Shepherding innovation breakthrough from start to finish is no small task. It takes a clear vision, collaborative inputs and an iterative process.
It also takes a certain amount of reflection.
Today, we’ll dive into the elements and goals of conducting thoughtful reflection as we review Step 4 of the Innovation Breakthrough process outlined below (follow the links to refresh your memory on Steps 1 through 3):
Step 4: Reflect on progress and make necessary adjustments
From the start, make sure your team is working from a single, aligned vision of how the original idea will actually operate under the harsh light of reality (Step 1). Concentrate the full power of your available resources using socialization and organizational factors (Step 2). Then, take what you have learned so far and develop a strategic plan of action that makes optimal use of the core competencies of the enterprise as a whole (Step 3).
Which brings us to Step 4.
Reflect and course correct
Innovation requires hard work and people onboard who can help course correct.
Author Jim Rohn, mentor to Tony Robbins, once said, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.”
It requires a great deal of flexibility from everyone involved. Innovation teams must be ready at all times to change direction to achieve long-term goals.
Market and cultural conditions frequently alter after the project’s launch, so you may need to pivot quickly to stay on target. If meeting the original deadline does not correlate with the goals of the project, you may need to make a case for more time. Every change you make could affect your stakeholders in ways that you can’t always predict. That’s one reason why these changes require leadership’s support, which leads us to the next step: How are you going to reflect on progress you’ve made so far and make the necessary adjustments?
Spend time measuring and analyzing
Innovation teams must identify clear requirements and obstacles to measure for success. Developing metrics that support those requirements are key to having and refining the original plan. By following these procedures, quality assurance can be established to identify insights into what the best plan of action is moving forward.
“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.” – Carly Fiorina, former executive, president, and chair of Hewlett-Packard Co.
Her words echo the formulation of the DIKW pyramid (Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom), first presented in its familiar graphic form in 1994 by Nathan Shedroff, one of the pioneers of Experience Design.
Insight and wisdom are what your team needs to improve your processes and make the right adjustments to your plans.
Because innovation projects require constant change, you still need to take a step back and have thoughtful analysis around the results of the work. Pulling data and analyzing what has worked so far gives the project manager the ability to report back to management deliverables that are being met and secure the opportunity, if needed, for more resources (more on that later).
You will want to operate under an Agile/Scrum mindset. What this means is to continuously allow for deep analysis and flexibility. It requires a lot of organization and cross-communication. Quantifying this occurs through improved efficiency and quality data. These sets of data will help you provide justification for a change, if needed.
When conditions change, you may need to pivot
Jay Samit, author of Disrupt You!: Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation, said the following:
“Pivoting is not the end of the disruption process, but the beginning of the next leg of your journey.”
Pivoting is the most important part of Step 4 of the Innovation Breakthrough Process. To pivot skillfully will certainly be required at some point. Projects of all kinds, especially innovative ones met with skepticism, must often grow and evolve from the initial concept. If you spend your time upfront anticipating all possible outcomes you would never even get started. As the quote above suggests, the point is to get started as soon as possible and position for change because that’s when the project really begins.
To understand when and where to pivot, detail out what has worked to stay on track. Rely heavily on the research and patterns that have emerged prioritizing the customer’s experience to decide what the next steps of the project need to be.
Find patterns and offer solutions to problems
While time must be built in for analysis, patterns that turn into useful data might not emerge immediately. It may take time to gather enough data to provide clear correlations between the circumstances and the need for change. Take your time during this stage and make sure the quality of the data provides little margin of error.
Look for inputs from your research and turn them into results that drive your team closer to the end goal. It takes a variety of performance measures to get there. To find these outputs, look at before and after to find what has been effective. For an introduction to SCRUM and agile methodologies, click here.
Realign expectations and deadlines
If expectations of the innovation project and the deadlines initially set need to be realigned, now is the time to set that in motion.
“In short, you can’t let the deadline define the mission. The mission has to define the duration.” – Richard Holbrooke
It is very common for an innovation project to go through peaks and valleys. Accept this as a normal part of the process and don’t be discouraged. Even if it is determined that there will need to be more time to get the project complete, look at the positives – more time to get it right for customers!
Involve other stakeholders and secure more support
Now is not the time to give up. What you need to do is meet with stakeholders and figure out if more resources (time, money, people, etc.) are needed to make sure this project reaches its milestones. Most importantly, you will need to meet with leadership to sell the benefits of the investment to align the project with the overall vision. The more leadership support, the more likely you will buy the time to see your project come to fruition. This is about solving a problem that your customers are experiencing, and the long-term value that is created, not the short-term return that undermines many innovation investments.
Once you have secured the necessary stakeholders and established the necessary support, it is time to kick the tires back into gear as you advance your innovation project.
Let’s get this thing done!