“What is now proved was once only imagined – William Blake”
Due to the coronavirus, we live in an uncertain and difficult time. Economic forecasts are depressing, and death tolls keep rising. But I, Stef Knaepkens, Director BeLux, figured it was high time for a message of hope and action for success in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), or after black swan events. It’s for the people who are looking forward to the next normal, the day after tomorrow.
The current state of the world under the COVID-19 pandemic is chaotic. This global crisis is foremost a drama for mankind, which makes me sad. But as they say, the show must go on. Our beliefs of three months ago are challenged. Our truths became questions. In less than a week, we turned a page and we started to write on a blank sheet. Today is the first day of the future. A future we have to reinvent. Now.
Drive innovation with Agile
Respected researchers predict changes in global supply chains to reduce risks form globalisation. The World Economic Forum expects a future that is more human and planet centric. McKinsey research imagines a world of business—from the factory floor to the individual consumer—in which human contact is minimized. Many more thinkers and futurists predict even bigger shifts. The future will prove who is right or wrong. One thing is for sure: we don’t know what tomorrow will look like. Nor do we know which customers will stay or leave, or how their preferences will change. The road will definitively not be linear. Does this mean we have to wait until everything is clear? You might be out of business long before that. So, that’s not the right way to ensure business continuity.
For leaders of numerous organisations, digital transformation was already on the agenda in the past years. But if I look around me, initiatives are being hindered because stakeholders still use methods from the linear past. Think about PRINCEII and remember that it means “PRojects In a Controlled Environment”. Do you know a single environment that is under control today? In a dynamic environment, Agile at Scale is the only answer to complex innovation challenges. We know that most inventions are formed by reapplying existing products or services in a new configuration. Innovation is the learning process that leads to solutions for this unknown destination. Agile is an effective way to collectively learn and adapt while developing new solutions.
Time for a new innovation logic
A key success factor in the innovation journey is to invest in the right innovations. But which innovations are right? We need a number of strategic options and put these together in a portfolio. But wait, Portfolio Management is often understood as the consolidation of massive amounts of project data, milestones, budgets spent, etc. A giant management instrument that was inspired by “command and control” ways of working, still in the spirit of Henry Fayol, who died in 1925.
Today, we urgently need to turn the logic completely around. Innovation portfolios should be managed in the same spirit as Venture Capitalists manage their investment portfolios. Innovation initiatives can be seen as buckets of ideas—the more the better. These buckets are to be quantified as strategic options for the future, nurtured with ideas from all people involved in the production or service process. Preferably people with close customer contact. It’s the role of senior leaders to allocate capital to the most promising ideas and to dynamically manage priorities in response to progress, outcomes and customer feedback. This way of thinking will revolutionise the way organisations are managed. In my opinion, this is also the essence of moving from Linear Innovation to Dynamic Innovation.
Steer innovation with ServiceNow
Dynamics are often confused with chaos, but to quote Joyce Grenfell: “Progress everywhere today does seem to come so very heavily disguised as chaos.“ This is exactly why every organisation should start using ServiceNow’s IT Business Management module for digital transformation. This module is the ideal solution to steer innovation portfolios. It can be deployed in weeks and offers the capability to capture ideas, to create and visualise strategic options and turn these into revenue generating projects. It allows everyone in your organisation to contribute by submitting their ideas anytime, anywhere—straight from their mobile devices. Even your customers could participate. Your innovation teams can bring ideas together and organise themselves swiftly, without losing overview of what’s happening. While your teams are converting their ideas into great innovations and test it on the market, the built-in dashboards provide senior leadership with details on their investments. The exchange of insights energises your workforce by clearly showing progress. It’s not bad either to kill ideas or to replace initiatives if strategic options are valued differently over time, as long as your teams can understand why.
Don’t use culture as an excuse
Sometimes, I hear managers say that their organisation is not ready yet for this way of working and that they need to fix the culture first. Sadly, there is no time to fix culture now. Culture should just be seen as the result of collective behaviour and we should stop arguing that culture is a prerequisite to change. Change only happens by consistently applying the rules of the desired culture. That culture should be result-oriented, and customer-minded in stead of the traditional siloed hierarchical job focus from the linear industrial ages.
The blank page in front of us urges us to act now. Great out-of-the-box technology such as ServiceNow’s ITBM are catalysts for rapid change. These tools are so advanced and user-friendly that adoption is extremely easy at the bottom and top of the organisation. Your managers and teams will follow and be amazed about the results and how they turned around the culture of your organisation by doing the right things. Innovation requires leadership and room to experiment. Why wait until it’s too late? Innovate and thrive!
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