Voltaire, that wonderful Frenchman that used to give his Government of the day a hard time, is quoted as saying, "Perfect is the enemy of good." For businesses, the takeaway is simple: If you have a functional and marketable product or service, don't get hung up on perfecting it at the expense of delaying its release... just get it to market. Timing, at the introduction of our ideas into the marketplace, is one of five prerequisites for the success of any business.
Computer and consumer electronics manufacturers, and chip makers for example, are famous for launching new models and variants in quick succession – on occasions updating and releasing a new product variant over 20 times in a six month period! That's because these markets move at such speed that it's counterproductive to withhold their release in the name of perfection. So as long as a company has that functional, marketable product, they put it out there and then use customer feedback to iterate... over and over and over and over again.
But even for industries that don't rely on new technological innovation every week, the businesses that wait to release their product or service until it's "perfect" almost always find that it isn't perfect... and what a waste of time and resources getting it there!
You don't have to be light years ahead of everyone else, and the reality is that as much as you try, you'll never be light years ahead. Aim for what's been coined the 15 minute competitive advantage: "changing in short fast bursts rather than waiting for the breakthrough that transforms everything."
Aim for perfection, and you set yourself up for peril.
Posted: 4/10/2011 11:19:31 PM
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Within almost any organisation, you'll find that as managers attain more and more seniority, they become more and more wedded to the status quo; no surprises there! Of course this is rarely a conscious choice; it's merely a common byproduct of success (which may not be outstanding but can often be viewed as 'good or good enough'). That's because any accomplished person has gotten to where they are by doing things a certain way, so it's natural to want to promote the same thinking and processes to others. But as the saying goes, the fish rots from the head down. So when senior managers promote the status quo, active inertia infects the entire organisation, stifling innovation and any chance for sustained growth.
How can organisations combat active inertia and reinvigorate 'inside-out' innovation? Or better yet, how can they avoid the active inertia disease? As is generally the case, it begins and ends with the quality of leadership and the quality of management. And in this instance, it's in the hands of your people.
In the second part of our interview with Bud Boughton, Bud said that in order for businesses to be successful, they must embrace "an all-hands-on-deck mentality." In other words, they must encourage ideas from everyone in the organisation regardless of their age, time with the company, seniority, status, etc. The same practical philosophy applies here: In order to fight or ward off active inertia, leaders must harness the wisdom of the anthill.
Your people are more than capable – you hired them for a reason, right? Then to maximise growth and innovation within your business, you must maximise the value of the anthill. Tap into the collective brains, creativity, ideas, energy, passion and initiative of your people, because the best solutions for the future can often lay a long way from the status quo, including from the thinking of senior management. Just because no one can 'see it' doesn't mean it's not there!
At Fortune, we help facilitate the power of our clients' anthill through STAGs (Short Term Action Groups). Put simply, STAGs are a process of organisational learning that focus on strategic priorities with a view to innovate real solutions for change and growth. They encourage broad based engagement from a deep cross-section of the business so that the power of the anthill can be fully exploited... and they're driven using 'middle-out' change in which middle managers are empowered to go after 'value-creating' initiatives with the full support of senior managers.
As a result the STAG methodology develops leadership skills and approaches that build sustainable innovation 'inside-out', and which can be implemented across the entire organisation.
In organisations already suffering from active inertia (which frankly is most of them), STAGs are a great tactic for getting in front of the change curve. If you're not harnessing the wisdom of the anthill, you're not leading, you're following!
Posted: 7/09/2011 12:13:50 AM
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In a recent article on how to manage organisational change, we highlighted that in order to understand the change management process, managers need to appreciate that each of their people, regardless of how much tolerance for change they may have, will exhibit some resistance to it. Why is that? It's because people change only when they're dissatisfied with their present situation. However, for the most part, people usually think that their present is at least good or good enough. For example: "If I'm performing well, I'm comfortable and I'm being rewarded for the work I'm doing, what's in it for me? Why should I change?"
This presents an interesting dilemma for managers at innovative companies, especially when they're performing well. For the most part, their people don't just think that things are good – they think things are great! But to live up to their ideals and remain a market leader, innovative companies must remain in constant motion and drive change well before they experience any dissatisfaction with the present.
In a twist of irony, businesses that leave the innovation to others, who perhaps are happy to remain in the middle of the pack, may not face nearly as much resistance to the changes they introduce. That's because they tend to change only when it's forced upon them, when it's abundantly clear to everyone inside and outside the business that they must change to in order to survive. With a "me too" business strategy like this, people can often be begging for change!
So the inconvenient truth is that the most innovative and successful businesses must also be the most adept at managing resistance to change. Which of course leads to the natural follow-up question: How can organisations manage this natural human resistance to change?
The tact, too often employed in businesses, is to confront the resistance when it presents itself. However there's a better way. And that's to act before the resistance ever manifests itself by getting your people personally involved with the change from its infancy. When you give people ownership of the process, you give them the opportunity to buy in from the ground level. And so instead of seeing themselves as a powerless pawn in a process that maybe perceived as being forced upon them, they see themselves as an important contributor.
With ownership comes opportunities for self-discovery, through which people come to recognise and appreciate the three attributes required to embrace change: what is the change, why is the change being made and how is the change going to affect me – both professionally and personally?
When successfully implemented, this approach avoids wasted energy and resources. Instead, you'll find you have an organisation of change agents, ready and willing to be an integral part of the process.
Posted: 10/05/2011 4:59:50 PM
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We've been talking a lot recently about how to create value for customers, with a key underlying principle being the critical importance of solidifying the relationship with the customer. The depth of knowledge salespeople gain in doing so – including the customer's business pain and frustrations as well as their aspirations – allows them to tailor how they present their product or service so that the customer is able to 'picture' exactly how it will meet their needs. If they can't 'see it' they won't buy it!
We've covered this from just about every perspective for a salesperson. But today we'd like to discuss value creation before the sales team takes the product to market, that is, from the perspective of management and marketing. In fact, the process of creating value is as or more critical for management to practice. But rarely does management refer to the process as creating value – instead, it's referred to as some variant of innovation.
For some the concept of innovation can have sort of mystical qualities, that to be labeled "innovation", you must produce the next Apple or Google. But innovation does not need to be groundbreaking in that sense; it can (and does) happen in businesses every day. It also isn't constrained to creating or improving products or services but extends to improvements in processes, work environment or even communication protocols and beyond.
Some past work we did alongside a division of 3M is a good example of "regular" innovation – in other words, not groundbreaking or revolutionary, more evolutionary. It's generally well-known that 3M places a huge emphasis on innovation, and we saw this firsthand as the division conducted extensive research: on the market, the customer, their business challenges, what they were trying to achieve in their businesses, the products they used at the time, what was good or bad about them, what features/functionality were missing from products, and on and on. Each question had a purpose, to help 3M define the end user and their requirements, and that knowledge was directly applied to the development of future (and quite successful) products.
You may have noted that this process has close parallels with the salesperson's objectives when creating value for customers: Just as salespeople must develop a relationship with the customer in the process of creating value, management and marketing must do the same through every innovation initiative. At its heart, the purpose of every business is to solve human problems and meet human needs, a reality sometimes lost when the urgent is driving out the important!
Of course, by operating from a different perspective to that of salespeople, value creation by management and marketing will also bring have a different 'touch', and that's exactly why good salespeople and an effective sales process are indispensable. Through their role in creating value, management and marketing help bring products to market with value propositions that are much more apparent to customers, giving sales teams more tools to work with and better enabling the role of the salesperson.
Does your business currently run innovation initiatives? Do you think your management and marketing team could help create more value? If so give us a call on +61 2 9957 2600 or request a complimentary consultation with a Fortune consultant. We'd be happy to discuss your situation and how to accelerate building an innovative environment.
Posted: 16/03/2011 5:56:06 PM
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It's been a while since our last Fortune Roundup, but we're back with our first one for the New Year. Enjoy!
Smiles, Sales and Leadership
By Art Petty of Management Excellence
By way of personal experience, Art offers some examples of salespeople gone bad, some examples of salespeople gone good, and the consequences of each scenario. For any sales manager, this is a must read. The key takeaway? "One of the unarguable rules of the universe is that happy employees make happy customers."
That's not the way we do things around here
By Seth Godin
"That's not the way we do things around here." As only Seth can, he succinctly illustrates why speaking that sentence in a work environment absolutely stifles innovation.
Making the Right Difference
By Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership Blog
As we covered in September, offering rewards/money as an incentive is not the best way to motivate employees. Citing another article with similar conclusions, Wally offers some practical and actionable thoughts for how managers can contribute to the four core needs (beyond survival) that humans share, each of which can contribute to engagement levels: sustainability (ie, physical environment), emotional security, self-expression and significance. Managers at just about any level can take Wally's advice to positively influence these needs.
Don't Just Punish Them If They Don't Comply
By Tanmay Vora of QAspire Blog
When your people aren't following a process that you've implemented, don't immediately assume they're at fault. Instead, ask yourself WHY it isn't being followed. Usually, Tanmay argues, "it only means that either they don't know how to use the process or the defined process simply doesn't work for them. In either case, it is an opportunity to improve."
Less Courage more Preparation
By Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak
When managing change, Dan argues that there's an inverse correlation between preparation and courage: "If you're always going around like a lion, perhaps you need more preparation." He offers four straightforward steps that leaders can take to prepare their people for change, thus eliminating the need for courage.
As always, we love to hear your feedback about to this post or any others. And feel free to share it on Twitter or Facebook by using either of the buttons in the upper right corner of this post.
Posted: 12/01/2011 6:18:38 PM
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