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Dr. CooperPD Metrics Summit
 Agile Stage Gate for Manufacturers

Upcoming events

  1. Going Agile to Accelerate New Product Development

    Webinar: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 2:00pm

  2. Accelerating New Product Development – Going Agile

    Workshop: Sep 18 - 19 / MIT Endicott House/Dedham, MA

  3. The Power of the Customer Development Model

    Audio Session: Monday, September 18, 2017 1:00pm

MRT News & Updates

How to Implement Agile Stage-Gate - Q&A with Dr. Robert Cooper

Many of you have told us time to market, fast-changing customer needs, and insufficient resources are your biggest challenges -- and that the stage-gate process is weighing you down. So we asked Dr. Robert G. Cooper,the ‘father of stage-gate,’ what to do. He recommends an Agile Stage-Gate approach which combines the best of Agile software practices with the benefits of stage-gate structure. This approach works for physical products and is faster and more flexible than traditional stage-gate. Plus, it can fit within your current set up – no need to buy or overhaul anything.  

To give you an idea how it works, Dr. Cooper has answered the most commonly asked Agile stage-gate questions. Here’s the first -- watch this page for more.  And please feel free to email your questions for Dr. Cooper to; we’ll send you his reply.

Q:  Are there still gates in an Agile system? What is their role?

A:  This is the most common question I am asked by those starting out. Many assume the notion of a gate is rigid and would contradict the flexible Agile mindset. This is not so. Agile is very consistent with tough Go/Kill decisions on projects – gates with teeth. The flexibility of the Agile system lies with the product deliverable; that is, there is flexibility about what is delivered, not in the Go/Kill decision structure!

The main difference and the flexibility in Agile-Stage-Gate versus traditional gating systems is recognizing that many projects, especially more innovative ones, have high levels of ambiguity and uncertainty at the beginning – that you don’t know everything up front. Uncertainty about product deliverables is managed by accepting -- even supporting -- product and project scope changes, as long as these changes do not affect the overall project plan, budget, and project’s financial attractiveness. If they do, the project may be flagged for re-evaluation and possibly terminated (with a new project based on the new prerequisites often initiated).

[Note that the product backlog (product definition) is very dynamic; the product may be only 20% defined at the point of project approval (the often-cited range is 20-90% but 40-60% defined is more typical). The project team is therefore allowed to learn and adapt during the project, within limits.]

Gates play a vital role in Agile-Stage-Gate. They are not only a quality check-point, they are a resource commitment decision. They allow senior management to periodically review the project, kill weak projects and reallocate resources to better initiatives. Most importantly, they ensure enough resources are committed to complete approved projects in an accelerated fashion.

Gates still have essentially the same Go/Kill criteria as in the traditional gating model – financial criteria such as NPV or scorecards to rate the attractiveness of projects – since investment decisions must still be made. However, the deliverables for each gate are usually leaner, less granular and more flexible than in the classic gating model.

Deliverables are also more tangible, such as product designs or rapid prototypes, rather than long reports or slide presentations

Finally, gates allow senior management to track the progress and on-time performance of the project: when to deliver the product on the longer-term horizon scale remains defined and a key part of Agile-Stage-Gate. While each sprint has its own plan and timeframe and is therefore flexible, the longer term timeline remains relatively stable. Projects are managed with timelines or Gantt charts complete with milestones that clearly define the progress of the project over a pre-determined longer time horizon. While these timelines are fairly high level, and details may change, the longer term plan and timeline remain intact.

For further insight:

  • Dr. Cooper will be leading a free introductory 30-minute webinar, Going Agile, on August 23 at 2pm ET. Sign up here.

  • His latest book, featuring Agile-Stage-Gate, Adaptive & Accelerated New-Product Development, will be released September 19.  Pre-order it here.

  • He will be teaching a hands-on course, Accelerating New Product Development: Going Agile, at MIT Conference Center in Cambridge, MA on September 25-26, 2017. Participants receive personal guidance from Dr. Cooper, a customized project canvas to make your gating system more adaptive and flexible, an Agile-Stage-Gate hybrid model for physical/hardware products, Scorecards and the Productivity Index for gates with teeth, a copy of his new book, and more. Details here.

Strategic Planning for products and technology - how roadmaps ensure innovation and corporate growth

Does your organization have a clear innovation strategy that is understood and supported at all levels? Do you know where to focus R&D resources?  Where the market is headed, what your best opportunities are, and what disruptions are possible?

If you want to gain more control over your innovation future, one of the most powerful strategic planning tools is roadmapping -- in particular landscape maps and route maps.

Landscape maps link together market and technology factors, business drivers, capabilities and competitors. Route maps tell you what to do. Dr. Jay Paap has developed a proprietary framework around these maps and has helped many leading companies implement -- with significant results.

For a brief overview and visual picture of Landscape, Route Maps and Dr. Paap's framework, click here.

Leading Transformative Innovation – Gaining Speed, Agility and Higher Margins

An exclusive interview with Jean E. Spence
Former Executive Vice President, Research Development & Quality, Mondelez International, Inc. (formerly Kraft Foods, Inc.)

Most firms today have had to change their game to compete.  The economy, industry fragmentation, increasing cost of goods, consumer price-shopping, the Internet, globalization – the list of reasons goes on.  While everyone talks about innovation, the reality is that pressure is even higher to improve profit margins and productivity.  As a result, many organizations have been restructuring to boost ROI.  Often this means cuts, which can actually inhibit the creativity required to fuel growth.

Under such circumstances, how do you lead people to do their best?  Especially when you lead R&D – which is often viewed as a cost center, yet expected to innovate new products and technologies.

To find out, we talked with Jean Spence. Jean was a senior leader at Kraft Foods’ restructuring, three-year turnaround, and Organizing for Growth (OFG) initiative.  She then went on to lead innovation and collaboration initiatives at Mondelez International, the remaining company after the Kraft Foods spinoff. Jean was a key member of the executive team that spearheaded both the people and product side of Kraft’s major transformation.  If anybody could speak to the implementation challenges and success factors, it is Jean.

Here is what she shared >

Healthcare Product Innovation and The Internet of Things – Opportunities, Challenges and Future Directions

Management Roundtable recently co-facilitated a virtual Think Tank on digital innovation for healthcare, Leveraging the Internet of Things to Improve Patient Outcomes, in partnership with Convetit and Benefunder. 

Smart Connected Products Meet Lean Start-up: GE’s Imagination Really is at Work!

While General Electric has been around forever, the company certainly doesn’t rest on its laurels.One of GE’s most impressive new innovations is its FirstBuild Microfactory in Louisville, Kentucky. The idea is to rapidly prototype next-generation home appliances and market test them before scaling up. Using 3D printing and related technologies while offering an incubator of sorts to inventors, entrepreneurs and students, FirstBuild combines the best of ‘Lean Start-Up’ with IoT. The result? Some winners, some failures – but all pretty darn smart.



Can millennials help predict the future of corporate innovation? Management Roundtable and MindSumo launch a challenge to find out

We often hear our customers talk about crowdsourcing to find the ‘next big thing,’ so when we were offered the opportunity to tap the minds of bright college students, how could we say no?  

Unlike many challenges, however, the one we just launched in partnership with MindSumo is not to come up with new product ideas (though that would have been good, too). We set a somewhat loftier goal -- to predict the future of corporate innovation.  

Read more > 

Open Innovation -- Growth Engine or Resource Drain?

Does Open Innovation really pay off for firms?  Who's getting the most bang for their buck - and how are they doing it?  One of the foremost experts on Open Innovation, Dr. Gene Slowinski has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of strategic alliances for over 25 years. His advice: Go for alliances that shake up an industry.  It is too easy to underestimate resources and end up spending more than planned without much return. Far better to do a few powerful deals than many which are  marginal. For quick tips on generating profitable growth through Open Innovation, check out our FREE article  Making Open Innovation Alliances Pay Off: 5 Keys to Success.  

Are Your Innovation Investments Paying Back?

Perhaps you're not measuring and managing the right things. If your company is still caught up in the decades-old "sales % from new products" quagmire, you need better metrics. What's wrong with "sales % from new products" as a measure of innovation? The same thing that is wrong with pushing R&D investments down to whatever projects barely clear the hurdle of "new product" and the same thing that is wrong with killing a product that owns the market and has a ridiculously high margin. The popular, but misguided "sales % of new products" drives both of these negative behaviors and reduces your R&D return on investment. 

  • A metric such as "margin growth over sales growth" backed by the following measurable actions including:
  • Patent or idea diffusion (not the number of patents, but how good they are)
  • Portfolio balance based on cash flow and payback 
  • Portfolio rate of return 
  • Customer value to feature match 
  • Early phase research decision autonomy

will drive better returns on your innovation investment. Check out Dr. Robert Tucker's tips on improving innovation metrics.

Tech Scouting & Open Innovation: Practices of Industry Leaders - Free Download

How are companies such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, GE, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft, Monsanto, Corning and other global leaders innovating new products, expanding boundaries and growing their businesses? How do they choose their scouts, their partners, and the best opportunities?  For an overview, please download our recent research on the top practices.

Voice of the Customer Research Technique that Works (Free Download)

Visiting customers can be a very effective way to gain insights that can help differentiate your product in the marketplace by discovering unmet customer needs that your next release can help address. However, it is important to conduct customer visits properly. Dr. Ed McQuarrie author of Customer Visits offers 16 tips to make your customer visits as effective as possible in this free download.

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