project team can use to gauge its progress.  Although most of the applications of this tool come from process improvement and change management initiatives, there are many other areas where you can apply it – either in spirit or by exact application.  

Based on the technical and organizational complexity inputs, the output is a continuous graph that shows the projected improvement, assuming that the improvement is characterized by a relationship of constant percentage improvement – so the rate of improvement remains constant.  

This is typical of most initiatives where you would expect e.g. 50% improvement per time period, period over period.  If this time period for a 50% improvement is one month, after 4 months you have accumulated a total improvement of 92%. The time to get to 50% improvement is called the ‘half-life’ since it is the time required to cut errors in half.

Teams and management can use this for tracking interim progress, and to take action before it is too late.

What Are the Benefits? 

  • Influences the team to continuously monitor progress and compare against a standard.

  • Provide a visual target curve for improvement.

  • Easy to create and relatively accurate.

  • Does not require extensive up-front planning.

  • Best applied when you are doing something you’ve never done before.

What Business Problems Does It Solve? 

The best way to ensure that you will deliver a successful program result is to track progress against an objective continuously. This approach gives you early feedback so that course correction is possible. Coming up with these measures is not so easy, and this tool provides a framework (a half-life) and a measure (guides for the value of a half-life) so that teams can quickly generate the target for improvement. It also reinforces a data driven/evidence-based culture that aligns the teams and management. Finally, it provides a weekly or monthly reporting tool for progress reporting, if required. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

What Else You Need To Know

This estimation technique is most useful for process improvements and change management projects commonly found in IT, HR, and R&D. First check to see if this applies to your initiative. Second, if you can see a different way that you might forecast improvement based on external events (like monthly cycles, or system-level IT changes), use estimates that take into account this context. Finally, organizational and technical complexity are hard to guess – use estimates and then perform a smell test on the predicted half-life. If it seems off (or way off) don’t throw out the method – adjust the half-life estimate.


Read more on the Half-Life Diagram and how to construct it and then download the template and instructions.

Applying these tools will help you significantly improve your cross functional teams, increasing innovation, while accelerating time-to-market. We also know that getting started can be difficult in fast-moving organizations, so we have provided an on-line set of tools that you can download and apply immediately. 

In working with clients, we’ve found that organizations can accelerate the implementation of these tools by providing relevant examples in an easily customizable format. Our website has templates, examples and instructions for creating the tools described above. Download templates and instructions that you can customize for your own projects.

Our tools cover not only product development organizations but also include tools for product innovation strategy, execution and management. Or contact TCGen for further access to our proven best practices, tools and techniques.


TCGen provides custom training and consulting in product companies with the following hallmarks: 

Customized Solutions

We work closely with you to develop an approach that works for your company – whether you are large or small, a start-up or an established firm. We develop the project plan along with you to create an engagement that achieves measurable product development goals.

Assessment & Planning

Our proprietary project history and assessment process yields deep insights for your organization. We identify the root causes of bottlenecks and develop solutions that reduce organizational impediments and speed products to market.

Predictive Metrics

Expertise in metrics is a hallmark of TCGen. We rely on measurement to motivate change and monitor progress in product organizations. We measure the right behaviors to ensure that the changes take hold and continue to produce lasting results.

Sustainable Best Practices

Your investment in TCGen earns increased organizational capability. We not only implement Best Practices but we also teach you how to build on the improvements so that your company is prepared for the next challenge.


TCGen improves your company’s product development engine driving growth. TCGen’s Principals have a track record as practitioners and managers at blue chip companies, developing innovative products enjoyed by millions of customers. We own a suite of product development best practices, that we tailor and teach to managers and team.

Our transformations scale to fit your organization's culture. Our product strategy and portfolio management technologies help accelerate product development schedules, improving predictability and new product success rates.


TCGen Principle & Founder, John Carter

John Carter has been a widely respected adviser to technology firms over his career. John is the author of "Innovate Products Faster: Graphical Tools for Accelerating Product Development". As Founder and Principal of TCGen Inc., he has advised some of the most revered technology firms in the world:

• Abbott, Amazon, Apple
• BOSE, Cisco, Fitbit
• HP, IBM, Roche

He specializes in the value creating aspects of product development – from the strategy and innovation processes, through product definition, execution and launch. He has helped companies cut time to market, rapidly scale their product program, and improve innovation with customer led insights which has led to greater profitability, reduced costs, and improved customer satisfaction. 

John currently serves on the Board of Directors of Cirrus Logic (CRUS) a leading supplier of mixed signal semiconductors where he is involved with company strategy and sits on the Compensation and Audit Committees. 

He was the founder of Cambridge-based Product Development Consulting, Inc. (PDC), a consultancy advising Fortune 500 companies in the areas of research, development, and marketing. During his time there, he worked with Apple to create the Apple New Product Process (ANPP) which is used in all product divisions. He has been an invited speaker at MIT and Stanford University, and a member of the faculty at Case Western’s Executive program.

Before starting PDC, John was Chief Engineer of BOSE Corporation. John is the inventor of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones and shares the original patent with Dr. Amar Bose. He was one of the initial contributors in BOSE’s entry into the automobile OEM business and led the product and business development of BOSE’s patented noise reduction technology for the military market.

He earned his MS in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BS in engineering from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA.