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How to Simplify New Product Development

Michelle Jones, Executive Vice President,
Stage-Gate International


Developing new products is one of the most complex business processes an organization can manage. The complexity inherent in new product development is exactly what makes it a significant value-creation process. Additionally, organizations that establish new product development as a core competency and use it as a competitive advantage have learned that it is more difficult for competitors to copy a robust, complex system. Can you simplify a complex, value-creation business process without compromising its power? Yes.

When organizations implement new product development business processes, they are often met with resistance, inconsistent applications and gaps in resources and capabilities. If not properly managed during implementation, sub-systems (official solutions) and ‘work-arounds’ (unofficial solutions) are created to overcome these barriers. Anything not clearly communicated so it is consistently understood by all stakeholders takes on a variety of interpretations. The unintended result: NPD – the complicated version.

Organizations can simplify new product development by identifying and focusing efforts on value-creation activities. Obviously, you want to keep and enhance value-creation activities (which can be complex) and eliminate or clarify any distracters, which ultimately make new product development more complicated. Do not make the mistake of eliminating value-creation activities in an attempt to simplify NPD! This will only erode your performance results.

Three Ways You Can Simplify NPD:

  1. Test Your Focus
    Can you state with certainty what the real value-creation activities in NPD are?  If not, your organization is probably not focusing on them.  You can simplify NPD by equipping your innovators with ‘guiding principles’ designed to focus them on what’s really important. Hint: these are activities, which are proven, through quality research, to drive better performance.   

  2. Check the Typical Hot Spots
    We have learned through our experience working with numerous organizations exactly where the typical hot spots are.  The culprit?  Usually poorly designed and documented NPD processes.  Specifically, check the quality of your design and documentation for these typical hot spots:

    Hot Spot Symptom Details
    Roles & Responsibilities Unclear & Duplication of Effort How, when and who you involve and for what purposes from the inception of the idea through to the launch
    Decisions & Approvals Unclear & Inconsistently Applied How, when and who makes project go/kill and resource allocation decisions from idea through to launch
    Interface & Expectations between Decision-Makers & Teams Inconsistent What type, amount and degree of accuracy of information is needed by whom and when
    Collaboration Model for Cross-Functional Teams Unclear & Duplication of Effort How, when and who should be working together from idea through to launch
    Prioritization for Organization & Teams Unclear & Inconsistently Applied How, when and who makes prioritization decisions within the project and across all projects

  3. Adopt SG Navigator™
    Dr. Cooper and Dr. Edgett are best known for their remarkable ability to ‘simplify’ complex NPD processes without compromising the design elements, which drive better performance.  They have combined their NPD research and their work with numerous companies to author a Stage-Gate NPD process manual, SG Navigator.  SG Navigator is designed to get the many contributors of NPD within an organization (decision makers, project leaders and team members) onto the same page in quick order, to communicate with a common language while eliminating duplicate efforts, unclear roles, accountabilities and relationships. Carla Miller from Owens Corning commented “we implemented SG Navigator and in a very short time made a big difference.”  For more information, visit SG Navigator or call us at +1-905-304-8797.

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

Michelle JonesMichelle 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.