Is process really your innovation problem?

Is your innovation process the problemI recently spoke with a company that was terribly frustrated by the results of their new product innovation process. Or should I say the lack of results – because they readily admitted that projects never finish on time and rarely deliver even half of what they project. Even so, this was a successful company whose brands you might even recognize.

As far as they were concerned, their stage-gate process was the problem. Many of their leadership team just weren’t seeing the value – no surprise given the results they were seeing.

Of course, I’m no fan of the approach that most companies take to managing stage-gate type processes. But it’s often not the process that’s the real problem. I find it helpful to ask prospective clients a few questions about the way they are using – or maybe even abusing – the process:

  1. Do you have a clearly defined market strategy that guides development teams to the areas where you want to invest and where your capabilities match?
  2. Do smaller, urgent projects routinely interrupt major projects?
  3. Do cross-functional teams visit charter customers to find unmet needs?
  4. Are people routinely assigned to work on three or more projects at the same time?
  5. Do your development teams understand what constitutes commercial, technical, manufacturing, and regulatory feasibility?
  6. Are resources spread across too many projects preventing them from moving quickly and without delays?
  7. Do teams understand what every day of launch delay is costing your company in terms of lost revenues and using that to guide their planning and decision making?
  8. Do teams ever operate without plans and timelines that allows for variation and that everyone buys into?
  9. Do your teams manage projects in a way that prevents the timeline for being squandered on multi-tasking and procrastination?
  10. Do your most highly loaded resources ever work on tasks that other resources could help with or do instead?
  11. Do your development resources always know what they should work on next?

If you’ve answered “NO” to any of the odd-numbered questions, or “YES” to any of the even ones, it might be your innovation management policies that are constraining your process and its results. Here are links to some helpful resources:

Of course, you might be wondering how things worked out with the company I mentioned at the beginning. Well, it’s too early to say, but recognizing that they have a problem is the first step in making any change.

This article appears by permission of the author and was originally published on his Simplifying Innovation blog.

Dalton on Innovation

Mike Dalton is the author of Simplifying Innovation: Doubling speed to market and new product profits – with your existing resources