An edited version of this article was previously Boston Consulting Group strategy think tank website.
Last week, I went offsite with a global Fortune 50 company and watched them tackle disruption. This 100+ year old company has seven major product divisions, each with hundreds of products. Now the market leaders, they see new, relentless competitors with more money, more people, and more advanced technology popping up out of nowhere to win customers and grab market share. is watching
The company was so serious about dealing with this threat (which they described as a “need to survive”) that they mobilized the entire company to come up with new solutions. Figured out. This was no easy task as the threat was coming from multiple realms of multi-dimensions. How are they embracing new technologies? How are existing manufacturing plants (and their workforces) transformed to a whole new set of technologies? How are they bringing new supply chains? How will they emerge on new social media and communication channels? How will they connect with a new generation of customers who lack brand loyalty? New distributions adopted by competitors? How will you use your channels? How can you make these transitions without alienating or losing your existing customers, distribution channels, and partners? How do you motivate them to do their jobs with speed, urgency, and passion?
The company thought it would take years to fix these issues before the decline became irreversible. This meeting was the semi-annual gathering of all leadership involved in company-wide initiatives to outperform the new disruptors. They called it the “Tsunami Initiative” and emphasized that they are fighting the tsunami of creative disruption that is engulfing the industry.
To be successful, they realized this wasn’t just coming up with one new product. It meant reorienting the entire company and its culture. The scale of the required solution overwhelms what a single startup is working on.
The company hired a leading management consulting firm to help select 15 key areas of change that the Tsunami Initiative must address. My hosts, John and Avika, were co-leaders overseeing 15 topic areas offsite. A consulting firm proposed organizing these 15 topic areas as a matrix organization. The ballroom was home to hundreds of people from across the company (engineering, manufacturing, market analysis, collection, distribution channels, sales. Some teams also included close partners. An additional 1,000+ people I was working on projects in offices scattered around the world.
John and Avika invited me to see their innovation process and make some suggestions.
Are these real issues?
This is one of the most organized innovation initiatives I have seen. All 15 topics feature poster sessions by team leaders, presenters from field sales and partners highlighting the urgency and specificity of issues, and breakout sessions where topic area teams brainstorm with each other. bottom. At the end of the day, people gathered around the fire pit for informal conversation. It was a testament to John and Avika’s leadership that even the off-duty people were enthusiastically discussing ways to solve these problems.
The subject matter of each of the 15 topic areas was proposed by a consulting firm, which aligned with the company’s corporate strategy group, and the people who generated the requirements for these topic areas were part of the offsite. It was attended not only by requirements personnel, but also by transition teams to facilitate the delivery of products from these topic teams to production and sales.
However, we have noticed that some of the requirements from corporate strategy seem like priorities given to us by others (e.g. what the CFO, CEO, or board thinks we have to work on). Here’s the problem you’re talking about) Or it could be a topic thought up by a consulting firm. From subject matter experts (e.g. I’m an expert in this subject area, no need to talk to anyone else, here’s what you need). The corporate strategy group seemed to offer the issue as a fixed requirement. For example, providing specific functionality that the solution must provide.
This was a big effort with many people involved, but a missed opportunity to get to the root cause of the problem.
I told John and Avika that I understand some requirements are known and immutable. however, all In this way, some of the requirements are handed off to the action team. This assumes that the problem has been validated and the team does not need to explore the problem space itself further.
These hard limits on requirements limit the ability of topic area action teams to:
- gain a deep understanding of problem – Who are the customers, internal stakeholders (sales, other departments), and beneficiaries (shareholders, etc.)? How to decide between them, solution priority, solution timing, minimum feature set, dependencies relationships, etc.
- determine if the problem is a symptom of something more important
- Understand if a problem can be solved quickly, if multiple minimum viable products are required to test some solutions, or if more R&D is required
With all the requirements fixed upfront, we found that there was no freedom to innovate and the topic area action teams were an extension of the existing product development groups. They may have been stuck in a preconceived notion and far below their capabilities. This is a common mistake that corporate innovation teams tend to make.
When team members step out of their buildings and comfort zones to speak, observe, and interact directly with customers, stakeholders, and beneficiaries, it enables them to be responsive and need the solutions they provide in a timely manner. reminded them that , are more relevant and require less time and resources to develop. It’s the difference between praising a problem and solving it.
When I mentioned this, I noticed that having fixed requirements for everything was a sign of another interesting thing. That is how the topic leader and his team members were organized. From where I was sitting it seemed like a common framework and process was missing.
Provide a common framework for topic areas
We asked John and Avika if they’ve considered providing a simple conceptual framework (one picture) and a common language for topic action team leads and their team members. He proposed that this would allow teams to know when and how to “think” and incorporate innovative ideas that accelerate better results. The framework uses the initial corporate strategy requirement as a starting point rather than a fixed destination. See illustration.
I drew them a simple chart and explained that most problems start with the bottom right box.
These are “unverified” issues. The team validates them using the customer discovery process. (Some problems may require more R&D before being resolved.) Once the problem is validated, the team moves to the bottom left box to consider multiple solutions. Both boxes at the bottom are where ideation and innovation types of problem/solution brainstorming matterIn some cases, this can be accelerated by bringing into perspective the three out-of-the-box thinkers that every company has and giving them a critical eye on the problem/solution.
If a solution is found and the issue is resolved, the team heads to the top left box.
However, I explained that very often I do not know the solution. If so, consider having your team do a “technical terrain walk”. This is the process of describing the problem to multiple sources (vendors, internal developers, other internal programs) and reporting on the sum of what was found. Terrain walks often discover that the problem is actually a symptom of another problem, or that the source sees it as another version of the problem. Or that an existing solution already exists or can be modified to fit.
However, in many cases no existing solution exists. In this case, the team can head to the top right box to build a minimal viable product – a minimal set of features to test with customers and partners. This MVP test often leads to new learnings from customers, beneficiaries and stakeholders. For example, you might tell a topic developer that his first 20% of deliverables are “good enough”, that the problem has changed, or that the timing has changed. Finally, if the solution is desired by customers/beneficiaries/stakeholders and technically feasible, the team moves to the top left box.
As a result, the team iterates quickly to deliver the solutions customers want and need in the limited time the company has left.
A company that does it through a combined effort of inspired and visionary leadership, motivated people, innovative products, relentless execution and passion.
It was humbling to see and hear hundreds of people fighting a tsunami in a legendary company.
I hope they succeed.
- Creative disruption and disruption happen to every company. How do you respond?
- The topic action team needs to have a deep understanding of the problem as the customer understands it, not just what the requirements of the corporate strategy dictate.
- This can only be done directly with customers, internal stakeholders, and partners.
- Consider whether the corporate strategy team should be a facilitator rather than a gatekeeper
- An easy way to keep topic teams in sync with corporate strategy is to provide a common innovation language and framework for problems and solutions.
Filed under: Corporate/Government Innovation, Customer Development |