Three Success Factors Affect Innovation

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    5/17/2012

Takeaways: Following the three key success factors of finding opportunities, mobilizing support for them, and seizing those opportunities, organizations stay open to change and create a culture of innovation.

In their book, Seeing David in the Stone, James B. and Joseph E. Swartz identify the 12 actions of the great innovators and achievers throughout time.Success Factors: Finding & Seizing Great Opportuniti9esThese are broken into three areas, each with a set of four actions:

  • Finding Great Opportunities
  • Mobilizing Support
  • Seizing Great Opportunities

In Finding Great Opportunities, one of the keys is to differentiate yourself for opportunity. What is meant by this is to understand your passions and talents, and see where the potential rewards might be in those areas. Then search within them for opportunities where all three are high.

Three Key Success Factors:

  • Be passionate about something
  • Be good at it
  • Potential rewards are high

For example, young Einstein became a telegraph operator because he had a passion for that, he was good at it, and it was the latest technology of his time.

Another characteristic of great achievers is that they never stop searching. An example the book cites is the story of Colonel Sanders.

All his life he moved from sales job to sales job and paycheck to paycheck. At age 65 he found his opportunity when he moved to Corbin, KY to run a gas station. To increase sales, he started serving his special fried chicken. Business boomed until a new interstate highway bypassed Corbin.

He decided that his passion was cooking, he made better fried chicken than anyone else, and he loved to sell – Kentucky Fried Chicken was born. He traveled the country calling on restaurants. He would cook each owner a batch of chicken, then sell a franchise. Ten years later, at age 75, he had 600 franchisees. He never stopped until he found a way to differentiate himself from the crowd, and when he did, he found tremendous opportunity.

Another key differentiator is being willing to change the ways in which you differentiate yourself. When one of the three key success factors is no longer valid, you have to be willing to change in order to achieve greatness yet again.

Organizations can become great when they are led by people who themselves have learned to differentiate themselves personally and follow the three key success factors. By creating that focus and being willing to alter course when one factor is no longer valid, an organization can continuously improve and renew itself.

Evaluating Your Strategy Implementation Success

By Eric Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International90% of all strategy fails due to poor execution

If evaluating the success of your organization’s strategic initiatives seems to be an elusive endeavor, you should find the framework offered by the Strategy Implementation Model and the Strategy Implementation Maturity Survey (SIMS) very helpful.

Much has been written about strategy development, strategic planning, strategic thinking and executing strategy. However, not much has been done to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of strategy implementation systems and processes.

It is common in mature organizations to find well-developed plans and clearly defined strategic objectives, but the consistent concern for those organizations is successfully “closing the gap” from where they are today to where they want to be in the future. Most likely this is due to both a lack of clarity of their road map to success and to weaknesses in evaluating their progress. This is, in fact, a major concern of executives worldwide.

A strategy implementation model is now being used to help organizations evaluate their own sense of gaps in execution, compare themselves with others, and to know how and where to best improve. The model concentrates on four critical dimensions:  

  • Strategy Creation: Methods used to gather, synthesize and manage vital information to support plans and actions
  • Alignment: The degree to which the organization coordinates, cascades, shares and aligns plans and actions
  • Execution: The deployment, management and refinement of plans, projects and actions
  • Accountability: The utilization of metrics, process indicators and performance management to measure and drive results

Maturity Gap by Question
Following the maxim “you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” the SIMM’s framework is carefully designed to support current best practices in strategic management and to be flexible to adapt to future changes as those practices are further refined. The SIMM offers a thoughtful structure for considering the critical elements nearly all organizations must address in conducting a self-evaluation of the success of their strategic objectives.

The 12 data points that appear in the graph on the right represent each of the 12 questions in the survey. In turn each group of three questions relate to each of the four critical dimension of the Maturity Model.

How well are you evaluating your organization’s ability to cascade and share strategies? How deeply do you reach for feedback on your strategic initiatives? How clearly are team, department and division initiatives aligned with corporate strategies? How effectively are you tracking performance on the prior three questions?  The SIMM tool will help you gain answers and clarity on these questions and many more.

Benchmarks Maturity Gap by Question
Once you have some introspective feedback with a self-evaluation or by having a number of members of your organization participate in the survey, the SIMM provides valuable data to gauge your organization’s performance levels in the four dimensions of the Strategy Implementation Model. Furthermore, you will learn how your firm is performing in comparison to aggregated data from all the SIMM’s participants.

In these early stages, the aggregated data will be limited until a sufficiently meaningful sample can be used to provide industry and market comparisons. For example, above is the type of graph that might help you see where your gaps are between where you perceive your current level of performance to be and where you would like it to be.

The graph on the right includes aggregated benchmark data overlaid on your firm’s data for further comparison.  What is interesting is that the aggregated benchmark data roughly parallels this firm’s responses to the survey. Additional graphs are provided along with your firm’s results.

Closing the Gap
For a limited time, companies that have more than 100 employees are invited to participate in the beta version of the Strategy Implementation Maturity Survey (SIMS). Participating companies will provide input and receive results about their comparative performance. They will also receive valuable tips to help them improve.

The survey contains a total of 12 questions and will take 10-15 minutes to complete. You will likely find this a thought-provoking activity that is intended to stimulate a higher level of performance in your firm. As this is a beta version and will continue to be adapted over the next few months, you will be asked at the end of the survey to provide feedback and suggestions.

We will send you your organization’s results, as well as the overall results, as soon as the number of responses from other target companies is large enough to provide reliable conclusions. We will also send out and post articles on the web on strategy execution best practices and lessons learned. Please contact SIMM below to participate in the survey. We would also welcome your contributions.

Strategy Implementation Consortium
Strategy execution experts have partnered together to establish the Strategy Implementation Consortium. The model and survey have been designed by this consortium.  The consortium’s purpose is to help businesses significantly improve their ability to successfully implement business strategies. This purpose is supported by:

  • A strategy implementation maturity survey to best help businesses quickly and accurately assess their strategy implementation maturity levels
  • Collecting strategy execution best practices and lessons learned in various environments\
  • Providing training and consultant services to help businesses apply best practices based on their current maturity levels and desires to improve

Parallel Involvement in Our Tablet Initiative

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International  4-8-2012 
Warehouse Planning
Parallel involvement in the warehouse

Part C – PLAN
Now, as we begin to plan what we’re going to do about deploying our tablet initiative in our warehouse, let’s keep our parallel involvement process going to mitigate any other potential unintended consequences. This is a key Systems Thinking tool.  A good step at this point is what can be called plan to plan. This means lay out a road map that outlines what needs to be done to have a solid plan. For instance, listing and engaging the various stakeholders in the planning process to ensure their input is both present and relevant. We should also ensure we have the financial and human resources to carryout our project. Well-facilitated meetings with stakeholders that interrelate are a high priority. The stage must be set to exclude personal and political agendas. This is a content issue that can help immensely to avoid time lost due to unnecessary and distracting conflicts. Having absolute clarity on the desired outcomes, “how this impacts the customer” is a really good way to avoid distracting agendas. Everyone can more easily focus on those over-reaching goals.

During this planning phase it would be a good idea for us to conduct some internal and external assessments that will help us flesh out some key strategies and alternatives that will keep us on track to our desired outcomes.  We can preempt some of the pains we will encounter and will have identified some key enablers to a successful project.

Bring Stakeholders Together
Let us then plan on scheduling meetings to bring those stakeholders together. Must they be in person or is everyone comfortable with online meetings? Does it make sense to engage an external facilitator to avoid that person “having a dog in the hunt” and therefore a potentially counterproductive bias? Do we have good in-house facilitators for meetings we can also use? We are looking at making a potential large investment in time, money and changes in how we do things, so we must weigh the value of applying the best inquisitive inquiry techniques and processes as possible at this point.

Now let us explore our list of stakeholders without too much detail. We need the warehouse managers and floor-staff to help us flesh out specs like tablet size, battery life and content of the data to be managed by our tablets. Our IT department has to look at that content too but also platform compatibility such as operating system, possible custom app development and support and IT vendor relationships.

Our IT and tablet vendors should be consulted on the impact on wireless bandwidth requirements, support issues (like that pesky automatic update Waste Management experienced), intended tablet life-cycles (new, improved product releases for example), in-tablet or cloud-based apps and to evaluate their capacity to participate long term.

Our sales and purchasing departments, supply chain managers, HR department and attorneys should all have some input on the content. Sales, purchasing, supply chain and process specialists need to look at customer value issues. HR and our attorneys should address things like what do tablets have a native ability to do that maybe are inappropriate on the job, like using the cameras most tablets have. It’s possible that in a warehouse environment, this could be a real plus. Consider a warehouse worker, taking a picture or video of a pallet of product just unloaded showing potential damage and immediately emailing the images to the buyer in purchasing asking if it’s acceptable or should it be returned. That’s a great example of just-in-time response and empowering the people who have the information to resolve problems with high efficiency.

A counterpoint to that, also cited in Information Week, is that if the tablet users are in a position to abuse the cameras, on some tablets the cameras cannot be disabled! This type of instant sharing of information also needs the input from legal counsel to help establish rules and policies for ensuring security of the data. This includes confidentiality of the data and its misuse, intentional or otherwise of the various native features of the tablets.

Consider Product Life Cycles
Purchasing and asset management should chime in on product life cycles. For example, to determine if the tablets replace other equipment and the financial impact of these issues. The strategic management office can support the effort by coaching the leaders on best practices on planning, perhaps facilitating meetings and helping to integrate the project into the company’s overall strategic plan. The process specialists can contribute to the content and hardware selection by ensuring right-sized tablet s and accessories are selected and related company processes are all aligned.

The HR department should help determine any training required and changes in personnel to support the new tablets. Not just the end users are to be considered here but possibly hardware and software technicians for custom apps and to customize the units. Information Week cites that Avnet disabled a number of features on the iPads they deployed in their warehouses thereby increasing times between charging to up to three days, since the iPads were only using those features necessary for the job. The others, like iTunes, were disabled.  Last on the list but not least are the PR people, who may be able to leverage improvements in customer value as a result of the initiative. Involving all the key stakeholders in the organization and getting their input on this project are part of using a systems thinking approach for this initiative.

But wait, there’s more! What if this tablet initiative provides better real-time inventory data that the sales force can use? Now our warehouse tablet initiative can further improve customer value where we are actually are in contact with the client! So we are compelled to now consider deploying tablets to our sales force. But that’s another project.

Executing Our Tablet Initiative

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International   4-8-2012

Part D –  ACT

Executing our tablet initiative project is now probably a lot easier. We’ve done a lot of hard work up front, used some good practices, and using some proven structures and processes, we have laid out our plan or road map with metrics and milestones that should allow us to make only minor, instead of major, adjustments in deploying our tablets. We will also be much more certain that we are on track to deliver our desired outcome: “Greater value for our customer”.  Our strategies have been translated into budgets and key action items with a clear direction.

Clearly Defined Processes

Our strategies can now be supported by clearly identified people and processes, the technology Cascade of Planningrequired and we are clear how we will cascade the execution of our project throughout the organization. We have determined that either Apple’s iOS, or Windows or Android best fit our company’s needs. We have narrowed our prospective tablets down to size, form factor, ruggedness, battery life, application availability or developer resources.  We know we can develop custom apps and that we can manage auto-updates from our vendors. We are prepared to handle proper usage by the end user.

We have made the decision to provide company-owned units rather than BYOD (bring your own device) in spite of extra expense since we don’t have an work environment that encourages use of the devices for personal activities. However, we also know that the ”other” project of deploying tablets to salespeople may have to be handled differently. We have decided to manage our data through a hybrid process of native apps on the tablet that gets data from a cloud-based solution since we have solid control of our internal wireless network. Therefore, users essentially only need to access a browser; plus we will have the flexibility to more easily switch tablet platforms if necessary.

Training can take place on any computer, anywhere. The competencies required to use, train, support and plan for future needs regarding the tablet deployment project have been identified and all departments affected know how they will incorporate competency development into their plans. Enablers have been identified in the form of external facilitators for meetings and external and internal coaches to support deployment of this new technology paradigm involving the whole organization. This covers usability, security, financial and legal issues.

We know our wireless and internet bandwidths will be up to the task. We know we’ll be replacing the units every two or three years due to new hardware releases but the low uTnit cost to deploy promises a high ROI for the project. PR is working on a program to track the customer experience from the beginning to leverage it for our marketing department.

Improving customer Value

Finally, we are confident that ”our end in mind” of improving the value we deliver to our customer will be met. We have envisioned how our bottom line will be improved as well and as an added bonus, our employee morale is up because all the stakeholders were involved and a new technology is being deployed.

This holistic approach to leading, thinking, planning, and acting with respect to deployment of tablets in the organization is a systems thinking approach. We’ve taken the time up front to cover all the bases, consider the unintended consequences, and involve all key stakeholders in the decision making process. A successful deployment is virtually assured.