Guide the Culture to Continuous Innovation

As your company expands, don’t forget what has led you to this success. Make sure you embrace your company’s history and that your new employees do as well. Your employees will see the success that you have previously attained and will look to fit in and add to that success. Include mission-vision-values elements in new-employee orientations. ake responsibility within your domain for personal growth, AND enlist help from other managers to keep the momentum going across the company. Consider collaborating on the following:

  • Add flexibility to planning & budgeting

Many times, rituals are demotivating to employees. Think about recurring activities—particularly important ones such as planning and budgeting—and how you may get more enthusiastic participation if the process became more flexible. For instance, in balanced scorecard environments, one often does quarterly or monthly review of performance against plan rather than waiting until year-end. Consider going off-site. Consider hiring a third-party facilitator. How can you “shake things up” and make the tedious more engaging?

  • Design interactions across organization

One of the biggest hindrances to innovation is structure. Make it a new practice to collaborate across departmental lines, across multiple layers, and among newly arrived and long-tenured alike. Seek out different viewpoints, structure teams in creative ways, and generally think, “how can I get objective, insightful input?”

Once the management team is effectively collaborating, then strategies can be put into place to move from considering the right motives to change to cultural innovation. Successful organizations deconstruct themselves in order to grow and become more responsive. At IBM, Lou Gerstner inherited a company losing almost a billion dollars per month. He realized that “culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.”

Gerstner had heard that one of IBM’s chief rivals had made the comment that, “IBM? We don’t even think about those guys anymore. They’re not dead, but they’re irrelevant.”  When he shared this comment with his senior leadership group, there was instant motivation, but the skills and creativity were six years in coming. During that time, IBM became hugely profitable, and share price increased more than tenfold. What drove the turnaround was a change in internal communications. An internal memo by Gerstner to all employees instructed everyone on the new agenda:

Product (focus) Customer (focus)
Do it my way Do it the customer’s way
Manage to morale Manage to succeed
Decisions based on anecdotes and myths Decisions based on facts and data
Relationship-driven Performance-driven
Conformity (politically correct) Diversity of ideas and opinions
Attack the people Attack the process
Rule-driven Principle-driven
Value me (the silo) Value us (the whole)
Analysis paralysis (everything must be proven 100%+) Make decisions & move forward with urgency (80%/20%)
Fund everything Prioritize

If your market-leading competitor were to make a comment about your business, would they say that you are irrelevant? How can you keep that from ever being the case? By making a commitment to continuous innovation!

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