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Implementing Innovation Best Practices across an Enterprise
Posted on December 21st, 2016 by Stephen Toton in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence
I often get asked by my colleagues and clients to explain how I was able to implement several Innovation Best Practices across an enterprise and make it stick – especially in an enterprise environment with multiple global business units, regions and markets, and a portfolio of highly diverse technologies. So, let me share some of my beliefs and techniques.
Regardless of technologies, markets, cycle times, product complexities, business structures, locations or talent, I believe many, if not all corporations can benefit from having the best practices of Innovation applied consistently across an enterprise. Innovation by its own nature is filled with unknowns and risk.
Also, finding an opportunity, formulating a concept and taking it to commercialization is hard work and requires the experience of many involved in the process. Why not take advantage of those companies that have mastered a best practice in a particular area to mitigate the risk and increase the probability of success. No one has the perfect set of Innovation Best Practices, but many corporations have assembled a set of Best Practices that work for them and can be leveraged by others. The trick is to find out what your corporation is lacking and try to discover what others are doing to address the problem.
In order to implement any Innovation Best Practice across an enterprise, you need an executive sponsor. In my experience this is usually the CTO and / or the CMO. If you’re lucky, you may get the CEO to sponsor, but usually this person is too busy with the day to day internal and external operations of the corporation.
The executive sponsor is key to providing support and cover in helping the Champion identify and implement an Innovation Best Practice across an enterprise. They usually have insights about the corporate environment that can guide you in an implementation. They can also provide some resources to help seed or explore a new approach.
Do not expect an executive sponsor to mandate an Innovation Best Practice across the enterprise. This may be the last step in an implementation plan, but certainly not the first. Also, don’t try to implement a best practice without an executive sponsor. Grass roots efforts feel good, but can only get you so far. Ultimately without executive sponsorship, they fail very quickly.
Sometimes it may take some external perspective to provide the sponsor comfort in a new Innovation Best Practice. It may be good to introduce your sponsor to other non-competitive peers who have implemented the Innovation Best Practice within their corporation. These informal discussions can be very powerful in the beginning.
The Champion is the person who has identified an Innovation Best Practice that can be leveraged across the enterprise. The Champion may be a functional or business leader, or an individual contributor, but certainly someone who has credibility within the Innovation Community.
I know when I was playing this role in the corporation, it was my credibility with my peers and business leaders that allowed me to get them to listen to alternative approaches with Innovation. Ultimately, I was able to build on my credibility and experiences to gain a level of trust with our key business leaders and executives.
The Champion must have a sturdy backbone and be able to withstand some criticism. There will be some strong business or functional leaders that will battle with you on the concept of implementing a new Innovation Best Practice. Usually these individuals mean well, but are resistant to change. It may take several iterations of discussions, including using your executive sponsor to get a glimmer of hope in moving forward.
Regardless, the Champion must have the resolve to push forward. Remember, some of your early foes may become your biggest advocates if convinced of the value of a new Innovation Best Practice.
The Steering Team
Don’t be a lone wolf. Surround yourself with some peers and other influential leaders to help vet an Innovation Best Practice or help you design an implementation plan. The Steering Team members will usually have some “skin in the game” and see the benefit in implementing a new best practice. Remember, just like commercializing a new product, implementing a new best practice will go through several different stages. You need the Steering Team to help guide you through the implementation. Any Innovation Best Practice you want to implement will require some customization so you may need expert resources to help you with the design. Use the Steering Team to help float concepts and designs. Get their input and buy in.
The Implementation Plan
Implementing a new Innovation Best Practice across the enterprise is a major project and just like other projects, you need a plan. Even in the very early stages you need to scope out a plan that includes milestones, resources and budget. As you evolve through the implementation, your plan will become more detailed. However, as an Innovation Best Practice takes hold in a business in takes on a new life of its own.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a business or function, you need demonstrate the benefit of a new Innovation Best Practice internally before you expect other businesses or functions to adopt. Therefore, identifying a pilot is crucial to any successful implementation plan.
Sometimes a pilot function or business has a burning desire to implement a new best practice. However, it may need some resource seeding to get started. This is where your corporate sponsor can help. Regardless of how you get started, you cannot let the pilot fail. You must resource the implementation for success.
Communicate the Successes
Use the pilot success stories to communicate the benefits of this new Innovation Best Practice. Share these results with your Innovation community. Be sure to share your implementation plan too. If this Innovation best practice is truly making a difference, it won’t take long for other businesses or functions to volunteer to be next on the list.
I recognize that implementing an Innovation Best Practice across an enterprise is very challenging. By our own human nature, change is not easy. However, an Innovation organization must continually look to improve itself to help introduce the best innovation solutions to the marketplace and grow the top line for the corporation.
All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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