Have you ever jumped ahead of yourself just to realize later that you missed a step? Have you ever launched a new product to find out that consumers didn’t actually like the feature configuration? Have you ever made a mistake and then realized it was dejá vu all over again?
All of us make mistakes. We learn from making errors and we learn by knowing what not to do. In product innovation, learning from failure is an important trait for organizations to succeed over the long run. In fact, learning is at the heart of the Wagile Philosophy (read more here). However, making the same mistake twice – or three times or four times – is not learning. Repeated errors demonstrate the lack of quality systems and an absence of a directing process.
What is Wagile?
Fragile is a hybrid new product development (NPD) process. Wagile balances the structure of a traditional, waterfall system with the iterative and customer-focused nature of an Agile development process (like Scrum). The Wagile philosophy emphasizes moving fast while practicing discipline and understanding risks. Wagile uses both stages of work and gates as checkpoints for product innovation.
Gate reviews in NPD are predominant in traditional waterfall processes, like Bob Cooper’s Stage-Gate™ system. Gate reviews serve as checkpoints to gauge completion of work-to-date and a plan for future project work. In practice, there should be no surprises at a gate review and the cross-functional team that approves the go-forward plan should understand the scope, schedule, and budget well before the formal meeting.
Gate reviews are important elements in any NPD process. In Scrum, we call this review a “retrospective” (read more about Scrum here). The purpose of a gate or retrospective is the same: Do customers want the product as we are designing it? Can we make a profit? Is this new product aligned with our strategic goals and objectives?
Entry and Exit Gates
Entry gates are a pet peeve of mine. The entry gate is approved simply by showing that work on the previous stage is complete. That’s a great accomplishment for the team, but what matters more for innovation is whether the go-forward plan makes sense.
In contrast, an exit gate evaluates both the prior work and approves the product design for future work. The multi-disciplinary management team approving the project at an exit gate must have appropriate budgetary authority for the next stage of work. In this way, risk and strategic alignment are addressed throughout the life of the project.
The Wagile Gate Sequence
Wagile gates are designed as exit gates, to ensure go-forward work will advance product innovation and the overall product portfolio. The following lists the Wagile gates and the expected outcome of each decision.
- 1-Opportunity Gate. The Opportunity Gate validates that the product idea and concept meet a target market need. Enough testing has been done to demonstrate customer wants and needs for the new product. Importantly, decision-makers approve the concept is having a potential profit and fit with the organization’s strategic growth goals. Passing the Opportunity Gate means a project team is authorized to investigate the scope of design, development, and market impacts.
- 2-Business Case. It is important to justify a project early enough to not waste resources. While any project will have more information gathered during execution, unattractive projects should be killed early. Reviewers of the Business Case approve that the new product fits the organization’s growth goals, is strategically aligned, and will meet profitability expectations for the level of innovation involved. This approval funds the technology and market development efforts.
- 3-Technology Gate. The Technology Gate builds on the Business Case gate. Cost of development is balanced against anticipated sales and customer needs. Costs are at the forefront as are feasibility studies. The Technology Gate grants approval for developing at scale. This gate may include approval of licensing and early order equipment items.
- 4-Constructability Gate. At the Constructability Gate, the cross-functional decision-makers commit to building production facilities, supply and distribution chains, and marketing collateral. Bob Cooper often discusses a “money gate” in his work, essentially a point of no return. In some ways, the Constructability Gate serves as this “money gate”. Yet the iterative nature of Wagile allows a project to undergo appropriate iterations thereby ensuring quality control and risk are managed within the tolerance level of the organization.
- 5-Launch. The Launch Gate represents the go-to-market decision for a new product. Measures of profitability will validate earlier decisions (e.g. the business case). However, the Wagile process encourages continued adjustment of the product offering to meet customer needs. Engaged customers help the Project Leader and Customer Representative gain market insights for the life of the product and as inputs for next generation products. Read more about Wagile Roles here.
Using Wagile Gates
Like any project management system, Wagile uses gate reviews as checkpoints to gauge the progress of work . Unlike traditional waterfall processes, not passing a gate is not a punitive measure for the team. Instead, the flexibility of learning is built into Wagile and “no” decision at a gate review simply means a better opportunity is available. Believe me, team members prefer the option of working on a new project over scolding for not meeting entry gate criteria!
Gates provide discipline in Wagile that is often missing in Scrum or other Agile processes. Discipline is important for both teams and senior management to increase creativity and to increase profitability. Wagile further builds flexibility into gate reviews by the hybrid nature of the system.
- Learn more about Wagile Product Development in my Webcast with PDMA on 10 September (register here).
- Delve into the full Wagile process in a virtual, facilitated workshop on 10 November 2020 (register here). Workshop participants have access to downloadable templates and tools to fast track innovation!
- 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).
- Vote on the cover of my next book, The Innovation QUESTION Book here.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or area code 281 + phone 787-3979 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.
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