Using needs assessment as a learning tool in the product development process

Denise M. Cumberland, Rod P. Githens
  • Journal of Workplace Learning, October 2014, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/jwl-04-2013-0026

Needs Assessment as a Learning Tool

What is it about?

Needs assessment can be used to determine what factors are causing a problem. Can it also be used to improve organizational learning? With my colleague, Dr. Denise Cumberland, I was involved in a project that sought to understand if needs assessment could be used as an organizational learning tool, in addition to identifying causes of a problem. We worked with a Fortune 200 quick service restaurant chain and their “broken” new product development process. Data were gathered from multiple stakeholder groups using interviews and a survey questionnaire. First, we sought to understand whether needs assessment can work in facilitating organizational learning in the context of new product development. Second, we investigated how a well-known stakeholder classification system could be adopted in a practitioner setting. Third, we sought to identify why the new product development process derailed in this organization. This study provides insights for applying needs assessments in conjunction with a stakeholder analysis when problems arise in a product development process. Three primary findings arose: Finding #1: Needs assessment is an adaptable tool that be used to facilitate organizational learning when organizations are seeking to identify and address performance gaps. Finding #2: The stakeholder classification system from Mitchell et al. (1997) was applicable in identifying and prioritizing groups of stakeholders. Finding #3. The study revealed that specific activities involved in the new product development process were not documented and that the restaurant chain’s cross-functional team was not adhering to the process, primarily due to a lack of understanding and training.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Rod Patrick Githens

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