I held a "quarterly product planning" meeting last week. On its own, this isn't news. All organizations plan, and we're no different.
But last week's meeting was different in that I started to introduce some of the Stage Gate planning methodology - with a focus on the words "started" and "introduce".
Small companies have advantages over large ones. The challenge is to balance the desire to maintain the traits that make a small company successful with the imperative to adopt a more process-centric view of product development. I've used a few planning methodologies before, and this one is as good as one as any. If you have another, I'm all ears.
My strategy is to start small and build on success - rather than ram all of Stage Gate down their throats, I picked a few elements of it to start with. Over time, I'll introduce more and more of the elements to correspond with our growth and appetite for process sophistication.
I've lived through the experience of watching an organization use Stage Gate incorrectly. There it seemed as if Stage Gate was a way to not make decisions, and as a result, to "not plan". With so many "smart people" sitting around the table asking "smart questions", no project ever made it further than the first few steps. It was a zero-sum game - in order for the "smart people" to look smart, they had to make others "look dumb".
Over time, Stage Gate became synonymous with lack of progress, and when the new regime came (because new regimes always do), it was one of the first casualties.
Wish me luck. If you've had experience using it successfully over time, drop me a note.