Flops are usually associated with failure except when they are game changing. Recently watching the Olympics I was drawn to an event that changed the face of the High Jump. Dick Fosbury innovated the sport of high jumping with his unique jumping style known as the “Fosbury Flop”. However if you are a small to mid-sized company, having a new product “flop” is a scary venture. CEOs are strongly encouraged to have an innovative culture in order to remain competitive, but the key is managing failure and learning from it.
Having managed many brands and businesses over the years, it was an eye opening experience how little things can quickly go awry and become costly mistakes or “flops” if you will.
Throughout my career, I have used a variety of processes for creating new products or renovating existing ones. The best one I have used is the Stage Gate Process which provides a great framework for managing the idea through launch. The objective behind the process is to enable sound decision making along the way. You can effectively “pull the plug” at any time on an idea (due to financials, manufacturing, legal, product viability issues, etc.) to minimize “flops”.
The process is divided into various “Stages” which have specific tasks to be completed by members of a cross-functional team. In order to pass through the “Gate” to the next “Stage”, the Team needs to agree the idea has met the requirements for that particular phase, based on information collected. At each Gate hurdles are established for passing though to the next Stage.
Embracing a Stage Gate process may seem daunting especially for a small to mid-size company. There are short cuts that can help. For example at one organization I worked with created its own “abbreviated” version. The Team (R&D, Marketing, Manufacturing, Finance and Sales) created its own templates and requirements that fit the way the company did business.
Here is a breakdown of the “abbreviated” Stage Gate process. While I am sure Dick Fosbury did not use a Stage Gate process to develop his “Flop”, he still went through very similar steps to perfect his technique.
The Stage Gate process is primarily a new products tool, however I have found it useful to manage product improvements, as well as major changes to the production process that might impact the quality of the product offering.
While the process isn’t foolproof, it certainly has helped me better manage new product launches and minimize the “flops." While we all can’t be Olympic gold medalists, at least we can learn from their “flops."
Follow Chief Outsiders on Twitter @ChiefOutsiders