Beyond Surviving New Product Development

Individuals expect stressful portions of their new product development projects. An abundance of complaints may be a precursor to an abundance of stress. Individuals expect to have sufficient resiliency to cope with the stress. Even when exhausted, individuals expect to recover in time to keep their commitments to the next project. Individuals expect to survive.

There is a potential for something more positive than survival. This post explores the potential for growth.

The Negative Aspects of Stress

During new product development, stress is one of the costs of participation. Because of stress, some individual contributors deliver sub-standard work.

According to Chet Richards, “John Boyd thought of stress as an offensive weapon.” Richards references Boyd’s words to define stress. Boyd stated:
Generate uncertainty, confusion, disorder, panic, chaos … to shatter cohesion, produce paralysis and bring about collapse. “ (Boyd, Patterns of Conflict, 1986 #132)

For challenging projects, some individuals may feel overwhelmed. Because of their perceptions of the effort required for project success, individuals may risk “burning out.”

For problematic projects, phrases such as “death march” may be used to describe the development experience. According to Wikipedia

Death March: In project management, a death march is any of several types of pathologic projects involving a dysphemistic, dark-humor analogy to real death marches, such as being gruelingly overworked, and (often and most especially) being gruelingly overworked for ill-founded reasons on a project that is obviously at high risk of bad outcome (i.e., project failure, and possibly threat of personal and group reputation damage). “

To understand the impacts of stress, I will highlight two items from current studies in psychology, posttraumatic stress and posttraumatic growth.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Stress may do more than reduce performance or produce other short-term harmful impacts. Consider the definition of posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

According to Wikipedia:
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma… Posttraumatic stress disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder, characterized by aversive anxiety-related experiences, behaviors, and physiological responses that develop after exposure to a psychologically traumatic event (sometimes months after). Its features persist for longer than 30 days, which distinguishes it from the briefer acute stress disorder and are disruptive to all aspects of life.”

Posttraumatic Growth (PTG)

Something good can emerge from bad situations. In some instances, growth can result from a stressful experience. Psychologists use the phrase Posttraumatic Growth. The phrase Posttraumatic Growth was coined by Richard Tedeshi, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.

Posttraumatic growth is not the same as resilience. Resilience is assessed by one’s ability to return to pre-trauma levels. Posttraumatic growth is characterized by achieving higher levels of functionality than pre-trauma levels.

According to Wikipedia:

Post-traumatic Growth refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances. These sets of circumstances represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the individual, and pose significant challenges to individuals’ way of understanding the world and their place in it. Posttraumatic growth is not simply a return to baseline from a period of suffering; instead it is an experience of improvement that for some persons is deeply meaningful.”

Tedeschi and Calhoun (1) proposed a Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) comprised of five factors:

  • Relating to others
  • New possibilities
  • Personal strength
  • Spiritual change
  • Appreciation of life

An online inventory tool is available from the American Psychological Association.  A scale measures perceived benefits.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Growth
When Psychologists studied individuals that experienced traumatic life events, they have found that traumatic situations may lead to Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The takeaway is that Psychologists are trying to treat stress and promote growth.

What happens in new product development?

Something analogous to posttraumatic stress disorder and posttraumatic growth can occur during new product development. Development can produce stress for some and growth for others.

Post Development Stress
Occasionally, the characterization of a new product development project goes beyond stressful to traumatic.

In extreme cases, an individual contributor can suffer from what I am calling post development stress, PDS.

Symptoms of post development stress may include:

  • Prolonged grumpiness and irritability
  • Decreased trust of individuals in leadership and management roles.
  • Decreased engagement in activities previously characterized as pleasant. An individual contributor can transition from being characterized as a ‘valuable team member’ to performing in a perfunctory, uncommitted fashion.
  • Transition from current roles in development to other opportunities that are perceived as less stressful. Changes in employment.

Post Development Growth
Everyone wants to survive new product development. Some aspire to go beyond adapting to the situation. Some aspire to what I am calling Post Development Growth (PDG).

To uncover examples of growth, my favorite starting point is to ask someone to tell me about the best project of their career. I do not want to hear about the project that made the most money or won a prestigious award. I want to learn about the project that made them smile when they recall the experience.
Typically, one of the following phrases is part of a story about the best project of someone’s career:

  • I learned a lot
  • I developed friendships
  • That was when I learned how to _________.
  • I devoted a lot of time but it was worth it.
  • I hope to work with some of those individuals again.
  • The product had a profound impact

I based my definition of Post Development Growth on the definition of Posttraumatic Growth. Here is the definition that I am proposing:

Post development growth: the positive changes experienced by individuals that results from enhanced new product development capabilities. Post Development Growth includes reflection to achieve cognitive clarity. It goes beyond reflection to action.
Some factors that may be used to predict the likelihood of growth depend on intrinsic characteristics (refer to the definition of posttraumatic growth) of individuals. Other factors include improved situational awareness and the potential for selecting appropriate actions.

Post Development Growth Inventory (PDGI)

The five factors that comprise the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory can be modified to correspond to new product development environments. For Post Development Growth Inventory (PDGI), my proposed list includes:

  • Interaction with others in a new product development network. Cooperation and collaboration. Teamwork.
  • New possibilities to enhance new product development capabilities. New strategies. Better orientations.
  • Personal mastery of specific skills. Network effectiveness
  • Understanding and appreciation of how your efforts contribute to project success. Appreciation of the interactions with others. Understanding how the efforts of others contribute to project success.
  • Autonomy – Capacity for independent action

The Post Development Growth list is similar to the factors described by Dan Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. His factors were:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

The Post Development Growth list is consistent with Boyd’s list of the ingredients needed to pursue vitality and growth. He included “insight, initiative, adaptability, and harmony.” In later versions, he listed “insight, orientation, harmony, agility, and initiative.” (Boyd, Patterns, 1986, #144)

The Post Development Growth list is similar to the OpLaunch list for Development Experience (DX). That list is:

  • Better orientations
  • Pathways to proficiency
  • Strategies to Win

Designing for Growth

In new product development, one can go beyond surviving to thriving.
For growth to occur, one must go beyond surveys and metrics. For growth to occur, there must be activity that includes deliberative practice.

Deliberative practice includes challenging yourself to do things that are beyond your current ability, doing the new things, analyzing the results, and correcting the mistakes.” (Hart, Developing Winners 2013)

The items of the Post Development Growth Inventory can provide a design template. Activities can be guided by consulting, coaching, and training.

For more information on thriving during new product development, visit the OpLaunch site.

End Notes

The phrases “Post Development Stress” (PDS) and “Post Development Growth” (PDG) were coined by Mark A Hart 23 April 2013.

Tedeschi RG, Calhoun LG: The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the Positive Legacy of Trauma. J Trauma Stress 1996, 9(3):455-71 Online at

The inspiration for this post was Chet Richards comments on Stress and Success at Additional information at Success and Success: Fast Fixes for Turbulent Times by author Jonathan Brown at

The book “Developing Winners: Assimilating the Insights Encapsulated in Boyd’s OODA Loop” by OpLaunch founder, Mark A Hart will be published in the forth quarter of 2013.



Beyond Surviving Development (12 Minutes, 18 MBytes)