B2B Organic Growth Series: Chapter #40

Invigorate your stage-and-gate process

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A stage-and-gate process does much well, but only manages the interface between a company and its teams. Add “customer insight skills” for the interface between teams and customers.
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Transcript of Chapter 40

The Stage-Gate® process—developed decades ago by Bob Cooper—is now used by most B2B companies to manage their new product innovation.

It’s like a Swiss Army knife that helps you do many things: Inform management… avoid missed steps… limit risk and liabilities… provide accountability… plan needed resources… and support portfolio views. But like any tool, you can’t use it for everything. Expecting otherwise will only lead to disappointing results.

So what does your Stage-Gate process do well… and where does it need help? A stage-gate process manages the interface between the company and the project team. It helps reduce mistakes, but by itself, can foster analytical thinking… a checklist mentality…and internal focus.

Not sure about that internal focus? At your next gate review, ask project team members how many hours they spent talking to internal colleagues… and how many to external customers.

This Team-Company interface is necessary, but not sufficient. You must build a strong “Team-Customer Interface” on top of this. Ensure your teams have the customer insight skills needed to understand market needs better than competitors.

Can they listen actively… demonstrate they are listening… probe for deeper meaning… understand the value that could be created… trigger fresh thinking… clarify the outcomes customers want… make keen observations during customers tours? These skills don’t happen by themselves: Leaders need to make acquiring them a priority.

Do this and your gate reviews will be far more rewarding.  Instead of discussing what the team forgot on a checklist, you’ll discuss what they found in a customer interview. That’s what leads to breakthroughs!