Monday, July 25, 2011

Managing Major Corporate Initiatives
A five-point plan to keep steering committees on track.
Authors: Christoph Loch (INSEAD), Magnus Mähring (Stockholm School of Economics), and Svenja Sommer (HEC Paris)

Very, very important stuff.

 "Major initiatives are often a cause of significant friction between the senior executives who oversee a project and the managers who are charged with implementation.

Often drawn from around the firm to sit on a supervisory steering committee, the senior executives are on the hook for a project’s success. Typically, though, steering committee members lack the time, the proximity, and the expertise to understand all the issues and details involved in a project — and many struggle to provide the right level of guidance and supervision….….This paper provides a five-point framework for giving big, complex projects the senior leadership they require — not in terms of operational management, but rather in terms of strategic direction. 

1.        Steering committee composition and self-management. Steering committees should include important stakeholders, create their own governance systems, and work as a team2.       Goal agreement. Team members should clarify and agree on the project’s objectives, producing workable compromises3.       Relationship with the project team. Committee members should decide how to evaluate and motivate those charged with executing the project4.       Supervision and control. This area involves keeping the project team on track within the context of the company’s goals. Steering committees should question assumptions throughout the project  and insist on translating technical jargon into business language whenever possible 5.        Managing surprises and changes. The last point relates to the need to modify the project’s direction when objectives or opportunities shift — and they always will, at least to some extent…. Rather than focus on final results,  steering committees should make use of “intermediate insight milestones” to keep plans flexible and moving forward. " 

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Brainstorming Format

Nice approach to extract ideas from your teams. The questions referred to can be what McKinsey calls the “killer questions”—how can we dramatically change our business in 3 to 4 major new directions. One different approach from below is that after each team reaches their conclusions a described, they can summarize their consensus opinion on flip charts (for each question) and have the other teams rotate around the room to comment on the summary of each team. A facilitator from each team will stay with the flip chart summaries to capture the additional input from this rotation. A team selected from the group will be chartered to summarize the output from the session for each major question.

 Brainstorming is very useful to get a set of opinions on different issues from a diverse group. I have tried out this format for getting ideas to bubble up from individuals and groups:§  Identity 4-5 key questions that needs to be discussed
§  Create a questionnaire which is then given to each individual to answer in about 10 minutes
§  Split people up into groups of 6-7 people at a roundtable. Depending on the number of people, work out the number of groups that will be there (call it N). Go around the room asking each person to sequentially say 1,2,3…N. Group all the people with the same number together. This is important to mix people up.
§  Ask the group to discuss each of the questions based on the individual responses and come up with a common (consensus) answer to each of the questions. This helps draw out the “wisdom of crowds.”
§  One person from each group presents to the wider audience.
§  Collect both the individual answers and the group answers.
§  After this, there can be an open-house (time permitting).
This process helps distill out both individual thinking and the collective view for each of the issues. It also ensures that each person gets an opportunity to talk (at the group-level). A structured discussion is necessary because a free-for-all format can degenerate into chaos very quickly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finding Opportunities in Business Model Innovation
By Rita Gunther McGrath
The European Financial Review June - July 2011

As the title implies, business model innovation is a critical component to sustained growth. I strongly urge reading the paper for fabulous insights from Prof. Rita McGrath. As a teaser, below is an evaluation she developed to ascertain the strength of your current model. If you fare poorly, you may want to consider deploying the insights from this article. As always, the key is creating real competitive separation.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Innovation's Nine Critical Success Factors
Note: This post was written with Mark Sebell and Jay Terwilliger, managing partners at Creative Realities, Inc., a Boston-based innovation management collaborative.

Your organization won't innovate productively unless some underlying factors are in good shape. If "10" is outstanding and "1" is poor, how do you rate your organization on each of these?
"1.     A compelling case for innovation. Unless people understand why innovation is necessary, it always loses to core business or the performance engine in the battle for resources.2.      An inspiring, shared vision of the future. Most companies anticipate the future based upon the past. For this process, it is best to take a 10-20-year perspective. It is not about predicting the future. It is about developing hypotheses about the future.3.      A fully aligned strategic innovation agenda.  Innovation is a journey into the unknown and there are many paths open to the innovator. Before starting it is essential to know things like: 1) What business are we in now and want to be in going forward? 2) What is our risk tolerance for pursuing big, game-changing ideas?4.      Visible senior management involvement. Incremental innovation can be pushed down into the organization where the strategy is clear, decision metrics are understood, and management models like Stage-Gate create a level playing field. However, for game-changing innovation it's the opposite. 5.      A decision-making model that fosters teamwork in support of passionate champions. Breakthroughs cannot survive without a decision-making model that is different from the one used for incremental innovation (my belief is that the decision making process can be the same but the criteria will be very different)6.      A creatively resourced, multi-functional dedicated team. The best teams have three ingredients: project champions who can make decisions during working sessions and advocate for them with executive sponsors, relevant capabilities and expertise, and naïve, seemingly irrelevant diversity7.      Open-minded exploration of the marketplace drivers of innovation. Organizational change is driven by marketplace factors: customers, competition, government regulation, and science and technology8.      Willingness to take risk and see value in absurdity.  Innovators understand that you have no choice; you must take risks, often big ones, by moving toward the absurd, the "seemingly" irrelevant, in order to create pre-emptive competitive advantage while competitors move in the "obvious" direction9.       A well-defined yet flexible execution process. Companies that have been in business for a while are good at executing on small, incremental changes.(see all our postings on being an ambidextrous company on our blog site)"