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  • Writer's pictureMicha Veen

Why is iterative, innovative solution design critical in today’s organisations

In the last few weeks, I have been attending a number of network sessions, conferences and speaking to Finance Directors, CFO’s, GM’s Supply Chain, Operations, HR Leaders and many other senior executives. A common thread through all these conversations is how each and everyone is managing day-to-day operations while trying to prioritise the various improvement initiatives in their organisations…

Although many of these execs have many “balls in the air” the challenge is not the day-to-day operations or the individual improvement initiatives, they are mostly “struggling” to ensure alignment between their project initiatives and the projects of their peers, their senior execs or their customers.

The main question that has come up several times, is how to ensure that you’re able to deliver continuous value and improvements, while other over-arching or parallel project initiatives haven’t progressed or still require approval?

With technologies rapidly changing, organisational units and processes integrating and impacting each other, and customer demands continuously evolving, it’s crucial to introduce solid methodologies that allow cross-functional alignment with iterative solution design and deployment. Even though mature organisations have created Enterprise PMO offices with change managers, project managers and functional/ technical specialists, or created formal prioritisation methods to “control” their initiatives, I have experienced that delivering continuous innovative solutions require a different, more hands-on approach.

The first steps towards continuous innovative solution design start by:

  1. Introduce iterative solution design: Instead of using the “old” traditional project methodologies that run through the analyse, design, build, implement/ deploy, go-live/ hyper-care, close phases and expect that the design remains static during the “build/ implement/ go-live” stages, transition towards iterative solution design. Most large organisations have an average of between 20 – 30 (formal) project initiatives on the go. With this volume of change initiatives, it’s crucial to continuous allow the solution to evolve, depending on these other initiatives. Only through iterative solution design, organisations are effectively able to continuously progress towards their goals without the risk of delivering a solution that completely misses its targets (link). A recent study (PMI – 2015) highlights the most common causes of the traditional project failure to be:

  • Changing priorities within organisation (40%)

  • Unknown cross-functional project requirements (38%)

  • Change in project objectives (35%)

  1. Use a cross-functional enterprise change specialist: Effective transformation specialists have in-depth experience and knowledge of change management, program management and hands-on functional expertise across Finance & Accounting, Operations/ Supply Chain, Human Resource, Shared Services/ BPO, Technology, etc. In today’s business environment, it’s impossible to have a single expertise or be hands-off. To be effective, employees require to understand, experience and appreciate cross-functional processes, technologies and organisational models. The new generation (millennials) expect to have career-paths, which are cross-functional, allowing them to introduce fit-for-purpose business, people and technology solutions and deliver operational innovation,

  2. Innovation vs. Automation: Even though many departments, operations, plants and manufacturing organisations are still automating existing processes, the world-class organisations focus on innovative process design. These organisations introduce innovative solutions that impact the end-to-end value-chain and not only improve internal efficiencies, but also extend outside their organisation. Examples are transitioning from weight bridges towards solutions that are part of the normal distribution handling operations, e.g. forklift weighting, pallets with weight functionalities, etc.

  3. Introduce cross-functional teams: The only way to deliver enterprise effectiveness is to introduce cross-functional teams in which team members of your peers are part of your solution design. Through the involvement of your peers’ employees, it ensures that your solutions include the “requirements” of your peers. Examples are to include sales, marketing and commercial employees in transitioning your finance organisation towards continuous/ real-time accounting.

By introducing these first 4 steps in your organisation, I have first-hand experienced how organisations, departments and executives have transitioned from a misaligned, traditional project approach towards an integrated, iterative and innovative solution design.

This doesn’t only allow progress of your initiatives to deliver operational effectiveness, but will ensure that your initiatives are delivering towards the enterprise-wide innovation effectiveness.

If you would like to know more about how Unique Excellence has delivered Operational Innovation across some of the leading global organisations, please visit us on

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