Do you know how your innovation teams spend their time and your resources? Most probably, you do not know exactly. That’s ok as long as they deliver the right results. Yet, are they performing really?
Looking into the facts could shock you. More than nine out of ten executives are unsatisfied with the innovation performance of their companies. If you belong to this group, you should definitely read on and benchmark it with what they should do. Or, if you are part of an innovation team, you should check how you can create a positive impact on your organization. Regardless of your perspective, you should check whether you employ the right innovation governance model. You should check whether it is clear what needs to be delivered and how to organize your teams best to achieve superior innovation performance.
Many people still regard innovation as a magical process, happening somewhere between inspirational walks, likely to require natural brilliance, or inherited genetic talent. In reality, innovation is not a magical spark, but something that gets a job done better than everything else before. In reality, improving the financial return on hours of developmental work is the name of the game. And, in reality, large and incumbent companies are not that good at finding breakthrough innovation, although employing large budgets and teams. So, where to start now?
Why do you need innovation governance?
With the excitement of change and opportunities emerging every day, it can be easy to lose focus on extracting value from your innovation activities. This is why defining sound innovation governance that clarifies the objectives, responsibilities, accountability, and coordination is crucial for high performance. A sound governance model trickles down corporate aspirations into expectations towards innovation teams and forms the paths for their activities. They will know what they need to do, and you will know what you get. This drives alignment and the opportunity for refinement over time.
The building blocks of innovation governance
Governance builds the ground for many operations within multi-faceted organizations. Governance regulates the flow of information and work within and between teams. It refers to collecting objectives, key results, responsibilities, and activities used to share and manage work among different people. Most innovation teams fear such formats as they believe it would cut down creativity and the necessary freedom to be different. And with that belief, they fear commitment and accountability. Yet, being accountable for nothing and not committed to anything is the best way to be irrelevant. If these teams are not clear on their goals, how can others rely on them and judge whether they drive the organization forward?
1. Objectives and key results
That is why formulating clear objectives, and key results are the first building block of sound innovation governance. Here, it’s on you, dear executives. What contribution do you expect from your innovation team(s)? Providing this answer clearly is essential because it touches the fundament of your business. How much of your business growth should come from innovation activities over the next years? Is it ten percent or thirty percent in annual sales volume? Do you expect any contribution to savings based on better, more automated operations? If so, how much?
Setting aspiring targets for innovation teams is the first step to making them accountable and relevant to the business. They need to be accountable for (parts of) the future success of your company. If you institutionalize this general objective, your teams will add the other building blocks more or less effortlessly, because any of their activities need to fuel the achievement of such goals and results.
2. Responsibilities and jobs to be done
Building the fundament with clear goals and expected key results is the cornerstone of your teams’ activities. If they know what they need to deliver, they can design their jobs accordingly. If you put them on the journey to grow ten percent outside your core business, they will need to design a path that scouts for external opportunities and, most probably, partnering firms to accelerate the ramp-up. Thus, your innovation teams will employ scouts to explore such opportunities and potential partners. In contrast, if the goal is to gain more from existing operations, the teams will work more closely together with your existing business functions. They will employ analysts, carving out current challenges and finding appropriate solutions internally. In any case, the form of responsibility follows the function or, better said, objectives. It is a cycle that needs to be closed.
3. Accountability and reports
To close the cycle, it is, of course, necessary to split the responsibilities among different co-workers and to make each co-worker accountable for working against the general objective within their domain. Every co-worker needs to have their objectives and key results. And, every co-worker needs to be accountable for pushing updates regularly on their achievements. They need to own that their job gets done. This indeed requires clear objectives and regular check-ins. Therefore, ask yourself, how do you steer everyone’s accountability? Do you ask for individual reports every week? Or, do you allocate time in recurrent meetings to check in on progress, blockers, and achievements? No matter what format you use, you need to close this cycle between objectives, jobs to be done, and regular reports. By setting the cadence of reports, you will determine how fast you move.
4. Coordination and autonomy costs
Sound formulations of objectives, responsibilities, and accountability will already help you steer individual performance. However, the more individuals you employ, the more coordination between such individuals will be needed. Everyone has their own interests, procedures, and principles. Without any coordination, autonomy costs will rise tremendously. That means the costs that arise from double work, misinformation, or free-riding behaviors. To reduce such costs, you need to invest in coordination and information tools. Meetings and written reports are already efficient means to coordinate co-workers within a team. However, the larger the organization and the more diversified your activities, the less efficient will such coordination formats be, as you cannot check back with everyone. That’s where only employing professional innovation operating software (OS) reduces coordination costs between teams, regions, and departments.
Elevating your teams’ performance
Taken together, the key benefit of innovation governance is helping you close the cycle between objectives, responsibilities, accountability, and coordination. How good are you at closing the cycle? Does every building block reinforce the other? If not, you can download our template and start mapping your aspired innovation governance today.
House of Innovation Governance
If you are already having this transparency and a closing cycle, the reason for low performance is most probably the execution. The building blocks might not have been linked, made sense of, and arranged in a way that your innovation governance comes to life fully. To leverage the full potential, you need the right tools to translate the concept into team routines. Employing an innovation OS does this translation job for you. Within an innovation OS, you will gain the necessary transparency to understand who is responsible and accountable for what, how have key results and portfolios developed over time, and how well your teams’ activities complement each other. It will be your one-stop shop for everything innovation in your organization and the right tool for executing your innovation governance and elevating your teams’ performance.
Executives who want to join the competitive race of innovation leaders must begin with a commitment to making innovation a fundamental aspect of the organization's growth strategy and future success and not as a fortunate accident. This entails placing innovation at the heart of their objectives, aligning their resources, and pushing themselves and their teams accountable for key results. Regardless of the industry or the organization's size, innovation drives business growth, and innovation driven by a good governance model keeps your organization on a competitive edge.
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