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  • Writer's pictureMicha Veen

How do you survive a continuous “competition storm”?

Sydney had quite an intense storm last weekend, 4 - 5 June 2016, with a number of casualties and extensive damages. Although some parts of Sydney were seriously affected by this intensive storm, we were lucky. Yes, we had some water damage and have some clean up to do, but nothing serious. However, during the storm there was this continuous question that kept repeating itself in my mind…. “How long is this storm going to continue”?

Lately, I have heard similar statements in the corporate world. With all the start-ups, foreign specialised services and products, new innovative products and services, these new small enterprises have been able to intensify competition with the larger corporations. A number of senior executives from large conglomerates have highlighted that this new “wave” of businesses will not sustain beyond 2017 due to the immaturity of the solutions and the scale of their business, but similar executives that are close to their customers, continuously review their markets and work with close strategic partnerships, know that this “wave” will continue far beyond 2017 (I agree with this second group of execs).

Can you face the “everlasting” competition storm with innovation?

Corporate that have accepted this new level of competition have initiated innovation labs, separate innovation teams and other transformational initiatives to adjust their product and/ or service offerings to tackle these “new” competitors. They, themselves, have realised that there is a crucial need to instil innovation across their business to ride this “wave” and not get swallowed up.

However, for innovation to be effective, innovation shouldn’t be decoupled from the organisational departments and functions. Innovation can’t be a silo-approach to delivering transformational change.

I have worked in and with many global multinationals that have adopted this silo-based transformational approach. However, based on these experiences, I have learned that for transformational and innovative change to be effective and deliver results, it should be part of the organisational day-to-day activities instead of a separate transformation or innovation team. To ensure a comprehensive innovative change, it’s important that the employees are educated in how to assess and question the operational business activities, incl. the organisational model, processes, technologies, roles & responsibilities, policies and procedures, etc. It’s shown through many papers and case studies that transformational and innovation change is most effective, when organisations start with operational innovation at the heart of their business.

To ensure this effectiveness and direct alignment with the organisational goals and targets, I would like to introduce the following operational innovation principles;

  • Create visibility through innovation progress metrics (KPI’s). This allows you to measure operational innovation progress and the productivity and/ or commercial impact to ensure continued management buy-in,

  • Cross-functional, self-organised teams must be led by a cross-functional Enterprise Transformation Leader empowered to define the innovation process and make operational decisions

  • Business and technical requirements continuously evolve to meet the organisational goals and targets, but the time-scale is fixed

  • Define an innovation roadmap with priority schedules and continuous assessment of the value-add that Data, Reporting, Organisation, Process and Technology (DROPT) deliver to the organisational goals and targets,

  • Always ensure innovation simplicity, with 80/20 rule, to deliver effective operational innovation solutions

  • Focus on high-impact innovation, but deliver through small, iterative and targeted innovation releases with continuous stakeholder and team collaboration to introduce fit-for-purpose change with direct alignment to the organisational goals and commercial targets

  • Complete each “innovation feature” with rigorous and early testing, before moving on to the next, ensure attention to quality, excellence and value-add enhances agility and will lead to exceeding you organisation goals and commercial targets

  • At regular intervals, the cross-functional operational innovation team needs to reflect on how to become more effective, more innovative, and then tunes and adjusts its behaviour and processes accordingly

  • A collaborative and cooperative approach between all cross-functional stakeholders is essential

Only by embedding operational innovation and its principles at the heart of your business, I have seen enterprise-wide innovation results delivered. Innovation shouldn’t reside in the innovation labs, R&D departments, but should extend far beyond the laboratories into the operational departments. By introducing cross-functional operational innovation across finance, HR, supply chain, logistics, operations, procurement, IT/ technology functions with direct organisational goal and target alignment to ensure commercial or productivity results, I have seen first-hand how these organisations have been able to motivate and engage their staff to introduce an operational innovation culture that is able to not only ride the “wave”, but conquer the everlasting “competition storm”…

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