By Rikus Grobler of Namibia Innovation Solutions
In the previous article I had my say about how to deal with naysayers, the disbelievers in organisations who do not support anything new or different. Based on the number of hits on the article on the website, it looks like a number of naysayers have it coming for them! In this article I want to talk about innovation maturity. It is one thing to make a conscious decision about pursuing innovation in your organisation, but “dumping” a new way of doing things on an organisation usually goes along with a lot of resistance. Understanding the concept of innovation maturity can prevent a lot of unnecessary pain and frustration on the innovation journey.
Doing a lot of work in the project management environment, I have seen many times how organisations begin to realise and understand the value of having structured project management practices and processes.
The story usually goes like this. Project management comes on the radar and is pursued as the “silver bullet” for solving the organisation’s execution problems. A project management framework and processes are defined and documented, and is most of the times accompanied by a list of new document templates, and in some cases a project management system to relieve the administrative burden of project management.
This usually takes between three to six months, depending on the size of the organisation, and the “happy ending” is just around the corner. Unfortunately, in many cases the story ends with the reality that a year later, projects are still being delivered late and over budget, in spite of all the new processes, templates and fancy applications.
The reality is that when people are used to doing things in a certain manner, ingrained in the “business as usual” culture, they will not stop doing it that way from the one week to the next. If a person is used to running projects on the back of a cigarette box and it is suddenly expected that he must do it on an Excel spreadsheet, well you can think what would happen.
Sticking with the project management example, there are specific tools and measurement instruments that have been developed to gauge the project management maturity of organisations (e.g. the Project Management Maturity Model or PMMM), and based on the results of the maturity assessment, a strategy is developed to “ease in” the new way of doing things in terms of project management. To give an example, I would not expect an organisation to do advanced earned value calculations to determine project schedule- and financial performance, if there are no an established processes in place for drafting project budgets and schedules, that happens prior to the project actually kicking off.
So how does this relate to innovation maturity? The principle is exactly the same. An organisation cannot expect to change their innovation behaviour and performance without an understanding of the current maturity levels. Organisations first need to gauge where they currently are with regards to driving innovative products and services to market. However, it’s not just about identifying the current maturity level and moving on down the road, it is also to define how the envisioned “picture of success” looks like, i.e. what are you trying to achieve through innovation and what level of maturity is necessary to get there. The final step is then to recognise and appreciate the gaps between the “As Is” and the “To Be” and lay out the action plans of how to close the gaps.
Innovation maturity measurement tools are not as well-known and established as project management maturity measurement tools, but there are a couple of models available from some of the renowned innovation consulting firms and I have noticed some good progress on this subject in the innovation consulting industry.
Understanding where an organisation is in terms of innovation maturity is a critical first step for laying out the innovation journey. I will dwell into more detail on this topic next time. I conclude with a quote from Karl Pearson, also known as “Pearson’s Law”: “That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported, improves exponentially”.
About Rikus Grobler
After a career of over a decade in the manufacturing and IT industries, Rikus established a specialist business and management consulting firm (Namibia Innovation Solutions) in Windhoek in 2010. Rikus has an MBA and also holds degrees in Engineering and Law. He is also a certified Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) and he is currently pursuing a PhD degree, focusing on the field of innovation. His passion is corporate innovation and he has consulted in this field for some of the major organisations in Namibia. You can e-mail him [email protected] or visit his website at www.nis.co.na