Born in heavy manufacturing, the traditional phase-gate approach is the oldest and by far the most common innovation paradigm in the world. It breaks innovation into a series of sequential phases, with gates that must be cleared before you can proceed to the next phase. Ideally, the criteria for passing through each gate and the person (“gatekeeper”) who decides whether the criteria have been met are clearly defined beforehand. The project progressively gains maturity, which is tested at each gate until completion. The gates provide a clear and distinct mechanism to ask and answer the question, should we continue? Driven by the need to reduce the risk of change when ordering expensive tools with long lead times, the phase-gate model’s hallmark is an early “design freeze” that creates a stable target for the reminder of the innovation process.




The traditional phase-gate model has many weaknesses and works well only when:

▪ the time required to innovate is shorter than the rate of change in the business environment

the quality, reliability, and safety requirements are critical

a company has never had a defined innovation process and can use the phase-gate paradigm as a good first step to stabilize innovation before trying to speed it up.




Weaknesses of the Traditional Phase-Gate Model

Low gatekeeper knowledge leads to poor judgments

Slow and serial

Concept frozen too early

Focused on gates, not the customer

Long review preparation time

Narrow criteria

Maturity focus versus learning focus.