Management Innovation – is this an oxymoron?

A recent article by Gary Hamel, titled ‘The Why, What and How of Management Innovation‘, intrigued me, but I wasn’t sure what it meant. I’m familiar with product, process and service innovation but management innovation? In my opinion there’s a word missing – the article is really talking about management process innovation, but obviously that’s not as strong a title.

So what’s the message?

Hamel says that “A management breakthrough can deliver a strong advantage to the innovating company and produce a major shift in industry leadership. Few companies, however, have been able to come up with a formal process for fostering management innovation. The biggest challenge seems to be generating truly unique ideas”.

He suggests a series of questions to uncover whether our management processes are supporting or exacerbating big organisational problems and whether they are supporting or limiting big organisational opportunities.

This links to another HBR article by Bower & Gilbert – Whose Strategy is it? The authors have observed that the “carefully-crafted strategies of senior management” can be derailed by the decisions of middle and front line managers. They rightly observe that “every time a manager allocates resources, that decision either moves the organisation into or out of alignment with its intended strategy”.

So, taking asset allocation as a management process, we can apply Hamel’s thinking and ask “How we can innovate the system to ensure it delivers asset allocation decisions in line with the desired strategy?”. In a wider sense, both articles refer to the typical management issue of how to innovate the personal choices that all managers and employees make about where they allocate their time and efforts – which is the province of the Personal Efficiency Program that Paul is licenced to run.


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Analysis but not Paralysis

Over the holidays, I (Sharon) read an eclectic collection of books – from Storytelling in Organisations, to Design philosophy, to Evidence based Management, to the McKinsey approach to consulting, to Reframing Organisations and the First 90 Days for new leaders.

One thread that runs through a lot of these books is effective analysis – how to make sure we are analyzing the situation effectively and how to ensure we are acting on facts and evidence where possible – but not taking so much time in analysis that the time for action passes us by. Another thread is synthesis – how to make sure that we connect things so that we can see how the whole is related.

Michael Watkins, in The First 90 Days, suggests that new leaders need to be able to quickly diagnose what type of a situation they are walking into and I think this is equally true for a consultant (internal or external). I liked his classification of business situations into four types (I have changed his wording slightly):

Start up – new business / area needing some structure and processes;

Continuation – a successful team / area who need to be encouraged and challenged to improve their level of performance;

Realignment – a team or area in potential trouble who need to be convinced that change is necessary;

Turnaround – a team or area in actual trouble and needing urgent action, including painful personnel, process or product changes.

A few minutes spent asking ourselves “what assumptions am I making about this team / area and what evidence do I have to validate my assumptions?” can change how we approach clients and teams and can impact the outcome. Read on for more to find out how I applied the concepts and check out the book at Amazon or Dymocks. (more…)

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Want real commitment to change? Tune to WII-FM

I often get asked “How can I get my staff to commit to this change?” and I laugh internally at the implication in the words. It’s human nature to want others to give first, but it’s been my experience that leaders need to be prepared to give in order to get.

One way of ‘giving’ is to show our commitment first and be subject to the same standards. David Maister’s blog describes a great example of this type of commitment from the President of a global advertising firm, who asked staff to evaluate him as a leader and then promised to resign if he did not improve his rating as a leader.

Another way of ‘giving’ is to describe how the change might benefit them personally, not just benefit the organisation.

So when you next want a commitment from your people, think first about tuning in to the universal station, WII-FM (What’s In It For Me): Describe what you are prepared to offer from your end, or what benefit you believe the change will provide to them as individuals, before you ask for their commitment. Read an example below. (more…)

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The first post is the hardest

(sung to the tune of Cat Stevens’ “The first cut is the Deepest” )

Sharon here. It’s Monday and I have promised half a dozen people that I’d send out a first blog for comments, but two weeks have gone by and I haven’t written a word. What is going on? I think I am suffering from performance anxiety – a nasty condition in both organisational and personal life! I’ve gotten self-conscious at the thought of having an audience and want to make my performance perfect before I go ‘live’.

So, to get into action, I delved into the web literature on performance anxiety as well as revisiting material that Paul and I facilitate on dealing with procrastination. Hence, the blog is finally up and running.

So, welcome to our new, blog A Passion for Ideas, whose purpose is to discuss new and interesting ideas in the world of organizational learning, change and development, including ideas for leading and managing people and teams more effectively. Paul and I are looking forward to writing about some of our personal and organisational experiences and hearing your stories too. Read on for more ideas on dealing with procrastination and performance anxiety.


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