Product Development with the Stage-Gate® Process (Part 2): Strengths, Weaknesses, Pitfalls

Kathrin Jungwirth, Monday 28 February 2022 | Reading time: 10 min.

We continue with part two of our blog series on the Stage-Gate® process, a process model for systematic innovation management. In this article, we dive deeper into the topic and look at the strengths and weaknesses, potential pitfalls, and responsibilities of Stage-Gate®.

The Stage-Gate® process is a process model for the targeted development of innovations - for example, in the form of products and services. In the first part of this blog series, we looked at the definition and basic principles of the method according to Robert G. Cooper. In the second part, we now dive deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of the Stage-Gate® process as well as potential pitfalls and responsibilities.

Contents

  1. Strengths and weaknesses of the Stage-Gate® process
  2. Common pitfalls to be aware of
  3. Responsibilities

 

1. Strengths and weaknesses of the Stage-Gate® process

Like any other process model, the Stage-Gate® process has its strengths and weaknesses, which should be considered before starting. Because generally, the process can be used for all innovation projects of any size and complexity, but it should be clarified in advance whether the approach really meets the requirements of the company.

Strengths of the Stage-Gate® process

  • Provides a structured a transparent roadmap for all stakeholders.
  • Creates discipline.
  • Incorporates interdisciplinary input.
  • Ensures clear structuring and separation of work and decision areas.
  • Enables quality-oriented development and innovation processes.
  • Creates shared understanding of innovation processes.
  • Reduces risk through repeated review oft the project at the gates.

Weaknesses of the Stage-Gate® process

  • Reduces flexibility because decisions at the gates are hard boundaries that cannot be skipped.
  • Requires a lot of resources from all areas of the business.
  • Requires extensive and bureaucratic preparatory work: Tasks of each stage and decision criteria of each gate must be described very precisely in advance.  
  • Requires detailed coordination processes through interdisciplinary collaboration.

 

2. Common pitfalls to be aware of

In addition to these strengths and weaknesses, the following three pitfalls of the Stage-Gate® process should be kept in mind.

  1. Entrepreneurial responsibility: Gatekeepers must be willing to embrace entrepreneurial responsibility since they decide on the future viability and potential of the idea at every gate. They must therefore be able to put themselves in the entrepreneurial perspective and decide and act like entrepreneurs.
  2. Interdisciplinarity: It is important that the team of gatekeepers has an interdisciplinary structure. This means that all areas of the company must be represented to be able to make a meaningful decision without the dominant influence of a single area.
  3. Commitment: As soon as the GO for the next stage has been decided at a gate, all areas are obligated to provide the necessary resources to process the upcoming tasks. Capacities and workloads must therefore be always included in all areas.

Seen differently, these pitfalls are important prerequisites for the successful implementation of Stage-Gate®. 

3. Responsibilities

As mentioned earlier, interdisciplinarity is the magic word here - both for the gatekeepers and for those who perform the tasks in the individual stages. It is also important to remember the strict separation between the group of gatekeepers and the group of employees who perform the work in the stages. A person can only belong to one of these groups in order to enable an objective and a neutral assessment at the gate. Generally, two groups of people can be distinguished in the Stage-Gate® process: the gatekeepers and the stage managers.

The gatekeepers

The gatekeepers are predefined members of the management teams from the different business units who jointly make the decision on whether to continue or stop the project at the gates. It has been proven to be successful that different gatekeepers are used depending on the risk of the project. For low-risk projects, such as product modifications, employees from lower hierarchy levels are often involved. In contrast, higher-risk projects tend to use personnel from management levels as gatekeepers. Even within an innovation process, gatekeepers can change depending on requirements and risk. (Edgett, S. J.; Cooper, R. G. | 2012 | p. 6)

The project team

The responsible persons in the respective stages are put together as a project team depending on the required know-how. Often, interdisciplinary project teams work together - which skills and knowledge are relevant depends entirely on the innovation involved.

 

In part 3 of our blog series, we will have a closer look at the structure and the procedure of the Stage-Gate® process. You will also get a free planning template.

 

More about the Stage-Gate® process

Part 1: Product Development with the Stage-Gate® Process: Definition and Basic Principles

 

Literature:

Edgett, S. J.; Cooper, R. G. (2012): Best Practices im Idea-to-Launch-Prozess und dessen Steuerung. URL: https://www.stage-gate.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/wp45-German.pdf (last access 02-14-2022)

 

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Stage-Gate® is a registered trademark of Robert G. Cooper, Product Development Insitute Inc. and Jens Arleth, Innovation Management U3. Further information can be found here: www.stage-gate.com.

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