Stage-Gate (Cooper)

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Managing product development. Explanation of the Stage-Gate model of Robert G. Cooper. ('88)

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What is the Stage-Gate model? Description

The Stage-Gate method from Robert G. Cooper is an approach that can be used to make the product development process more effective. It is a blueprint for managing the new product process. From an idea to launching a product. In a number of predetermined steps, or stages. Each stage consists of a set of certain cross-functional and parallel activities which must be successfully completed prior to obtaining management approval to proceed to the next stage of product development. The entrance to each stage is called: a gate. These gates, which are normally meetings, control the process and serve as:

  1. Quality control
  2. Go / Kill check-points. Readiness-checks, Must-Meet criteria, and Should-Meet criteria.
  3. Marker for action plan for the next phase.

Stage-Gate is a registered trademark of Product Development Institute Inc.


Origin of the Stage-Gate methodology. History

The method is based on the experiences, suggestions and observations of a large number of managers and firms in over 60 cases as observed by Robert Cooper. The term "Stage-Gate" first appeared in an article by Cooper in The Journal of Marketing Management, 3, 3, Spring 1988. An even earlier version can be found in Cooper's book: "Winning at New Products", 1986.


Usage of Stage-Gate. Applications

  • Product Development, Innovation.
  • Component of Portfolio Management.

Steps (stages) in the Stage-Gate model. Process

The Stage-Gate process is preceded by a Discovery stage, which was added in a later version of the original model which had only 5 phases. It contains pre-work designed to discover opportunities and to generate new ideas.

  1. Scoping. A quick, preliminary investigation of each project. Provides inexpensive information by desk research to enable narrowing the number of projects.
  2. Build the Business Case. A much more detailed investigation by primary marketing and technical research. The business case must include a product definition, a product justification and a project plan.
  3. Development. A detailed design and development of the new product, along with some simple product tests. Also a production plan and a market launch plan are developed.
  4. Testing and Validation. Extensive product tests in both the marketplace, the lab and the plant.
  5. Launch. Beginning of full production, marketing and selling. Market launch, production / operations, distribution, quality assurance. Post-Launch Reviews are performed.

In reality, it is necessary to drill down further into the sub-activities to provide detailed and operational instructions for the innovation team.


Robert G. Cooper's Stage-Gate model

Strengths of Stage-Gate methodology. Benefits

  • Well-organized innovation can be a source of competitive advantage.
  • Accelerated product development. Necessary because of shortening product life cycles.
  • Increased success chance of new products. Prevents poor projects early and helps to redirect them.
  • The model breaks down the complex innovation process in large corporations in a number of smaller pieces.
  • Provides overview, which enables prioritization and focus.
  • Integrated market-orientation.
  • Cross-functional. Involves input and participation of employees from various functions in the organization. No separate R&D or Marketing Stage. But see above Discovery.
  • Can be combined with various performance metrics, such as Net Present Value, etc.

Limitations of Stage-Gate. Disadvantages

  • Although within a stage activities can be conducted in parallel, the Stage-Gate approach is basically sequential (waterfall). Some innovation experts believe that product development should actually be organized in parallel, using loops.
  • The original Stage-Gate framework did not deal with the Discovery process and the activities to create new ideas.
  • A tension exists between organizing and creativity. Both are very important within innovation.

Book: Robert G. Cooper - Product Leadership - Pathways to Profitable Innovation -


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