One of the most common syndromes in product development is firefighting, the unplanned allocation of resources to fix problems discovered late in a product's development cycle. While it has been widely criticized in both the popular and scholarly literature, firefighting is a common occurrence in most product development organizations. Product development systems have a tipping point. In models of infectious diseases, the tipping point represents the threshold of infectivity and susceptibility beyond which a disease becomes an epidemic. Similarly, in product development systems there exists a threshold for problem-solving activity that, when crossed, causes firefighting to spread rapidly from a few isolated projects to the entire development system. The location of the tipping point, and therefore the susceptibility of the system to the firefighting phenomenon, is determined by resource utilization in steady state. Many of the current methods for aggregate resource planning are insufficient and managers wishing to avoid the firefighting dynamic must rethink their approach to managing multi-project development environments.
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