Customer-Focused Product Development. A Practice-Centered Perspective
Doctoral thesis, 1997
Customer-focused product development aims at developing products on the basis of an understanding of customers/users needs and requirements. This dissertation deals with the structure and dynamics of customer-focused product development processes.
The main conclusions are that: (1) customer-focused product development processes must be seen as an interrelated set of factors and activities organized in a layered structure which taken together provides the conditions for creating an understanding of customer requirements (2) customer-focused product development processes must be seen as organizational knowledge creating processes.
A vertical coherence model is presented which summarizes Conclusion (1). It displays the 'vertical' dimension in terms of four layers: mediating objects, methods, process and staffing. This model complements the existing `horizontal' process models of the product development process, which conceptualizes product development as a set of interrelated tasks. Furthermore, episodes of organizational knowledge creation in customer-focused product development processes are exemplifed. Thereby, the dissertation provides support for Conclusion (2). In addition, these findings give further support to the vertical coherence model.
A `practice-centered perspective''has guided the inquiry. A practice-centered perspective takes its starting-point in the developers' situation in order to develop such knowledge that is useful for improving practice. During the analysis, conventional validity concepts were found to be theoretically oriented as they emphasize the relation between the research question (the proposition) and data. Therefore, the concept of ecological validity was introduced in order to balance the practical application of the findings. Ecological validity refers to the coherence between the situation in which research is performed and the target situation in which research must be applied. Three measures are suggested and applied with the aim of improving the ecological validity of the findings in the dissertation: (i) to apply action research as a method as it bridges the theory-practice gap, (ii) to include contextual factors and how these factors modify the conclusions and, (iii) to chose a level of analysis which can generate conclusions that might be operational in specific situations.
organizational knowledge creation
product development management