Reduce Product Development Time to Market with a Strong Core Team Leader

By Mark Thever


They say it’s all in the timing, and that’s certainly true when it comes to product development. To stay well ahead of the competition in industries where time to market (TTM) can be nothing short of make or break, new products must be launched as quickly as possible without compromising quality. Delays can blow up budgets, kill momentum, and turn promising ideas into market failures. Surprisingly, many organizations don’t assign their best people to crucial product development roles. As a result, TTM may be unnecessarily prolonged, and a revenue-generating competitive advantage may disappear. To avoid this, populate your product development teams with individuals who know how to keep things on track and on time, starting with the product core team (PCT) leader.

Time to Market: Accelerating the Product Development Process

In a typical stage gate product development process, TTM is the time from charter approval (i.e., the start of the planning phase) to product launch. 

In a typical stage gate product development process, the core team leader controls multiple stages up to the launch.

A short TTM translates into a first mover advantage while allowing you to respond quickly to competitive pressures and keep development costs low. It’s up to the PCT – especially your team leader – to organize and push the development process along with a sense of urgency to ensure that these benefits are delivered.

The Power of an Expertly Led Product Core Team

The PCT drives product development from conceptualization to market entry. Having the right members is a critical element to an effective PCT, but even a well-chosen team with a solid new product development strategy can perform sub-optimally if led by an ineffective leader. A top-notch leader is central to a robust product launch formula, and it’s he or she who can make the difference between on time and late market entry. By removing roadblocks to productivity, navigating organizational complexity, obtaining hierarchical approvals, committing resources, and fostering a collaborative environment, an ace leader can expedite PCT progress to ensure that milestones are reached and TTM is kept to a minimum. 

What Makes a Strong Product Core Team Leader?

Every successful PCT leader brings unique qualifications to the table, but all share a key set of personal and professional traits:

  • Ability to influence upwards in the organization
  • Strong business acumen
  • Respected technical competency
  • Recognized leadership skills 
  • A can-do focus on generating positive results

Your PCT leader should be chosen based on his or her leadership skills and ability to meet the needs of the role rather than drawn automatically from any particular functional position. In terms of seniority, it is not uncommon to have a Director/Sr. Director-level employee filling this role, and we have even seen VP-level employees serving as PCT leaders in certain organizations. Leaders must be technically astute, but they do not need to be experts capable of personally completing all project work. Most important is that they are able to coordinate and motivate the PCT’s activities while keeping a keen eye on the big picture – and the timeline.  

The Product Core Team Leadership Role

In addition to selecting someone with the personal and professional traits noted above, it is also important to allocate your PCT leader’s time appropriately for the project at hand. For platform-level projects, the leader should be fully dedicated since managing and directing a large and impactful project may be a full-time responsibility. For smaller or derivative projects, leaders can split their time between projects.

Once assigned to a project, a successful PCT leader will: 

  • Drive PCT activities to completion: The PCT leader holds the team responsible for completing all required development activities.  
  • Communicate with functional leaders: During the product development process, functional leaders may need to be consulted or informed, and it is the PCT leader who should have these conversations.
  • Use leadership skills to build team chemistry and a positive working environment: A collaborative setting is critical to progress, and the PCT leader has the power and responsibility to foster this environment. 
  • Coordinate across functions to resolve issues: The PCT leader has a bird’s-eye view of the entire project and is in a unique, truly cross-functional position to bridge gaps and resolve issues. 
  • Manage project risk: Drawing from the expertise of the PCT members, the leader continuously monitors project risk and implements contingency plans when needed. 
  • Oversee and make decisions to achieve schedule objectives: Working closely with the team’s project manager, the PCT leader motivates the team to reach all milestones with few, if any, schedule pushes. 

Don’t Leave a Promising Idea in Development Limbo!

Without a skilled product core team leader at the helm, even the most exciting new product idea can wind up languishing in development. To drive an ambitious schedule, reduce time to market, and grab the lion’s share of opportunity, choose your leaders wisely and give them the full support they need to keep you confidently on the product development front line. 

Are you interested in shortening time to market for a product in your development pipeline? Contact Accel and we can help you put the right team and strategy in place.


About the Author

Mark Thever has more than 10 years of experience in business optimization, commercial management, and research in the semiconductor and life science industries. Through consulting and internal management roles, his accomplishments include significant time to market improvements in product development cycles, the creation of streamlined requirements management frameworks, and the implementation of enhanced business processes for Fortune 500 clients. Mr. Thever earned his BS and MS degrees from UC San Diego, his MBA from The Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, and his credential in leadership from Harvard Business School.