Why do some organisations get innovation while others struggle to make it happen?

Innovation is anything that is new that, when implemented, adds value, with the emphasis on “when implemented”. Innovation is not hackathons, it’s not implementing idea management systems. IDEAS exist everywhere in organisations. It’s implementing good ideas that organisations struggle with as too often they are encumbered with focussing on ‘business as usual’.

I was reminded of this when discussing how to present project findings with a potential client. To date, their brainstorming workshops had uncovered nothing that was of real value and transformational enough to engage the executives of the companies to which the report would be presented. The concept that implementing innovation is all about managing change was foreign to them.

Based on this and other observations of late, I thought I’d share with you the elements of a change management process that, when adopted to the degree necessary for any given project, should ensure a successful implementation of an innovative idea.

To implement innovative ideas an organisation has to be agile enough to manage change on a continuous basis. The best process for managing change has been around since 1995 when John Kotter wrote his book ‘Eight Step Change Management Process’. This proven process involves:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Create the guiding coalition
  3. Develop a vision and a strategy
  4. Communicate the change vision
  5. Empower broad – based action
  6. Generate short – term wins
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture

Let’s look at these steps:

1. A sense of urgency

Individuals involved need to clearly understand what is wrong with the current situation and the negative consequences should this individual continue to do what the current process or practice asks of them.

The individual then needs to be engaged in the process of identify areas of opportunities to improve and change what is being done for better outcomes for the individual and the organisation.

2. Creating a guiding coalition

Through this process of individual discussion and engagement or via network analysis, a number of people are identified that are trusted peer influencers, recognise the need to change and are prepared to take on a leadership role in assisting with the implementation of the change process.

3. Vision and Strategy

This guiding coalition develops the vision or statement of purpose that acts as a foundation for the change process and assists in the direction that the change takes. This vision/statement of purpose clearly articulates what things will be like when the change process has been completed. Once this vision/statement of purpose has been agreed to, the strategies and action plans are outlined to enable the individuals and the organisation to bring about this change process.

4. Communication

This guiding coalition uses every opportunity and means at their disposal to continually communicate this new vision and the strategies required to bring about this change. In this communication, the benefits of this new vision and “what’s in it for me” are reinforced. The implementation team (“the guiding coalition”) then become the role models for the change in behaviour required and that will reinforce the required change until it becomes a habit and the way things are done around here.

5. Broad Based Action

The leader’s role, apart from coaching and mentoring the implementation team and other willing employees, becomes one of removing any obstacles that emerge as potential blocks to the implementation of the change process. This includes being the driving force for changes in systems and structures that will assist the change process and deliver the vision.

6. Short – Term Wins

Early on in the change process, the implementation team and leader need to identify opportunities for short – term wins (“low hanging fruit”) that show that the vision is being delivered and improvements are occurring. Visibly recognise and reward those individuals that have been responsible for performance improvements and who made the wins possible.

7. Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change

Use these wins to gain credibility and negate any criticism from the ‘non-participants’ in the change process who are sitting on the fence to see whether the change is sustainable. Use these early wins to change any of the systems, structures and policies that do not fit the future when the change vision is realised.

8. Anchoring the New Approaches in the Culture

To ensure that the changed behaviours become part of the “way things are done around here” and become the culture of the organisation, the leader’s role becomes one of developing future leaders who are “of like mind”, and a succession plan that, when implemented, will not see any change come in for the sake of change i.e. change for change sake.

Follow these steps and you are well on the way to having your project implemented within your organisation.

Written by John Maclay, Hargraves Member Advocate with expertise including Process, Product and Technical Innovation, Commercialisation, Supply Chain and New Product Development.

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