Every so often we ask our community to sound off on popular topics in innovation and share their best tips, tricks, and advice in hopes that their answers may inspire others in the field. We’ve gathered these insights by email, over phone calls, at events and roundtables, and catching up with clients and colleagues.
Working with Innovation and R&D leaders, we regularly encounter a desire to manage innovation on an enterprise-wide basis. Doing so creates obvious benefits of scale, efficiency, leverage, and reach. Yet we also notice that many organizations struggle to make it happen. Managing innovation on a global level can be...challenging.
There are lots of reasons that wider coordination tends to fall off. Networks of Innovation Labs and CoEs that are spread around the world may not have much direct experience working together. Various R&D and Innovation units may be given competing priorities from their matrix of stakeholders - including regional P&Ls, product groups, internal shared functions, and corporate headquarters. Even if an initiative survives all of these dangers, there’s still that “high priority” project from the CEO’s office to disrupt the agenda.
And yet, we've seen organizations tame the beast. So, for our inaugural Pulse of Innovation post, we asked them: what’s your best advice for managing innovation across multiple sites? Here are the common themes that emerged:
Physically Meet for Big Projects – Facetime is critical for collaboration. Commit to visiting with each other on a regular basis, whether that is for kick off meetings or to celebrate major milestones. The time spent together will inspire individuals, and keep the entire team on track.
Identify On-site Management – Every junior employee should have an on-location manager. Relocate leaders so they are with their team, or assign local managers to look over each other’s direct reports. By instituting this policy, teams can stay focused on the specific initiatives and goals of their business unit.
Set Expectations Through Leadership – Leaders need to have the “it will stay and it will scale” attitude. In order to be believable, leaders need to speak the same language as their team. Confident, informed leaders can help shape expectations and shift perspectives. Slight cultural changes can improve adoption of new processes and frameworks.
Eliminate Barriers to Communication – Sometimes a phone call just won’t cut it. Interactive video conferencing and smart meeting rooms give teams the freedom to collaborate on the fly by sharing screens and connecting separate offices. Having the right software and tools to communicate are crucial for keeping projects on track and will boost productivity.
Celebrate the Small Wins – It is essential to have a dedicated channel to promote the little victories. Track progress via a weekly newsletter or announce it at the start to the morning standup. Celebrate milestones with a team lunch or happy hour. Not only will the team feel appreciated and valued, but it will keep everyone motivated and informed. Having a consistent method to communicate the wins will reduce friction by eliminating the need for redundant status meetings.
Address Past Failures – It is important to acknowledge what hasn’t worked in the past. It is of equal importance to identify all of the factors that contributed to that failure. When examining these failures, consider what variables can be changed. Would the outcome be different this time around? Does it align with the corporate goals and objectives? Taking the time to reflect will help your team identify obvious opportunities and the easiest path to success.
Be Flexible – One work style does not fit all. Some individuals perform best when they split their time between home and the office. Others thrive in an open office floor plan or with an open door policy. Learn everyone’s preferences and meet the team in the middle. Adjusting the team approach to acknowledge the varied work styles of the individual members will maximize the output and quality of their contributions.
Managing corporate innovation across multiple sites can be difficult, but it is possible with the right structures in place. Anticipating the potential barriers to productivity, communication, organization, prioritization, and alignment with the business’s goals means that teams can stay focused and agile.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.