Stage Gate Express for Lower Risk Projects

Stage-Gate frameworks are scalable, with different versions to handle different types of projects. The full-fledged Stage-Gate model in Figure 7.1-1 is designed for larger, higher-risk new product projects with much at stake and many unknowns. But many projects are much smaller than this. They include product modifications, extensions, improvements, simple sales requests, and single-customer projects. Forcing such smaller projects through the full five-stage model only creates frustration, unneeded work, and the impression of added bureaucracy, a sure way to cause people to circumvent an otherwise excellent framework.

When the project risk is low, use an abbreviated version of Stage-Gate: the three-stage Stage-Gate Express framework in Figure 7.1-6.20 Here's how the three-stage version works:

• Stages 1 and 2 in Figure 7.1-1 are combined into a single "homework" stage. The usual Stage 1 activities are then merged with Stage 2 tasks. In lower-risk projects, often much of the needed information is readily available, and so the work effort required for the homework phase in Stage-Gate Express is considerably less than in the full five-stage process.

• Stage 3 (Development) is merged with Stage 4 (Testing and Validation) in Figure 7.1-1. The project team reviews the activities normally undertaken in Stages 3 and 4 and decides which are relevant to the smaller project and which should be omitted or abbreviated.

• Because stages are combined, Gates 2 and 4 are eliminated (often the project team conducts a "self-check" or "self-managed gate" prior to moving ahead).

The result is a fast-track process suitable to facilitate product development for low-risk projects.

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