Many players and processes get involved in new product development. Those moving parts and people often don’t communicate properly, leading to delays, budget overruns and other production problems. With clear and measurable goals, those in charge of each facet of the process know what’s expected, when it’s due and how much they have to spend. Goals help your product development process stay on track.

Assess Your Current Process

Before initiating any new strategic plans and goals, document how your company develops a new product now. You want to be able to keep the parts that are working while minimizing the risks that weaker functions add to the process. Pore over previous projects to identify the most productive members of the development team and where you faced setbacks or problems in the past. Review delivery times and product successes before defining new goals for your teams.

Work Backwards

Start with your ultimate goal, which may be delivery to your customers. Effective goals have a beginning and an end, framed in time elements. Set a clear date that’s achievable and practical. Create calendars that support that delivery date and then look at the previous step, which may be packaging or product testing. Set times for completion for each phase of the development process until you reach the beginning of the process, which may be the goal-setting process you’ve just begun.

Bring in Key Players

Goals should never be created in a vacuum. For goals to be practical, you need input from every manager and developer who will participate in the project. As you set your priorities and dates for completion, give yourself a deadline for completing the process. Hold meetings, send out memos and request input from department managers. Build in plans to revisit this process throughout the development process to gauge your results. Check in with managers every six months or so to get input on the project progress and make adjustments where necessary.

Define Goals

Within each timeframe, clearly define your expectations so that each department is clear about the final objectives. In addition to the timeframe, give each department a set budget and description of final expectations. For example, after you’ve created your strategic goals, the project may go to designers. Their goals might specify the target customer, the purpose for the new product and the projected final selling cost. All departments should be given the timeframe goals for the entire project so they can see where they fit in the overall plan. Managers should be given checklists to monitor the teams’ abilities to meet definitive goals.