The worrying thing is within any dynamics within the system they are dominated by the slow components, and the rapid components simply have to follow along. Look at how larger organizations operate when they are discovering and learning. It seems to take for ever.
They will often wait while one part of the organization is reluctant to make a decision, even when their part of the ‘collective’ decision is not one that has real implications, it is that ‘they’ expect to be within the decision loop and will undermine any deicsion they were not partly too. So many ‘breaking opportunities’ get caught out in the lack of dynamics or that real energy and purpose to decide. It goes into a perpetual loop.The opportunity becomes a struggle to execute upon.
“Slow constrains quick, slow controls quick”.
The only way to ensure speeding up is to be more coherent on the purpose, clarify the bounds and governing principles that need to be enacted and expect delivery on a clear, set timing. If one part simply ‘sits and waits’ what chance do you have of injecting something that might have a real impact, it gets reduced down, it gets pushed back, to a point where an original idea is unrecognizable when it finally emerges.
Simply by consciously working on all the dysfunction points within an organization will reduce the tensions, reduce the ‘shearing effect’ and allow the organization in all its layers to ‘react’ and be allowed to come back into a balance but this needs the impact of time to be imüposed. What innovation often lacks is the same attention space, to equally site alongside efficiency as the organization’s two value creation points. They need to share an outcome orientation that “compels” decisions to be made. Realized value only comes from outcomes that are ‘tested’ in the market place. We are judged in performance on our efficiencies, effectiveness and innovation capabilities.
Where do we start to make innovation more dynamic?
Firstly we need to revisit the work on “adaptive enterprises and systems”. We need to find ways to deal with unpredictable, discontinuous change and make this more predictable for us to manage. That means making calculate risks, more of them.
We lack often a real coherence of purpose; we lurch from one opportunity to another, from one quarter of results into another with often no consistency in our activities. Performance has been taken over by opportunistic behaviors. Innovation often takes the real brunt of this as it cannot behave on a quarterly result forecast, it has a different rhythm.
How many times have we been caught in this series of defending needs due to the focus on short-term results? Our intended strategy moves suddenly into a deliberate strategy, and then somehow this gets abandoned or unrealized and slowly we replace this with an emergent strategy that is rapidly become our realized strategy that we present to the world, as a response to ‘factors outside our control’ for our often indifferent performance.
We need to react to performance.
Who really talks about the EXACT results achieved from innovation for instance in a consistent, structured way? We draw attention to a given innovation but not to the (world-class) capabilities we are building to turn innovation into a ‘sustaining innovation machine’ All we here is just a general reference to it, to cloak innovation often in the ineffectiveness that lies within.
For innovation and many things going on within organizations they often lack real coherence, they ‘signal’ inconsistent behaviors, especially within the organization. These bad signals simply build up all the tensions and dysfunctional aspects that middle order management and the organization, in general, has to mop up and cope with.
How can innovation thrive in this sort of chaotic mess? No wonder it never takes hold, it just has nothing ‘permanent’ to attach too and grow. Management needs a radical overhaul so innovation can be the vehicle for what is articulated but often poorly delivered on a consistent basis.
Context & Coordination needs designing in purposefully.
Again, where do we start? We start with the ‘disconnect’ that organizations often have. The understanding of the underlying purpose of the organization beyond just making money and keeping the shareholders happy does need a deeper primary function, it needs rearticulating. Some organizations do a reasonable job of this but many simply don’t.
We need to restate our primary function and purpose far more in its societal contribution. We need to express the bounds as a governing set of principles that are known, reinforced and measured against. We then need to set about building in a consistent way, the capabilities that are able to produce the outcomes. We need to build in the accountabilities into the roles that reflect that innovation, effectiveness, and efficiency that is needed so they can be managed equally side by side. We need to teach the ability to be adaptable and recognize the differences so as to actively manage the ‘creative’ conflicts and tensions.
Reduce the tension in the layers or structures
The really hard part of managing in larger organizations is in managing the layers and competing forces. Often we forget to reinforce acceptable behaviors, we leave role structures to lose and incomplete and we set deliverables in often ‘woolly’ ways. This just promotes uncertainly and it is not an adaptive organization in leaving this so open. These unnatural built-in tensions create this shearing effect. They grind against each other, like tectonic plates that force further disruption and upheaval.
These different layers actually require several levels of reconfiguration designed into the organization. One really critical one to address and to ‘kill off,’ is the pressure of time. Time horizons to achieve different tasks often cannot be ‘legislated’ or ‘dictated’ but sadly they are forced on reluctant innovators responsible for delivery of new concepts. We need to re-establish the difference between goals– within a certain period covered (one year), objectives– attained later but are progressed within the period and finally ideals– those unattainable but clearly possible concepts, that progress at slower rates and go well beyond normal goals. Innovation works within this environment, actually it will thrive.
Not just the incremental, but the radical, disruptive and breakthrough innovation craved for by the top management, can finally have a ‘decent’ time horizon to be managed through. Planning needs to account for all three horizons and publically discussed, irrespective of the industry you are in, it does not matter if you are building planes or developing food products.
We really should stop pretending that innovation is not so hard and actually state it is often incompatible to much of what we perform on a daily basis. The task of managing intangibles (unknowns) alongside tangibles (known’s) needs a greater appreciation of their complexities and the difficulties of balancing the two for achieving a ‘decent’ result. Leadership, I believe, would need to understand innovation far more in this demanding environment of inquiry. No wonder it is often ducked and just vaguely talked about as much of innovation understanding is still poorly understood in its impacts and effect.
The opportunity of the network economy
Again, the realization of the growing web of networks that we are constantly engaging with becomes a growing part of the new more adaptive innovating enterprise. We need to encourage more empowerment to engage with outside parties, to explore, to investigate, to bring in and then diffuse and disperse in new ways. For this, we need to design around more absorptive capacity I’ve often written about. (See http://bit.ly/zdfmba).
Reducing activities and replacing these with outcome orientation
Innovation is no different from what we expect from efficiency or effectiveness; we want to see the outcomes. We have struggled on many parts of establishing really good metrics for judging innovation. They seem to get lost within organizations. Part of the innovation activities has been assigned to some other cost center, or the capacity was already established and we often don’t break these down and assign these clearly enough to the different activities, we should, but into outcome orientation ones. Were the activities contributing to efficiency or innovation? We judge these through the effectiveness of the outcome.
We need to balance existing performance engines for repeatable everyday tasks with innovation delivery engines for new activities to make our organizations function more effectively. Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble have offered some thoughts on this at the implementation stage, although they still need more examination. As Scott Anthony points out in his article “Negotiating Innovation and Control’ on the different ways to balance tension there is one, in my opinion, that needs deeper investigation and development and that is the ‘ambidextrous’ one. This makes distinctions but links the parts of the whole organization by developing competing frames, not competing forces. Roger Martin suggests in one of his books “The Opposable Mind” that we need to develop “integrative thinking” as part of this need to change.
Ecosystems often reflect the shearing effect.
In any environment, the ‘rates of exchange’ of the different components or constituents operate at different speeds. Interactions occur more at your own level of contribution or awareness, the different dynamic layers sometimes you are simply oblivious too or ignore..We need to become far more aware. Often we get away with something due to that ‘in-spite of’ syndrome that kicks in. Sometimes though, something catastrophic does occur and you have to pay attention ( a merger, layoffs, threat of closure) but the real reality is, different layers within organizations tend to be often simply oblivious, even impervious, to necessary change and just ‘does its job’.
Maybe then, this is why so many organizations seem dysfunctional but do continue to survive, to limp along until something really does disrupt their world as the existing ecosystem just seems to allow different interactions and speeds. Can we not alter this though in more thoughtful ways, than the usual ‘carrot and the stick’ approach or ‘fear and retribution’ approach and methodologies often employed to achieve results?
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the worrying thing is that any dynamics within the system are dominated by the slow components, and the rapid components simply have to follow along. Slow constrains quick, slow controls quick. The only way to ensure speeding up is to be coherent on the purpose, clarify the bounds and governing principles that need to be enacted.
Simply by consciously working on all the dysfunction points within an organization will certainly reduce the tensions, reduce the shearing and allow the organization in all its layers to ‘react’ and be allowed to come back into a balance, where innovation sits equally alongside efficiency, especially if both focus on outcome orientation and that certainly is not the current business, as usual, we see today.
Perhaps working on these dysfunction spots it might free up some real, much-needed space for innovation to take a deeper hold. It does seem with all the suggested emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness, if you accept this argument, it might be a good idea to have innovation alongside, as it does thrive more when there is creative tensions around!
You bring a more ‘dynamic’ environment into play by bringing together the sense of purpose and the governing principles of how you are setting about achieving this- through your people and building their capabilities to innovation.