Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 23 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 6

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 4, 2016

This is my twenty third installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-22.)

I began a discussion of business process innovation, at least as that set of issues arises in the context of this series, in Part 22.

I raised the issue of marketable product and service innovation as a reference point in that context too, and for comparison purposes for when discussing business process innovation and innovators who can creatively contribute to the business as an organization, as it seeks to become more competitively effective in its industry and in its markets. But I focused there on the business process innovation side, and more specifically on reactive innovation that would be entered into for purposes of correcting problems and addressing challenges that have already arisen.

I focused in Part 22 on bringing in outside help in the form of consultants, where they can and frequently do cut across the table of organization in a client business, in doing their work there, and in ways that are often not allowed strictly in-house and for that business’ employees and managers. And I readily acknowledge here that I left an at least apparent gap in that posting and its discussion where, at least in principle it is the role and responsibility of risk management as a functional service to carry out that type of remediation effort, in-house. I begin this posting by at least briefly filling in that gap and addressing a set of issues that I would expect at least some readers to raise.

• Many businesses do not have dedicated in-house, full time risk management teams.
• But even if a particular business has this type of resource available in-house, and one that is at least relatively effective in dealing with normal business circumstances,
• If that business finds itself in need of anything like a significant remediative, reactive organizational change, then its risk management office and its managers and in-house consultant-employees there are probably not going to be in a position to be able to handle this challenge themselves and on their own.
• If they could resolve this type and degree of challenge strictly in-house, and had to skills and authority to do so, remediation-demanding problems of the type faced here would not have reached this level of severity in the first place.

So a risk management team in place and its leadership might represent the direct in-house overseeing point of contact in a hiring business, that outside consultants would work with and through, as they apply their outside-sourced business redevelopment and remediation services and as they conduct their reviews and develop their recommendations. But in most such cases, outside consultants would offer significant value here, and certainly in conducting unbiased, outside observer reviews and in framing wide-ranging remediative recommendations.

And with that, I have for all intent and purposes argued that business process innovation, and certainly remediative business process innovation can virtually never be carried out entirely in-house, and that outside consultants would always be needed – and certainly when a problem has developed and grown to any significant level of overall impact on the business. If this type of work could be carried out strictly and entirely in-house, problems would never rise to the level of significance that would call for or justify the disruption and expense of bringing in outside consultants in the first place.

My goal for this posting is to continue from there, shifting from a more reactive to a more proactive approach to business process development and improvement. And my goal here is to fundamentally challenge some of the implicit assumptions in the just-offered baldly stated summary of why outside consultants are needed. And I begin this by categorically dividing business process innovation into a set of fundamentally distinct steps (where this can mean either reactive innovative development, or more forward reaching proactive development and improvement.)

1. The first step that I would raise here is a review and analysis of where a business is now. I have in fact addressed this part of this step-by-step process a number of times now in the course of this blog and will simply note here that this means identifying points where overt problems and overt potential for them show themselves, on the basis of current and ongoing business practice evaluation and forensic review of longer-term past and recent business practice.
2. And these reviews and analyses are carried out with a goal of identifying specific processes and their points of implementation that are at risk, and problematical outcomes that arise from them that would in turn affect subsequent process steps in work flows,
3. And whether these points of interest in a business represent fundamental problem points in their own right, or whether they are simply symptoms arising from still earlier-step business processes (that might not overtly appear broken or avoidably limiting, but that in effect set the business up for problems further down-stream in the work flows in places that they feed into.)
4. I have outlined this in terms of the next step of this overall process: developing remediative recommendations, that would be very specific in terms of which processes and process areas need change, and who should be carrying out this work – at least by experience and training.
5. The next step would be to prototype test proposed solutions, at least where that is possible and feasible (see Management and Strategy by Prototype 1 and its Part 2 continuation.)
6. And rolling out a fuller implementation after reviewing results of any smaller-scale test implementations and making any corrective adjustments that they would suggest as necessary.
7. Then the fuller-scale implementation would be reviewed for its impact and both short term after an initial trial run and longer term as part of that business’ ongoing performance reviews process. (In software development parlance, prototype testing corresponds to alpha testing, and full-rollout testing corresponds to early, and longer-term later beta testing.)
8. And this entire cycle would be recurringly repeated, with this business shifting from what might or might not have started out as taking a reactive approach towards being proactive in its business process and systems innovation and development.
9. And clearly, even if this starts out with what amounts to an outside consultant jump-start, if this entire cyclical process is to be followed, this business is going to have to bring it all in-house and build this type of cyclical business process capability into its basic business model and its DNA.

I said at the end of Part 22, and in anticipation of this posting that:

• “I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will address the shift from only approaching business process change reactively, towards developing a more proactive capability there too.”

And I outlined a reactive to proactive transformation here, as it would take place through development of basic recurring processes and systems of them in a business’ basic operations. And this brings me to the crucial questions of who would do all of this in-house as individuals and how they would be supported in the business and its systems for doing this work – and even when they have to be able to work more widely across the organization and in “non-standard ways” in order to effectively do their jobs.

I explicitly ended Part 22 by noting that:

• After that (nota bene: the above), I will turn to the issues of actually finding and onboarding the right people for this, there focusing on bringing them in-house as full employees.
• I will at least start with resumes and cover letters, and social media and other, related information channels there. Then, I will open this discussion up again to consider bringing in the right innovators in general again – there focusing on interviews, and on opening up the range of areas that would be addressed, beyond the more routine and even cookie-cutter limitations of more standard jobs and careers issues. What else could you add into these conversations to more fully identify real innovative potential and what is the best way to do this without getting these meetings side-tracked?

I will explicitly turn to the first of those bullet points in my next series installment here, following the second of them as a preliminary outline for how I will start that. And in the course of that I will explicitly address the issues of “regular” in-house employees and in-house consultants. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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