Innovation Without Implementation Leads Nowhere

Posted by Don Harrison on Wed, Jul 10, 2019 @ 11:24 AM

We all know a culture of innovation can make a company wildly successful. But the growing challenge innovative organizations face is how to ensure enough attention is being paid to how to implement all the fabulous ideas Innovationthey come up with! 

Innovation is complex. It usually involves large-scale and highly complex organizational change, with multiple inter-dependencies. The challenge of actually implementing all of these ideas is arguably just as difficult as the process of creating the innovation itself! So, where do you begin?


Becoming Change Adept

Organizations that are looking to survive and even thrive with an innovative culture need be “change-adept.” There are three protocols needed for an organization to be truly change adept.

  1. A Continuous Improvement Protocol. Continuous improvement methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma allow an organization to continually identify problems and improvement opportunities. But remember, while this capability is extremely useful, it is not a silver bullet for driving innovation and continuous improvement into the organization. What’s missing is the ability to implement the solutions that have been identified!
  2. A Project Management Methodology.  A project management discipline ensures there is a plan to manage resources, identify risks and control costs. Whether your organization uses Agile or the more traditional Waterfall approach, project management ensures a project is completed on time, on budget and to scope.
  3. A Change Management Methodology. While project management focuses on ensuring initiatives are on time, on budget and to scope, this is not enough. In every project there is something people will need to DO differently. Without behavior change, there really is no change. So, while project management is a must do, change management is equally important. Change management is the risk dashboard for the people side, providing rigor and discipline for the human and cultural elements of the change.

The Importance of Leadership Commitment

Once an organization has process improvement, project management and change management protocols in place, there is one additional requirement to be change adept. And to be honest, it might be the most important one. A change adept organization must have leaders who recognize that having a good idea or strategy is only a small part of their accountability.

Leaders must also provide the needed commitment to implement to full value realization. This is the cascade of active, visible Sponsors who are Expressing, Modeling and Reinforcing the desired new behaviors associated with the change, down and across the enterprise.  If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, this cascade of Sponsorship is the single most important factor in swift and successful implementation.

Making Innovation Stick

So, what does it take to move from having a great idea to implementation success? While it would seem logical to apply continuous improvement first to identify the issues, use project management next to manage it and then change management as a bolt on at the end to address implementation I can tell you from experience this is not going to work. It is much better to integrate the three processes from the beginning.

The AIM Change Management Methodology was built with this concept in mind. It was developed so that its deliverables and knowledge areas can be easily inserted at key intersection points in an operational excellence as well as a project management plan. Here are 4 ways AIM can help ensure your innovation project is a success:

  • Defining the Change - The starting point for every business change must be a clear, compelling definition of the change. In other words, you need to have alignment around the scope and business case for the change, including the business, technical and human objectives for the innovation.
  • Generating Project Sponsorship – As mentioned before, a cascade of active, visible Sponsors throughout every area of the organization effected by the change who are Expressing, Modeling and Reinforcing the desired new behaviors associated with the change is the single most important aspect to implementation.
  • Creating Target Readiness for the Change - Innovation is disruptive, so even if it represents forward progress and what would be considered “positive,” resistance is inevitable. But, Readiness and Resistance are two sides of the same coin. You must build Target Readiness or you will pay for it later in Resistance.
  • Development of a Reinforcement Strategy - There must be positive consequences for those that demonstrate they are “on the bus” and negative consequences for those that continue to work in the old ways. These reinforcements must be meaningful for the Targets, and applied with immediacy and certainty. (Be prepared to reinforce Sponsors, too, because giving up the traditional power structure to foster innovation requires significant behavioral change on their part as well!)

Coming up with innovative, new ideas is what keeps organizations one step ahead of their competitors. But, remember a great solution that is poorly implemented will lead nowhere. Becoming change adept by blending operational excellence, project management and a structured change management process (like AIM) is the key to innovation AND implementation success! 

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Topics: Innovation, Lean/Six Sigma, Project Management