Ethicon Endo-Surgery

Implementing Design Excellence


  • Make a new approach to design excellence part of the development culture.


  • R&D and marketing teamed up in creative forum for greater involvement and commitment


  • Market-Driven Product Definition (MDPD®)

Lucia Buehler, currently group product director of the Breast Care Division at Ethicon Endo-Surgery (EES), describes her company's commitment to managing the process of change during the introduction of a new approach to product development. At the time, she was marketing product director and had been selected with two colleagues to serve on the design excellence implementation team. EES used a model for change that it termed a "change management adoption curve," which, according to Buehler, helped drive awareness of the change process throughout the organization. "We had pilot teams and pilot projects, but we also created a curriculum for the senior management, so that people could see what we were doing at the team level with support from the top down."

Buehler's team, which included dedicated staff from operations, marketing, and R&D, worked together to develop the required tools and communication. "We did a lot of workshops. We identified the pilot teams. At the director level we had what I would call our sponsors, and then at the board level we had the commitment around education and creating awareness.

"We branded and developed the communication plan; we created posters, banners, and process maps that people could see the language and understand the intent of the program. Then we developed subject matter experts who could coach individual teams and we developed groups called the synchronization teams. We had three synchronization teams that went through the whole process, from transitioning the front end into R&D. We had a group that looked at design intent and requirements development. The last group was the V&V group, our validation and verification group."

EES made extensive use of internal coaches. "We had the dedicated pilot teams and then we identified the subject matter experts. For the different phases of the project, they would be what we called a kind of 'yellow pages.' If you had a question on, say, image diagramming, there would be three or four subject matter experts you could call up and say, 'I'm in this phase of Design Excellence, and I need to find out how to do this.' Or, 'I'm struggling with this concept, can you help me?'"

Assessment was another key element of the process at EES, which assembled assessment teams that included sponsors of the initiative to go out and interview and evaluate implementation teams. "So not only did we provide this infrastructure," Buehler says, "but we went back out with a team of senior managers and sat down with teams. It was pretty informal, but the team would walk us through at a high level what they had done, and then the assessment team would interview, ask questions." This feedback tool showed exactly how the teams were moving along the commitment curve.

The key elements of the process -- developing a common language via the branding of design excellence, creating the infrastructure reference tools and procedures, identifying coaches, and putting in place assessment teams -- ensured that what is now called "new product development excellence" became an established way of doing business at EES.