The Quality Manager is seldom considered to be the key supporter of innovation. But he can play an important role in bridging gaps and streamlining the innovation process...
Stage Gate' processes are often perceived as bureaucratic...
Innovation is a lot more than product development...
In the 80's and 90's many companies implemented a so called ‘Stage Gate' process to manage new product development - and sometimes with the main purpose of complying with the ISO9001 standard.
It is often said that those kinds of "regulations" are limiting creativity, create unnecessary bureaucracy and reduce engagement and efficiency. However, most people would agree that at least two important milestones are crucial and must be handled in any project:
Is management willing to launch the project, based on the potential business, the cost - and the risk - compared to other opportunities available?
Is the product - or service - ready for release to the market, meeting all external and internal requirements?
The process beyond that must be carefully designed to meet the special needs of your organization and industry - "Off the Shelf" solutions won't work.
And it must recognize that the nature of ambitious innovation means uncertainty and iterative steps - the most important decisions are taken at the early stage where you have the biggest lack of knowledge. Finally it must extend its scope beyond "classic" product development. Successful innovation looks at the total value chain to add value. This is often not addressed in today's ‘Stage Gate' models.
So maybe it's time to review and optimize your innovation process?
If it is done right, the results will derive in terms of more profitable business, less quality cost and more engaged people who work together following a process that is simple, transparent - and makes sense.
The Quality Manager can play an important role by facilitating the improvement process and by raising questions like:
Does the current process reflect the way our organisation wants to innovate future solutions?
Are some of the detailed requirements really ISO90001 requirements or are they internal "fads" from the past when the organisation had a different level of maturity?
Does the process provide the necessary guidelines and tools to help people across functions work together and take the best possible decisions in the situation?
No company can grow or even survive without innovation. The vision, the creativity, the competence - and the courage to take a risk - are the prerequisite. An efficient and well deployed innovation process is the enabler.
Don't wait until a formal deviation pops up in the audit report - and sets the wrong stage for a wonderful opportunity for improvement.