How does an organization implement innovation? Former CEO of Ford Motor Company, Alan Mullaly, advises that “the most important thing is for a team to come together over a compelling vision, a comprehensive strategy for achieving that vision, and then a relentless implementation plan.” This is where many organizations can fall short: a relentless implementation plan.
In order to create sustainable innovation initiatives, the implementation must be grounded in laser-focus project management. Thriving innovation culture requires all business units to engage. And in order to do so, management must lay the groundwork for how the project will be managed. Below, we list 5 best practices to transform your next big idea into a real living, breathing innovation initiative.
Project Management Best Practices to Implement Innovation
That which can be tracked can be measured, and, therefore, can be accomplished. Tracking, whether in excel or otherwise, is vital and must be shareable. You can’t track enough – even in agile! A decision log can save the day – keeping you within scope and budget – especially when you have investors or clients with fluctuating minds. Tracking also engages the wider team by giving them transparency into your current projects providing an opportunity for feedback and collaboration. When strategizing for how to implement tracking, use the acronym B.R.A.I.D. These are the must-haves for tracking:
- Budget: Write down the exact budget agreed upon with consideration of allocation of resources.
- Risks: List out potential risks, assign someone to be accountable for risk management, and if issues arise, set resolution dates.
- Actions: Prioritize what is vital, what is nice to have, and who owns what.
- Issues: Innovate! Ask yourselves, “What are possible solutions?” “What is the core issue?” “How can we mitigate for this issue in the future?”
- Decisions: Record decisions to have data backing current statuses of the project. This is easily overlooked, but it is essential. For example, if a client claims, “You haven’t hit the 10% target!” you can reference the decision made of October 11th regarding the decision to set the target to 8% - which the team has accomplished.
Tip: Keep this online (it’s never lost) and shareable (people can refer to it) and never delete information so as to not lose the audit trail (always have a reference).
Yes, innovation and agility are vital at the moment – it should be any business that wants to grow’s top priority, but don’t be scared to plan. A plan doesn’t have to mean scroll-infinity excels or MS Project plans. But one thing it must be is the ‘heart’ of the program. Everyone needs to know it, know where to find it, and what it means. This strategic plan must be part of a larger innovation system: a coherent set of interdependent processes and structures that dictates how the company searches for novel problems and solutions, synthesizes ideas into a business concept and product designs, and selects which projects get funded. When solidifying an innovation initiative, an organization has a choice between how much they want to focus on technological innovation versus business model innovation. The matrix below demonstrates how innovation can fit within a current business model and can be useful in planning.
Tip: Make your plan visible and have your stand-ups encircling it. Be innovative and use moveable, magnetic blocks to show timelines and milestones. And always, always factor in risks, issues, and dependencies.
Cadence is the ‘rhythm’ of the project. Get this established immediately. This provides structure, and with the right meetings and people in place, it becomes a forum for decisions to be made and innovation to happen. Although cadence is a regular, scheduled aspect of a project, it does not mean that you have to cover the same mundane talking points in the same way, every time. Schedule some time at the beginning, middle, end, or throughout, to look at things from varying perspectives. Here are some questions to be asking:
- Can we subtract to solve for any problems?
- What would it look like if this were easy?
- How are we performing against the outcomes we defined?
Tip: Consistency is vital. Pick a slot and stick to it: daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. If possible, go somewhere new for an inspiring change of scene, even if it’s just the yard or a café.
Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Leadership requires blazing new trails, all the while keeping yourself intact. As a leader, all eyes are upon you, and thus, every word and gesture have an impact. Here are three attributes of a great leader:
- Be Accountable: Own your actions, promptly admit wrongdoings, and act from a place of integrity. Everything you say or do provides a message to the organization; ensure that message is effective and inspiring.
- Seek Feedback: It is easy to misplace yourself if you're operating from a perception rather than gathering anonymous feedback. Create a 360 evaluation to collect feedback from your organization. Most importantly, take in that feedback and implement changes.
- Master communication: There are six key communication styles you should be familiar with - listening, advising, directing, motivating, teaching, and coaching. Each one has it's own place and time to be used, and are most effective when combined. Mastering communication allows you to lead with clarity.
Tip: Picture the best leader you’ve ever had. What was it that made them so great? It might have been their relaxed, friendly style, how they sat with you and coached you to reach your goals, or maybe they were just direct and you always felt like you knew what was expected of you. Write down all of these ‘best bits’ of past leaders, followed by an action of how you can implement it in your current role and project.
Good communication is obvious, yes, but it’s rarely done correctly. Traditional emailing still has its place for legalities and modern methods such as slack are great to give quick updates and even build a sense of community. But the tried and true most effective method of communication is voice! And even better, visuals. It’s true we’re all spread apart now, but if you want a quick decision, call someone – scheduled or otherwise, it’ll get the job done in the fastest possible way. Half the point of innovation is to do things quickly to stay ahead of the game.
Tip: A stand up a day, keeps the risks at bay. Gather everyone around, bring coffees, and ensure everyone’s voice is heard- and get delivering!
Blastoff Innovation to Implementation
For corporations and startups alike, achieving success and growth depends on a culture that not only innovates but drives forward and delivers. To do this, you must project manage your way to success and remove the blockers to enable your organization to achieve all that it can.
Are you and your organization ready to take your innovation delivery to the next step?