Last fall, all 450 people in Mitel's R&D division set off on a sacred-cow hunt. They vowed to kill every accepted practice that stood in the way of doing great work fast. Today Mitel is littered with the corpses of sacred cows.
The Cow: Trust No One
People in the testing department routinely duplicated tests already performed by their colleagues in the design and engineering departments.
The Kill: One Is Enough
Mitel now has a "one test" policy that has shaved an entire week off the average product-development time.
The Cow: It's Not My Problem
Departments within R&D used to butt heads more often than they swapped ideas. Once, for example, a customer reported that a Mitel phone system was randomly disconnecting as many as 30 phone calls at a time. A support technician believed that the glitch was software-related. When he shared his theory with the system's designer, he was told to "prove it." Eventually he did, and the designer fixed the glitch — but only after the customer suffered for 19 weeks!
The Kill: It's Everyone's Problem
"Now, when product support asks for help, people focus on fixing the problem rather than on finding fault," says Geoff Smith, 46, Mitel's R&D chief.
The Cow: Take Your Time
Every product-development plan has deadlines. Before the sacred-cow hunts, stretching them was an accepted way of doing business at Mitel.
The Kill: On Time, All the Time
Mitel's R&D group will do whatever it takes to move faster. Recently, for example, a manager learned that the manufacturing division didn't have enough workers to ship an important new product on time. So he paid secretaries to stay late and work the production line.
A version of this article appeared in the August 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.