Perspective: The Stage-Gate® Idea-to-Launch Process—Update, What's New, and NexGen Systems*
Stage-Gate has become a popular system for driving new products to market, and the benefits of using such a robust idea-to-launch system have been well documented. However, there are many misconceptions and challenges in using Stage-Gate. First, Stage-Gate is briefly outlined, noting how the system should work and the structure of both stages and gates. Next, some of the misconceptions about Stage-Gate—it is not a linear process, nor is it a rigid system—are debunked, and explanations of what Stage-Gate is and is not are provided. The challenges faced in employing Stage-Gate are identified, including governance issues, overbureaucratizing the process, and misapplying cost-cutting systems such as Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing to product innovation. Solutions are offered, including better governance methods such as “gates with teeth,” clearly defined gatekeepers, and gatekeeper rules of engagement, as well as ways to deal with bureaucracy, including leaner gates. Next-generation versions of Stage-Gate are introduced, notably a scalable system (to handle many different types and sizes of projects), as well as even more flexible and adaptable versions of Stage-Gate achieved via spiral development and simultaneous execution. Additionally, Stage-Gate now incorporates better decision-making practices including scorecards, success criteria, self-managed gates, electronic and virtual gates, and integration with portfolio management. Improved accountability and continuous improvement are now built into Stage-Gate via a rigorous postlaunch review. Finally, progressive companies are reinventing Stage-Gate for use with “open innovation,” whereas others are applying the principles of value stream analysis to yield a leaner version of Stage-Gate.