Risk & Innovation in Dynamic Stage-Gate

CB on bridge

Innovation in any company regardless of size is about guiding and stewarding not managing a process. That said even the best start-up has an advisory team or board of investors that keep them accountable for decisions. Being lean or agile is great when the path is clear but in the fuzzy days of pivot or perish, sanity checks are critical as is being held to good decisions based on good data.

The needs of the large enterprise are structural for many reasons: revenue management, accountability, public performance metrics all adds up to managing RISK! Stage-Gate processes work at assessing and managing the risks very well in developing new products. 

Great new product processes require that the product portfolio leader can balance focus on agility, action, and other functional needs regardless of process or framework. Keeping the concept moving forward is incredibly important, but just as important and often overlooked is making sure the destination is clear.

The traditional process is often set up with strict phases of work or gate criteria that fail the disruptive ideas. How to balance risk and ensure that leanness is not lost to painstaking planning and frugality requires evolution in thinking. Phases and Gates define patterns of inclusiveness and review for the enterprise that prevent bad choices and help leverage the value of multiple domain inputs.

Stage-Gate holds up innovation only if you don’t evolve! The dynamic version shepherded by an experienced leader who understands multiple needs internally drills into concerns so that they become value adds to the product effort. We have all seen New Product Development that moves through a Gate based on executive sponsorship without critical thinking. This is as wrong-headed as any product development that does not test in the market repeatedly.

Stage-Gate manages risk in a dynamic process while promoting innovation with  accountability! Keep your Innovation Sprints accountable, do what you say, no task sliding, no rollover, just good professional behavior. Innovation or lack there off is being driven by your company culture not anything else. The Stage-Gate process is the road to delivery, test and successful launch not the problem.

Each concept is tested and along that path finds its proper place in the portfolio. Early on if concerns and ideas are added to the effort a product can be moved into a feature or extension, not all concepts belong int eh third horizon. Evaluating market integration or company integration issues can drive a pivot, uncover new go to market opportunities. Internally the phase process also alerts cross functional teams when it is critical to interject,

Many times I have seen new product concepts move right up to the end before having “small issues“ pop up, that were lost in the big gate meeting issues. Other times big projects get momentum without broader review and miss a critical market data point. Shorter issue based gates get reviewed closely and folks are more apt to interject a concern, we all have personal bandwidth constraints. Agile development teaches us that small chunks drive effective production.

Tim Bates