Watch the short video summary and then read on for the details!
In business and innovation, we often talk about strategy. I think of strategy like a destination when I take a trip. I need to know where I’m going so that I can plan how to get there and what resources I will need. Strategy indicates the vision, mission, and values.
When I take a vacation, I enjoy hiking and being outdoors. I also enjoy history and trying new foods. These are a reflection of my values or philosophy in choosing a destination. In business and innovation, our values form how we make decisions and what activities or behaviors are acceptable in achieving strategic goals.
Recently, I encountered two small businesses with similar goals but different value systems. The first bicycle shop I visited had a huge sign on its door – “We are not taking any repairs. Wait here and phone us to enter the store.” The second bicycle shop, sounding exasperated at the disruption in supply chains by the corona-panic, said “We are only taking repairs. We’ve improved our delivery time to four days from two weeks.” It’s easy to see the difference in philosophy and values for these two businesses. And, I bet you can guess which store got my money!
What is Wagile?
Wagile is a hybrid innovation management system taking advantage of the rigor from a staged-and-gated system while adding in the flexibility of an Agile development process. Most organizations end up becoming overly bureaucratic with staged-and-gated processes, hindering speed-to-market.
On the other hand, many organizations that have tried implementing Agile have struggled, too. Scrum (read more about Scrum here) is the most common way that firms implement Agile in a new product development (NPD) project. Yet, Scrum was designed for software. Companies are challenged by the definition of “done” and in getting sophisticated technical design elements completed in a two-week sprint.
Wagile – part waterfall and part Agile – encourages iterations where necessary and increases customer interactions. But, Wagile maintains the discipline of a waterfall (or staged-and-gated) process.
The Wagile Philosophy
For any project management system to succeed, the values of the organization must support the steps, tasks, and expected outcomes of the process. The Wagile philosophy supports a key innovation goal of speed-to-market.
- Move fast
- Practice discipline
- Understand risks
- Engage customers
- Provide autonomy
Move fast. The benefit of Scrum is moving fast and creating prototypes quickly. Customers test many different versions of the potential product and designers select the attributes that best satisfy the needs of end-users. The Wagile philosophy includes moving fast to quickly determine the most important features and to eliminate bad concepts early. The end result? Cost and time savings during development.
Practice discipline. While waterfall (staged-and-gated) processes can become overly bureaucratic, Agile projects are often viewed by senior executives as chaotic with ill-defined scope and goals. Wagile enforces discipline by placing critical success metrics on each project. An innovation project does not pass a gate review without a clear go-forward plan. We know that creativity is expanded when the problem is bounded by clear expectations and aspirations so discipline is necessary to win with new products.
Understand risks. Uncertainty is always present in an innovation project. Waterfall processes attempt to manage risk with detailed upfront planning. Yet, plans usually are erroneous in one way or another. You might plan two separate electrical feeds for a fire water system but forget that a utility outage will disable the whole plant. Risks are managed, but not eliminated, with planning.
On the other hand, Agile gives a “hand wave” response to risk. These systems assume you’ll know it when you see it. So, the Wagile philosophy endorses risk management and creates a trigger/ response list to manage risk. However, the Wagile philosophy also recognizes “positive uncertainties” to expand and capitalize on surprise results.
Engage customers. While Scrum includes a specific role for the Product Owner (read more here), end-users are still frequently neglected from the process. Wagile forces customer interactions via specific measures at each gate review (e.g. competitive analysis at the Idea Gate and market testing at the Constructability Gate). Moreover, the role of the Customer Representative (see more about the Wagile Roles and Responsibilities here) is wholly responsible to ensure end-user feedback is both accurate and timely. Design Thinking tools are crucial in gathering information throughout the NPD project. (Join me on 11 November 2020 for a complimentary life design workshop – register here.)
Provide autonomy. Many of my readers know I am a chemical engineer. I suffer from some of the common “nerd” traits of engineers – we need quiet time to deeply study a problem and we need to justify a solution based on data and facts.
The Wagile philosophy supports engineers and product development teams by providing autonomy. Senior executives typically are far removed from customers and daily operations on the factory floor. Let the people with the expertise make the decisions.
Of course, when a decision crosses a threshold of high investment or unusually high risk, the team should consult upper management. But under normal circumstances, a flat organizational structure with responsible decision-making guardrails in place allows an innovation team to function most efficiently and productively.
Apply the Wagile Philosophy
While you may be using a traditional staged-and-gated process for innovation or you’ve been trying to implement Scrum, you can make some giant steps to effectiveness by adopting the Wagile philosophy. Focus on moving fast within a discipline of critical success metrics. Understand the project risks and uncertainties but test those limitations with customers. Feedback from end-users should guide a product development effort. Finally, let the experts do their work and give your teams autonomy to make decisions within their control.
Learn more about Wagile Product Development in my Webcast with PDMA on 10 September (register here).
- Get the full Wagile Product Development course in a virtual, facilitated workshop on 10 November 2020 (register here). Includes templates, tools, and implementation tips.
- Check out where I’m speaking next (click here) and book me for your next event.
- Get your copy of The Innovation ANSWER Book available at Amazon (now available on Kindle).
- Reference the new PDMA Body of Knowledge, available at Amazon.
- Get your NPDP Certification! Join our October online class (Thursdays) following the brand new, 2nd edition PDMA Body of Knowledge. REGISTER HERE!
I am inspired by writing, teaching, and speaking at great professional events. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced innovation professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at [email protected] or area code 281 + phone 787-3979 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.
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