The Organizational Strategist

July 7, 2013

Planning Your Product and Service Roadmap Transformation


-Introduction-

As a part of every organization, there is an ongoing need for innovation in their products and services. It can be very challenging to keep up with the market changes, competition, technological advancement, and other factors that shape the business landscape. To keep up and on top of the business landscape, each company must go through its own cycles of products and services roadmap planning. This roadmap includes understanding the current and future environments (what’s going well, what isn’t going well, what should change over time, etc.) and alignment initiatives (molding the organization to best advance the most important products/services) for long term success. To find out the right approach to take, there are phases of planning the change.

-Research & Analysis-

The first phase is to do a series of tasks to research and analyze the current performance and anticipated trends. Here is a list of tasks to dive into:

  • Find best performers and the worst of the product/service portfolio. This can be done via examining the financial performance of the past few years.
  • Examine market trends and intelligence to gain long term perspective. Looking at industry newsletters, market intelligence organizations (e.g. Forester, Gartner, or IDC), or attending speaker sessions on similar topics can likely help accomplish this.
  • Examine which areas are most strategic by comparing the competitive landscape, long term potential, defensible positioning, new market share, etc.
  • Find the balance of which customers are the most helpful/easiest to work with to understand what can help make the most profitable mix. (check out the strategic divestment article)
  • Examine which products and services can be sold/packaged together (e.g. selling a standard product and then adding consulting services on top of it to help maximize its usage and benefits).
  • Assess which products/services are most interesting/engaging/cool inside the company. Having more or less energy behind a given product or service line can help influence which areas will then have the most passion behind it or them.

At the conclusion of these investigation areas, conclude and rank which products and services have the most potential for short and long term success. By doing most, if not all, of these areas, you can arrive at a lot of strategic and tactical information to draw upon for a number of decision areas.

-Finding out what to accelerate/decelerate-

Noting how performance has been and what it is anticipated to be in the future is very helpful. However, it can also be very important to note what is already going for the company. First, examine current plans and any promises (legal or not) to customers, partners, and competitors to see what flexibility is possible. The areas that can shift can be opportunities for upsells, better terms, more effective agreements, and/or simply discontinuation (in the instance of it not being profitable enough). Then see what areas can be decelerated (phased out, reduction of investment) or retired (removal from active selling and positioning or just replaced), and what can be accelerated (invested in, supported more, amplified, etc.). From combining both the research indicating data driven possibility for current and future attainment as well as the business commitments in motion, you should have the long term plan on how to approach the product and service roadmap, including which changes should take place.

-Planning for the change-

Now, after that sizeable research, analysis, and current commitment plan of record you can finalize your product and service transformation roadmap. This roadmap can make large waves internally with your employees, the market competition, coordination with partners, and certainly in regards to working with current and future customer segments. In kicking this off, there are several important areas to initially attend as you plan and coordinate the roll out of these changes:

  • Give everyone internally a heads up on what changes are coming, particularly those that are in advanced or long term planning (sales, marketing, internal R&D, etc.). In so doing this, it’s very important to state the process that was conducted, the business reasons for it happening, and the important parts about it in regards to the employees. In messaging to the employees be sure to tie it into what motivates them. Perhaps this could be new opportunities ahead, better company profitability implying bigger bonuses to shareholders and employees, removal of pain points, and so on.
  • The existing commitments, if changing, should be discussed with as much lead time as possible. It’s just good customer service to give them that heads up as soon as possible. It will be important to have that messaging prepared in regards the approach taken, the options for adjustment, and long term fulfillment conditions all to allow for the sales cycle and customer relationships to adjust. This can mean having upselling options presentable, different terms and conditions on hand, substitute product or services available, and the handoff to partners queued up if needed. In a similar messaging fashion from the internal front, it is important to let your customers know the business reasons, particularly what is beneficial for the customers through this arrangement. The business reasons could be as simply stated as a regular cadence to the business and a best practice effort. The customer benefits part should be aspects like newer, better, faster, stronger, etc. products and/or services that are relate to better cost or quality for the customer.

-Next Steps-

In this article I’ve only covered planning the change and elements of the initial communications. There is much more to following through with the roadmap than simply that. Effectively implementing a product and service roadmap transformation can be very difficult, complex, and time consuming. It is easy to underestimate what all should fuel this kind of an effort when implementing it. That implementation would likely include positioning and planning, communication planning & drafting, hands on coordination (calls, meetings, presentations, etc.), and the follow through to meet what was articulated in the plans. The devil can be in the details and it is clear there are many details to be discovered in the further design and implementation of a product and service roadmap.

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July 31, 2011

Strategic Wisdom: An informed action is the impactful one


Wisdom is defined by dictionary.com as the following:

1. the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.

2. scholarly knowledge or learning: the wisdom of the schools.

3. wise sayings or teachings; precepts.

There are many things I appreciate or learn from others that I find to be wisdom.  What may be wisdom to me may not be the same to others.  That is because what is insightful varies based on perspective and experience.  If I were to receive the same advice as I heard recently during a radically different phase of my life, I may not find it interesting or valuable.  In recollection though, I have found that old wisdom still rings true when I place myself back in the mindset and position I was in. 

I’ve compiled a short list of phrases or sayings that I have found to be astute and helpful that applies to the context of the Organizational Strategist.  These may be from famous sources, but they are currently unknown to me.  I hope you find them to be valuable in your own way. 

 

Words create worlds – I heard this saying in regards to appreciative inquiry designs and dialogues.  The words that are chosen to create inquiry, start and intervention, or bring about new thought signal what is to come.  The core design of a question is the harbinger of what will come from the response.  Choose your words with care and thought to bring about new ideas and actions.

Distinction in strategy is powerful – Strategy is the alignment of capabilities and resources to win in a market.  If the mix of capabilities and resources create a unique approach, it becomes more difficult to duplicate or substitute.  This makes them more appealing, interesting, and sustainable over time.  This differentiation is often a core element of many of the most influential strategies.

Health comes before strategy – While devising and implementing strategy are vitally important to the success of an organization, health can be more important.  If an organization is very unhealthy, it will not matter if the strategy is magnificently planned because people are what make strategy effective.  Having a healthy and productive organization is the foundation that long term strategy needs to build on.

Strategy wins over culture – Strategy is mean to be the alignment of ALL the applicable capabilities and resources in an organization to win in its market. That would include the behavior and activity that happens among the people within the organization.  The culture of an organization is often an important element in victory or defeat.  Due to that, successful strategies should pay heed to the importance of culture and how it enables or disables the effectiveness of strategy.

Culture change starts via stories and examples – The culture of an organization is grown and cultivated over time.  It is not a simple level to switch or dial to spin.  What initiates culture change is vision, storytelling, leadership, and guiding principles for others to take ahold of and build upon.

People act on what is measured and tracked – Aspirational statements and visions do not have direct impact to people unless it falls within their power and ability to act upon.  People may be well intentioned and give extra effort, but if they are not contributing to the core metrics of an organization, they will not be as effective.  As a result of that, key performance indicators (KPIs) and tracking form the basis of what is most important in an organization.  If it is measured and tracked where people are held accountable to those qualitative or quantitative results, it will be more important for those people to act upon.

Innovation should be protected and incubated – Innovation by its core nature involves ideas and trying something new or different.  The more a company has a drive for delivery, the further detached the innovation should become.  That enables more freedom in thinking and the ability to experiment.

Do not try to apply lean principles to innovation – Like the above point, innovation involves creativity. Lean, Six Sigma, CMMI and other mechanisms for process improvement do very well for maturing processes.  However, they should not be imposed on new processes and ideas as they can stifle the possibilities that can emerge.

Every change is an opportunity – Whether change is occurring because something good or bad is expected to happen, treat the approach as a new opportunity.  By thinking openly, the solutions to challenges, problems, or goals can lead to far better results than the anticipated return to a status quo.

People do not inherently resist change, but they do resist being changed – Much like taxes, change is a constant force in everyone’s lives.  It may be slower or faster, dramatic or gradual, positive or negative or other elements.  Change is something we all exposed to and happens whether or not we are ready for it.  Yet, when we plan, understand, and welcome change it can be embraced and boosting.  If we fight it, then it becomes a battle or a war.  The important point is that inspiring others to buy-in to change makes it so they accept it.

If you have thoughts to share on these sayings or other ones that have been valuable to you, share them here!  I am sure to not be the only one who would enjoy the conversation and learning.

May 24, 2011

The Evergreen Model: The gateway strategy model as an assessment


-Introduction-

In my previous blog article, I introduced the Evergreen Model, which is also known as the 4 + 2 Model.  This article will dive into how to use the model as an assessment for internal or external consulting purposes.   There are sets of questions should be expanded upon during an assessment’s data gathering. 

-Assessing the Core Elements-

Strategy Questions-

  1. What is the organization’s strategy aiming to achieve?
  2. Describe how it is organized, aligned, and implemented.
  3. How does the organization grow?  What is the track record?  What are the future plans?
  4. What is the value proposition to customers?

 

Execution Questions-

  1. Rate and describe the organization’s product and/or service delivery.
  2. What is done to continually improve delivery? How does that compare to the industry?
  3. How does the organization respond to changing market conditions?
  4. How satisfied are customers?

 

Culture Questions-

  1. Describe the organizational culture.  What is valued and sought after?
  2. How are the desired behaviors reinforced (reward/punishment)?
  3. What were the founding principles of the organization?
  4. Where and how do the founding principles show through?

 

Structure Questions-

  1. How are employees organized? What are the accountability relationships?
  2. What is the information flow like? 
  3. How are decisions made and carried out?
  4. Does the structure enable work to be done at higher quality, faster, and/or with fewer resources?

 

-Assessing the Auxiliary Elements-

Talent Questions-

  1. What is done to develop and cultivate the employees?
  2. How happy are the employees?  What is the attrition and retention like?
  3. How engaged are the employees?  Do they enjoy the work, find it interesting and thrive in the challenges?
  4. What are the selection and promotion processes?  What is leadership’s involvement there?

 

Innovation Questions-

  1. How are new ideas incorporated into new and existing products, services, and operations?
  2. How does the organization stay on top of industry developments?
  3. What does the organization do to innovate?  How successful is the organization at innovating?

 

Leadership Questions-

  1. How does leadership interact with employees?  How is the leadership committed to execution?
  2. What is the vision and mission that employees hear from leadership?
  3. What is the relationship between employees and leadership like (trusting, inspirational, proud, etc.)?
  4. How invested is leadership to the success of the organization?

 

Mergers & Partnerships Questions-

  1. How does the organization work with other organizations?  Are there M&As or partnerships?
  2. What is the size and scope of these deals and partnerships?
  3. How effectively do the M&A deals go through (before and after)?
  4. How effectively do the organizations and partners work together?

 

With the Auxiliary Elements, it may be necessary to first determine which the two selections are or what should be the two selections.  Each element can lead to substantial organizational efforts, so finding where to focus efforts can help ensure an organization is not spreading itself too thin.  The Auxiliary Elements can form sustainable competitive advantages as well. 

-Analyzing Results and Next Steps-

The analysis should look for themes and patterns in the following aspects:

  • Consistency
  • Alignment
  • Conflicts
  • Gaps
  • Support

 

A traditional SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis could be done as well.  Other questions that should be examined include:

  • What is the core like in relation to the auxiliary areas?
  • What are the best and worst auxiliary areas?
  • What are the chosen two auxiliary areas, if it’s not already known?
    • What should they be?
    • What needs to change?

 

The exact next steps would be dependent on the question results.  Each element, both in the core and the auxiliary sets, could result in further investigation and targeted initiatives.  Here are some general guidelines to act upon:

  • The core 4 are absolutely vital.  These form the basis of a successful organization so those would have prioritized action.
  • Choose the 2 auxiliary options, if it is not already clear.  Then focus and refine those to make them core competencies of the organization. 
  • The SWOT analysis should lend itself to combinations of Strengths (S), Strengths and Opportunities (SO) and Strengths and Threats (ST) to overcome the Weakness (W) areas.

 

These questions and analysis points can give you a great start into determining how effective the 4 core and 2 selected elements are in an organization.  Share how your assessments go and what other tools and techniques are useful complements!

April 13, 2011

Change of pace and openings for opportunities


-Introduction-

Organizational development includes many activities that organize, align, and implement strategy.  When undertaking an organizational development initiative, like strategic planning or designing, it requires a shift from the busy activity and drive to push out services and products to customers.  This shift is a time where “out of the box thinking”, “game changers”, “paradigm shifts” and other achievements can be made.

-Take ahold of the time you have to reshape your outlook-

Organizational development activities often include taking the time to really think and work through the challenges at hand.  It is easy to get lost in the chaos and activity of day to day business.  Over time, focus and clarity of purpose can be lost or diminished.  Market environments change as do the nature of consumers, competitors and even internal operations. 

As products and services emerge, mature, and become obsolete the very nature of an organization’s purpose can change.  As these changes occur, it makes sense to pause the inertia to examine if the course should be changed with ongoing efforts, to scrap long term efforts, or begin new initiatives.  During these times of pause, the organization can be reconfigured, bolstered, or fine-tuned.  These occasional events are prime opportunity for change.  It’s in these events that existing and planned investments of time, money, and capability can all be put in check to revamp the organization’s strategy and choices. This is where revelations and innovations are sparked.  The outcomes can become fantastic if they are capitalized.

-Summary-

Basically, organizational development allows for a break in the charge forward to think where your organization is at, where it should be going, and how it should evolve to get there.   Continually charging forward can lead to errors in judgment, loss of opportunities, and moving in the wrong direction.  Take advantage of the time at hand to challenge and clarify the assumptions that have been made, understand how the market environment has evolved, and realign the organization’s resources and capabilities to maximize your strategic execution.

March 31, 2011

Finding Strategic Balance


Everyone constantly makes decisions when engaging in their organizational lives.  With strategists, there are varying approaches to determining how to best make those decisions.  Some of those approaches are fantastic models.  Some approaches are dynamic leadership activities.  Some approaches are intricate plans and detailed items.  Some approaches are flexible and adaptable without much solid structure.  All in all, there is no one true way to definitively strategize. 

The best strategy for each situation will vary based on many factors.  Some of the impactful factors include:

  • The speed of change in the industry
  • The nature of the competition
  • The difficulty and pace of going to market
  • The resources needed to succeed

Strategy development and implementation is not easy by any means.  With thorough analysis, design, facilitation, and deployment a very robust strategy for the time at hand.  This output often gives clear choices for the short term, but may not last as the business environment changes over time. A downfall of this is that it takes a lot of time to create and may not last over time. Putting together principles, directives, visions, and high level goals give a push forward toward the future.  This output often creates a path to generally follow for many of an organizations plans, ideas, and operations.  A downfall of this take is that it can be hard to find the best or optimal choice for the situation at hand.

These two extremes give different benefits and have different drawbacks.  The essence of the quality strategy would be to strike the right balance between those two extremes.  Find that balance in whatever way(s) will be helpful to create your strategy and then take on your world.

March 16, 2011

Wisely choose your market approach to thereby choose your competition


-Introduction-

Finding the right market space to compete in can be enabling or disabling based on the environment and your strategy.  By filling a niche that makes an organization well known through its great products or tapping into a previously unrealized market need with an aptly created service, large scale success can be gained.  Conversely, entering into a space that is highly contested, with seasoned competitors who have large resources at their disposal, can make your strategy futile.

-Compete on your turf, with your terms-

If a strategy is chosen that duplicates another strategy, the resources available for use then become an area to compete over.  This is especially crucial when resources are hard to come by.  It can also be inherently limiting to copy or emulate another organization’s strategy.  The limitation can be due to boundaries being set on where or how to move forward, a lack of focus, or by being perceived as the same as other options.

For instance, I have heard that Tully’s has sought out to be the alternative coffee to Starbucks.  With that approach, it is going after the locations that Starbuck’s chooses not to go.  While this is, in a way, a focused strategy, it makes it so that Starbucks gets to choose the best locations and options.  Tully’s then is known as the second best and will likely always have Starbucks looming over it.  Having Starbucks always on top makes it so that Tully’s is limited in its own growth and enablement. 

Another example would be social networking and social navigation sites.  Facebook, Friendster, Orkut, Myspace, and other sites are largely driven by popularity and friend-based social relationships.   The more popular one of these sites is, the more influential it is and the more market share it holds.  In these situations, the user’s time is, for the most part, the resource that they compete over.  It may be that a given person has one or more accounts on some or all of these sites.  However, the time spent per site is less likely to be equally divided.  If all of these sites offer the same content, then a user would most likely just want to go to wherever his or her friends are.  That means that the ‘best’ site is the most popular one.  That also means that as one site grows, the others will see their usage shrink. 

To overcome such challenges, shift your strategy to play by your rules, your strengths and your best opportunities. This often means specialization or choosing to compete in specific areas, but not others.  When an organization makes wise decisions and hones their products and services to optimally deliver to their chosen customers, it positions itself for success.  Going with the Tully’s example from above, there is an element of success since Tully’s could be the go-to place for the locales Starbucks chooses not to go to.  This helps make Tully’s known and thereby promotes its products.  With the social networking and social navigation sites, customizing functionality to deliver value for unique aspects can help.  LinkedIn is a good example of such a site because it is built around professional networking.   With that clarity, it enables users to go there for that express purpose.  Myspace is a site that could shift its efforts to retain user’s special interests.  If it devoted itself to enable music evangelism and promotion as its specialty, it could harness its functionality that many other sites do not offer. 

-Moving onward-

Strategy is different based on your organization and the environment around it.  However, many of the strategic fundamentals remain when choosing what to pursue and what not to pursue are very impactful.  As you set your path forward, make your strategy clear, powerful, and known throughout your organization so you can derive the outcomes you seek.  The world is always awaiting the next killer app or fantastic offering; you just need to make strides to deliver it.

February 27, 2011

Focus on core strategy to create new venture success


-Introduction-

New ventures are absolutely captivating.  When people are involved they have stars in their eyes and can image all sorts of amazing outcomes.  When undertaking such a new venture, it is helpful to have the end goal in mind so that you work toward it.  However, building capability and resources to gradually reach the end goal is what needs to be done initially.  Enduring strategy is very hard to create and it takes time, investment, and, perhaps most of all, a whole lot of effort.

-Evolving strategy-

To begin, the core of the strategy should be developed and the focus.  The core of the strategic will be the central area that the organization is founded on and is likely created from the founder’s big idea to kick it off.  This should be the primary priority for the founders and initial stakeholders.  I say primary because everything will seem to be of high importance.  Building an organization from scratch is a sizeable undertaking and many aspects need to be in place in order for a new venture to be successful.  All of the components, from idea creation through implementation and going to market, are needed.  The enormity of such an effort can be mindboggling and overwhelming. 

Do not despair!  The first large phase is to create the core strategy’s foundation.  From there, the following steps become clearer and, hopefully, can build upon successes along the way.  The reason for focusing on the core strategy is because that area of the organization will derive the short and long term payoff that can make an organization successful.  Without the core strategy, all the resources and capabilities will not have direction and alignment to achieve.  It may survive through small acts of heroic employees, but it would not be sustainable because of burnout of people and resources.  Taking on everything at once should only be reserved for those that already have the auxiliary components of the organization.  Even then, it must be a balance of what can be build and the pressure of going to market.

To make it so that you can focus on the core strategy, find ways to get through the overhead and administration of a new venture in an effective manner.  That will likely mean partnering with other organizations, hiring auxiliary service providers (HR, Accounting, Marketing, whatever is not central to your organization, etc.), and/or simply outsourcing aspects of the business (infrastructure, call centers, logistics handlers, etc.) to ensure that you can deliver on whatever product or service your venture creates or augments. 

-Summary-

This is a short term focus to make it so that the venture is supported and enabled as it evolves.  It is important to be patient and make certain the organization is ready to evolve and grow before moving ahead.  If an organization grows too quickly, it might cave in from overextending itself.  Over time, taking back these non-core elements will become more appealing so that the core strategy can expand and touch more facets of the organization.  It’s generally more efficient and effective to have such aspects in-house as well.  As milestones are reached and success grows, organizational inertia helps propel organizations forward.  Those first few big occasions pave the path forward to fulfilling all those starry eyed dreams.

December 8, 2010

Make your competition irrelevant – employing the power of blue ocean strategy


-Introduction-

It is very exciting when a new idea or great innovation is planned that will have a big impact in the marketplace.  The time, energy and resources that go into making great ideas a reality can be staggering; especially in industries where the pace of change is slow or the audience reach is large.  In these cases it is even more important than usual that the market share is not already filled with competitors.  Ideally, the innovation will lead to a permanent market space or niche where competition is so powerless that it is insignificant or even irrelevant.  The question is what should be done to make this happen?

-Making and shaping your ocean-

Blue ocean strategies design sustainable market share in such a way that would be competitors have no influence. This approach uses a metaphor to describe market spaces and competition.  Oceans are market space.  The best kind of ocean is a blue one, however most oceans are red.  Red oceans are the ones where competition is rife and there is “blood” in the water from the fierce fighting over customers, resources, and opportunities.  Blue oceans, on the other hand, are market spaces where there is no competition.

Who wouldn’t want their ocean to be completely blue?  The difficulty is devising and then enacting such a strategy. At times, it may simply be impossible to make a truly blue ocean.  In those cases, strive to make sections of it as blue as possible and minimize the red.  The spectrum of blue to red should gradually be moving toward blue. With the gradual shift from red to blue oceans, there will be partial boundaries to competitors.  Those partial boundaries make it so some competition is averted and the ocean is purple (part blue and part red).  Small, controlled blue ocean spaces are a good start to making a large, encompassing ocean.  That way you can scale the market share in a controlled manner that should allow for stabilization along the way. You want to build your market spaces in such a way that would-be competition has no impact.  To do that, create boundaries, challenges or other means of preventing entrants from inhabiting the same space.  The ideal would be to make your product or service truly unique.  Typical boundaries or barriers to competition are as follows:

  • Locking in contracts or exclusive partnerships
  • Controlling the resources that the product or service depends upon
  • Create a value proposition that sets your product/service far apart from others
  • Secure and control all distribution channels for placement, geography, or other advantageous positioning
  • Put up regulatory barriers like patents, environmental standards, quality programs or other initiatives that would promote your product/service while others would find it difficult or impossible to measure up

It is likely very difficult to set up a single distinguishing feature that truly sets your ocean apart from others and keep it blue.  However, the combinations of several different strategic aspects like geographic focus, differentiated product, powerful and helpful intellectual property, and an organizational culture of fantastic customer service would create multi-layered boundaries. 

-Conclusion-

Make the most of your efforts. By that, be sure that the design includes elements that will both create initial interest and have sustained interest over time.  Innovation is very difficult to surface and then enact.  Creating your blue ocean does not have to be for an entirely new market space. While that is a compelling time to pursue a blue ocean strategy, it can be done in any circumstance.  Within the ocean you are now, in whatever state of competition it is, to become as blue as possible should be a strong pull for your organization’s long term success and sustainability.  The first steps to achieve this are to pursue it intentionally.  By reading and learning more here, your first step may have already been taken.  The next series of steps after formulation is to build it into your organization for successful deployment.  That will have to wait for another post.  Stay tuned!

-Extra resources-

October 21, 2010

The requisite organizational needs that supersede innovation success


-Introduction-

Recently, I have been reading a new management book The Other Side of Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble. Innovation is always an interesting topic for organizations. Innovation is interesting because it is often what spurs on growth and change. Without frequently innovating, the organizational risk of obsolescence increases dramatically. As a result of that, organizations should always be innovating both in their core and future business efforts.

-Design the organization for innovation-

The Other Side of Innovation makes the foundational points that the performance engine should be separated from the dedicated team in order for the innovation effort to be a success. The performance engine is defined as the core business while the dedicated team is the team that is tasked with innovating. Core business efforts are focused to continually improve efficiency and effectiveness. Innovation efforts, on the other hand, can be oriented to sustain or amplify aspects of the core business or create entirely new possible business efforts. Brand new business efforts are often disruptive to existing businesses. Innovation, by its very nature, means a change to the existing operations either by adding to, removing from, or modifying the current efforts. That means that the core business efforts of continual improvement and innovation can be in conflict. As a result, the separation from the core business’ drive for continual improvement is needed for innovation efforts to succeed. Beyond that, the more an organization needs or wants to innovate, the further separated the innovation effort should be from the core business.

To set up an innovation effort within the bounds of the core business, the output of the effort will not be as novel or extraordinary as it could be. This is because of the constraints imposed by the core business. With any innovation venture, the change that the innovation brings will be a result of the ideas cultivated during the effort churns in its own development cycles. Thus, if everyone in an innovation venture is from the same business group, then the potential for the innovation is contained to that realm of thinking. That containment from the business group can be the normal demands of the job, operating rhythm of the group, culture of the organization, available time, and resistance to change among other factors. The more diverse the group that is driving the innovation effort is and the less assumptions, constraints and boundaries that are imposed on the innovation effort, the more possibilities the innovation effort can undertake or become.

Innovation should be intentionally designed to thrive in its own organizational scope. By that, it should have its own strategy to change and inspire the core organization after the innovation effort itself matures. In that manner, it’s like a merger or acquisition since it is initially separated and then needs to be assimilated into the greater organization once it is a viable business initiative. While the innovation itself is developing, the innovating mini-organization should operate with its own unique processes, and function in its own cadence, with its accompanying reinforcement and policies. Since the innovation may become an entirely different business, it does not make sense to align it or measure it in the same manner of a core business. Core business is measured on operational performance while entrepreneurial operations, like innovation efforts, are often gauging market potential. Innovation, like entrepreneurism, should be measured on an entirely different set of standards than operational performance. Similarly, the rewards or incentives for innovators should not be the same as core business employees because they should be encouraged to do different activities.

-Summary-

Innovation is needed to continually renew an organization. The phrase “innovate or die” comes to mind because innovation is so crucial to the sustainability of an organization. Innovation is needed across all organizations to ensure they remain relevant and up to their market environment’s needs. The faster the pace of the industry or market environment, the more diversity, freedom to experiment and openness to new circumstances and possibilities are needed for innovation pursuits. The more innovation that is needed, the stronger the case is to have an independently functioning team or mini-organization. That is why an organization or team must undergo the change to be independent and embracing diverse ideas to then promote successful innovation.

May 20, 2010

Linking Strategy to Action: The Chains of Communication


-Introduction-

Communication sets the flow of work, vitality, and pace of change. Strategy sets the direction and intended alignment of an organization. In order for that direction and alignment to be carried out, information must spread, be understood, and owned. Proper and thorough communication is the chain that links everyone together toward the same strategic purpose.

-Linking Chains of Communication-

The formulation of strategy is important and can be difficult. Once the strategy is set, the undertaking of implementation begins. However, if the follow through of communication is not done effectively then the strategy, no matter how insightful, game changing, innovative or powerful, will be all for naught. Effective strategy pulls upon the resources and capabilities of an organization to align them. With differing messages on what to do, how to do it, and where the organization should move forward, the strategy will not reach its full potential. While it may be that some stakeholders inside the organization do have the right message and understand the steps to take, those stakeholders will be undermined by all those that try to move forward in other directions.

To start the path forward properly, create a communication plan to spread the word, share milestone updates of progress, request input, and give tactical insight. The communication plan should be made with the following areas in mind.

  • Clarity of messaging – The information must be clear so that it is easily understood.
  • Consistency of messaging – The information must be continuously reinforced in all outreach efforts so every audience understands the same intention.
  • Pervasiveness of messaging – The information should spread to all relevant stakeholders.
  • Thoroughness of messaging – The information should reach all audiences in the manner that suits the audience.

To understand the relevant audiences for the communication plan, I suggest using the stakeholder groupings of the 4 I’s to help identify which kinds of messaging to put forth for the project(s).

Interested – Who would be interested in this project?

Informed – Who would be good to draw upon because they are informed in subject matter areas relating to this project?

Impacted – Who would be impacted throughout the course of this project?

Influenced – Who would be influenced by this project or who might be influential in implementing it?

Each stakeholder group should have its own messaging so that it is relevant to their needs. The core messaging should be clear, consistent, pervasive and thorough. Beyond the core of the messaging, slight nuances need to be present to reach different audiences and relate to the recipient’s interests. For instance, sending out a presentation deck on the benefits of a strategic initiative will be different for business audiences versus technical audiences, managers versus workers, field sales versus call center sales and so forth. It helps to think about the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) for each stakeholder group. This means that the messaging should be customized enough so that the value, relevant actions and background information is relevant to each audience.

-Conclusion-

Implementation of a strategy is no small feat. The amount of people involved, time taken to execute and follow through for implementation is drastically more complicated than the initial formulation of the strategy. Pulling together a tapestry of threads for communication creates a beautifully synthesized strategic implementation.

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