All the World – Stages?

Your first time 

The May issue of JPIM has an article by Dr. Robert Cooper defending the Stage-Gate®   (“S-G”) model of new product development from many criticisms in recent research and writing on product development. The S-G process is ubiquitous in new product research and training — it is sometimes used as the definition of whether an NPD process has a formal structure. Dr. Cooper is the professor who put registered the name S-G; his article is a JPIM “perspectives” piece which means it was written from the vantage point of a consultant-practitioner. The article raises important issues, so I will devote multiple postings to it over the next few weeks: first reviewing the criticisms and then Cooper’s defense of the model.

Stage-Gate® is usually depicted as a linear progression of alternative parallelograms and circles. The boxes are the stages that are undertaken by the development team and the circles are the gates where disinterested third-parties make go/no-go decisions based on the analysis which is part of the preceding stage.

The idea will come from strategy or some ideation process and then proceed through a go/no-go inital idea check; then may come a business analysis and another go/no-go; then a technological or operations analysis and a go/no-go; and continuing with customer concept testing, market analyis, development, pre-launch, etc. Generally there are eight to twelve stages and gates to screen the new product or service.

Although a straight line progression was Dr. Cooper’s original depiction of the process, he now stresses that it is misleading to think of S-G as a linear process since it has evolved: the different stages can be done in parallel and projects can be customized by picking and choosing stages and gates appropriate for that effort. (More later..)

Before beginning my academic adventure I had been involve in NSD: I served on the new product/service committees or teams in two exchanges, a bank, and a couple startup software firms; I also ran the new product effort at a software application firm.

The first time I ever saw or heard of  Stage-Gate®  was in the pre-reading for Professor Page’s doctoral seminar on new product development. My initial reaction, colored by my experience in the Internet startups, was amusement at what appeared to me to be Taylorism totally run amok — the S-G process looked to me like an attempt to make innovation into an assembly line production.

This week’s question: What was your reaction as a service innovator when you saw the  Stage-Gate® model for the 1st time?

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