Michelle Jones, Executive Vice President,
The goal is admirable but the result is usually disappointing. If your company’s new product process resembles a collection of best practice articles advising on specialty topics along with a variety of company forms and procedures stuffed into a master binder or file folder, you are doing more harm than good and your product innovation results likely confirm this.
Generating new product ideas and driving them from inception through to successful market launch is one of the most difficult business challenges companies undertake. It is also one of the few internal processes requiring true, full, cross-functional collaboration as well as senior management input and involvement.
A collection of best practices covering all the topics necessary to win at new products is an excellent first step but serves only as the first step. We advise all organizations to take time to research and gather methods and practices already proven to work by other organizations (including your own internal practices). After all, there is no competitive advantage to be gained using valuable time reinventing the wheel. There is however, much to be gained by fine-tuning and customizing how you use 'the wheel’ so it helps your organization accelerate winning performance - on your terms.
If your goal is to create a sustainable capability to consistently launch winning new products, you must push on and master two more critical steps: designing and then implementing a high quality Stage-Gate process.
Designing your Stage-Gate Process - Five Ways to Communicate it More Effectively
- Make it Visual
Organize your practices, methods, procedures, forms and templates into a coherent, visual roadmap so you can relay your vision to the many stakeholders and players that need to participate and contribute.
- Tell a Story
Add color commentary to your roadmap so you can guide readers from start (how to generate new ideas) to finish (how to properly launch new products) so they understand how the entire system works and how they should interact and collaborate with all of the cross-functional players and levels of decision-makers. If they remember 'the story’ it becomes easier for them to apply it at a personal level and change 'the way they work’.
- Make it Accessible
Make it easy for all players to navigate your roadmap so it becomes an enabler of change in a 'just-in-time’ fashion. If people have to search through numerous documents which may not be relevant to them at a specific moment in time, or which are not consistently laid out or logically organized, they won’t waste their time. Worse yet, your ad hoc system may leave players with the impression that new product development at your organization is a disorganized sport without specific expectations or discipline.
- Make it Valuable
Make it a rewarding system to use. If players can improve the quality of their work and increase the odds of their success, they will use it. Convert theoretical articles into practical templates and add real company examples. Ensure there are no gaps between stages of work or at the critical points of cross functional interface. Ensure it sets up all players for success. This takes a great deal of careful, thoughtful editing but is worth the effort.
- Confirm Expectations
Establish performance expectations and metrics and convey these throughout your roadmap so players can assess how they are performing and improve where and when necessary. Remember that every player simply wants to be successful in their role. Traditionally, players have perceived the only true way to be successful in NPD is to be part of a winning product. Realistically however, companies must generate many ideas and kill almost as many before narrowing in on the projects which are most deserving of scarce resources. It is just as important for players to make 'correct' project kill recommendations as it is to drive a product to a successful launch. Ensure your process incorporates the right expectations at the right time with the right metrics to monitor performance.
A well designed process is critical as it will set into motion and guide the actions and behaviors of many valuable resources within your organization. It is the main value-creation business activity and often the most important way to create a competitive advantage. If your process is poorly designed, it will effectively guide you straight to failure. Take the time to properly design and organize your process - it is, after-all, your engine for driving new ideas to market quickly and successfully.
Our experience has shown that the first 90 days of Idea-to-Launch process design and implementation are critical to determining whether or not it will succeed. When time and resources are limited and you need the right combination of expertise, advice, facilitation and education to succeed.
About Stage-Gate International
Stage-Gate International’s highly knowledgeable and experienced team of advisors have guided hundreds of organizations to successfully implement a best-practice Stage-Gate Idea-to-Launch process in as little as 4-8 weeks. We accelerate time-to-benefit with an extremely attractive return on investment by:
- Crafting a balanced Idea-to-Launch Process Solution of expertise, advice, facilitation and best practices that fits your company’s situation, sense of urgency, and budget.
- Collaborating with you so that your Idea-to-Launch process is implemented rapidly and your organization is equipped to ‘own’ and manage the process as quickly as possible.
- Leveraging our market-leading accelerators, Benchmarker™ and SG Navigator™, to not only deliver all of the foundational elements straightaway, and ‘clear the path’ for rapid achievement of a best-practice Idea-to-Launch process.
Michelle Jones is the Executive Vice President and Chief R&D Officer of Stage-Gate® International (SGI) and is a speaker, author and consultant on the topic of product innovation. She leads the commercialization of some of the world’s best practice research on product innovation into products and services for companies striving to achieve innovation excellence. Her portfolio includes strategic partnerships, product management and marketing and R&D.
Michelle has worked with an impressive portfolio of companies and has over 20 years of experience across several industries including Aerospace, Automotive, Chemical, Consumer Packaged Goods, Defense, Electronics, Energy, Food, Financial, Medical and Pharmaceutical. She has led numerous large-scale and complex engagements for product innovation programs, spanning from Discovery and Stage-Gate Models to Strategic Portfolio Management, to success.