How Do You Shift Culturally from R&D to Production? Seven Steps

Situation: An early stage company needs to move from an engineering/R&D focus to a production focus. Cash availability and business plans dictate that this must happen very rapidly – within 4 months. How do you coordinate a rapid cultural shift from R&D to production?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • You will need an experienced VP of Operations.
  • Operations and production engineers are a different personality type than R&D engineers. The latter are creative and seek new and more effective ways to solve problems, while production engineers thrive on perfecting a process and getting it right every time. You will likely have to adjust the team to assure that you have both types.
  • Reorganize the current engineering team into R&D and Production engineering teams.
    • A core R&D team reports to the CTO.
    • Another team reports to VP Ops and will cover product manufacturing, process improvement and logistics and QA.
  • What are the most important steps to take first?
    • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with the individuals who you have assigned to production responsibilities.
    • Get back together in small groups or one-on-one with your production group and explain that to meet the company’s objectives – and everyone’s long-term financial objectives – there must be a change. Explain the cost in stark dollars of what the failure to make this change means to the company and to the team. Challenge them to assist you in developing solutions that will allow you to meet your corporate objectives.
    • Allow some learning opportunities to arise. Let team members make the occasional mistake and use these as coaching opportunities for the group to show what happened, why it happened, and why it can’t be repeated.
    • Separate standard and special order production into two groups. Each group will have to meet their own performance objectives and metrics – but all objectives and metrics must support the company’s objectives.
    • Early on you may want to require CEO sign-off on production sheet changes, but within a system that allows you to easily determine material from non-material changes.

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