A research & development centre in Shanghai employs more than 100 chemists from different business units. After bringing all these business units into one location, the technical directors identified a significant opportunity to create a better structure to collaborate across these silos. We initiated a program to harvest this opportunity and to identify new technologies across all business units driving the business in the long run. In addition, the program aimed at facilitating experience sharing and cultivating innovation and collaboration behaviour.
With the sponsorship from the regional technology and marketing leaders, we initiated a program that created different communities along application categories. Each of these communities then established a routine of brainstorming new technologies. Each cycle lasted about 3 months and focused on one focus topic supported by the sponsors. Success was based on close collaboration with marketing and engaging in creativity methods that stimulated open and human-centric thinking.
This program is in its fourth year and initiated many new projects to discover and develop new technologies; this was possible by combining the strength of multiple business units and creating hybrid solutions solving customer pain points.
In addition, we observed a new mindset cultivated among the R&D chemist. One community owner expressed it like this: "In the past when I faced a challenge, I would go back to my desk and solve it by myself. Now, I come out of the lab and reach out to my colleagues and we find solutions together." Leveraging the experience and knowledge of your peers will bring fast and high quality results. Collaboration across organisational, regional and hierarchical borders has lead to success. This program laid the foundation for this change.
Thank you for this fantastic opportunity Enshan Shen, Wu Min, Renyi Wang, Meising Ho.
In our world, uncertainty and complexity is accelerating - especially in the current situation. At times, we don't even know how the world will look like in 2 months. Some leaders are trying to control and reduce this complexity and uncertainty; is this possible and the right approach? Successful teams, instead, are trying to plunge and thrive in these challenges, and respond with agility.
In my experience, one key barrier for agility is the environment cultivated by the leaders. Are we enabling our teams to experiment and create value within a defined strategic direction? McKinsey created a summary of these leadership challenges. Here is how I would summarise, what leaders have been doing great to achieve success:
a) establishing a clear vision and direction with a focus on results
b) empowering & connecting teams and allocating resources with flexibility
c) embracing a new way of working that allows fast sensing & seizing of opportunities
On a personal level, there are three creative mindsets, we leaders need to embrace - for ourselves and as a role model for our teams:
1) discovery to drive innovation
2) partnership to smoothen collaboration
3) abundance to strengthen value creation
Where will you focus first?
Here the details from the article: Five Fifty: Agility at the Top
How do you stimulate an innovation mindset in a large campus with over 600 people? What can you do to make people excited to work together across functions and hierarchies? What are the business reasons to invest in such an endeavour? Go big! This is what we did in Shanghai, organising Innovation Days in a new format.
At first, we made sure that we got commitment from the regional top leadership team. Together we collected critical business challenges and opportunities from across all the functions. We then selected eight topics and formed a core teams that took ownership for each of these topics; every team was supported by a sponsor.
We then planned a two-day event with the objective to collect broad ideas. We first planned to inspire all 200 participants with keynote speakers. Then each team went through a program that allowed them to learn more about the topic, obtain a deeper understanding of the challenges and then creatively discover solution ideas. The second day, the teams go excited with creating prototypes and then presenting them to a group of regional managers. We gave the participants a platform where they can experiment and dream up new opportunities.
In order to make this large-scale event possible and successful, we decided to turn the core team members into facilitators. A few weeks prior to the Innovation Days we invited all of them for a preparation workshop. During this workshop we explained the detailed agenda and practised the important parts. In addition, the teams started to describe their challenge and collected information prior to the two-day event.
The regional leadership was excited about the outcome of the Innovation Days. During the two days, they observed a lot of energy and excitement in the different teams. The presentation of the prototypes illustrated the solutions in a tangible way. Some ideas provided important foundations for upcoming improvements in areas like trading, manufacturing, purchasing and others. In addition, the collaboration and exchange between the different functions and business units brought people closer and many participants expressed that they have learnt a lot.
What happened with these ideas? The core teams took them back as input to their projects. The leadership team reviewed the progress of all teams on a monthly basis. Six months later, as one of the concrete results, the company won the award as employer of the year in China; this was the result of the employer branding team during the innovation days.
"The [Innovation Days] grouped associates from all businesses and functions to exchange ideas on how to address the practical challenges they were facing and inspire each other with the aim to come up with creative ideas and innovative approaches." - Campus Managing Director
Introducing new products in an organisation is an exciting task - we can bring new, added value to our customers. In an industrial setting, this task can be daunting with complex value chains and regulatory hurdles. Yet, to win in today's competitive environment, new product introductions need to be fast.
This was the objective for this project in the textile chemicals space. Led by the global marketing director, the project team took up the challenge to nearly half the time-to-market for product launches. In the past, the company experiences inconsistency in the product lifecycle, top-down processes and system introductions were met by resistance. At the same time, the market and many regulatory changes required more agility. A huge alignment and engagement effort across 18 different functions was necessary.
As the change management practitioner of this project, I worked closely with the project manager on how we can engage the people. How can we involve as many people as possible? What is the best way to convey the business objectives and aspiration? How can we keep the people motivate over the long implementation period for the SAP module implementation?
We decided for a novel approach. Typically, each function will send a few representative and in a large project team they will decide on how the project will be executed. This approach was not satisfactory as large project teams are not effective and still only engage a small percentage of the people involved. The alternative approach we took was creating communities. For each involved function and for each production site we have established one community and nominated a owner for these communities.
Each community owner was then responsible to establish a collaboration routine within their communities and work on assignments related to the global project. The global project team was then working only with the community owners; assigning new activities and collecting input, feedback and comments from the community. In this way, the project team indirectly engaged with about 300 people in a structured, regular fashion.
As a result, all relevant people were involved, engaged and motivated. We often repeated the business purpose of the project to make sure we are all aligned and cross-functional barriers are easily removed. The frequent dialogues established new routines and cultivated relationships across regions and functions. In the end, because so many people were involved in the blueprint design, data migration, user acceptance testing and training of the SAP module, the final go-live was surprisingly smooth and uneventful - a natural next step forward.
As project leaders, we need to be creative and human-centric - this will lead to success. And curious to experiment and try new ways.
How can you apply communities in your change programme?
A regional business unit had introduced a new strategy that set ambitious targets in various market segments. The leadership team launched many conversations with their teams in order to understand the new strategy. The functional heads (i.e. marketing, sales, R&D) encouraged their teams to discuss and define the path forward - with mixed results. Hive17 Consulting understood that the team members didn't yet feel empowered to act on this freedom; at the same time, the leadership team struggled to provide that autonomy.
Together, we planned a new workshop that build on the previous intervention. The new one-day event aimed at providing a structure that provided a safe environment to be creative and establish alignment between the functional heads and their team members. This workshop was based on the method of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).
First, we split the group of about 45 managers from all functions into different 'virtual' teams. Each of these market segment teams had members from all key functions: marketing, sales, R&D, manufacturing and supply chain. Each team selected one of the functional head as a sponsor of their team. We did not introduce new reporting lines and the sponsors had the responsibility to give guidance and provide the strategic direction.
The teams then went through an exercise to define the objectives and key results for their market segment - jointly within the cross-functional team. At certain points in the journey, the sponsors joined their teams and they reviewed what the teams established. These OKRs were then used to provide the teams direction on where to focus their efforts. And they created transparency with the leadership team on the status of their activities.
This workshop allowed two things: the cross-functional teams were empowered and given the space to translate the strategy into tangible operational activities by themselves. And the functional leads had the opportunity to provide their feedback without interfering the thought process at an early stage, applying a coaching leadership style.
The regional leadership team was surprised with the results. The dialogue between them and the team members was constructive and they felt as part of the team. The autonomy of defining their own objectives created a strong team cohesion and engagement with these objectives. The teams were inspired and had a great motivation to push ahead with the new strategic focus in their daily work.
"If we keep doing the same thing, we keep getting the same results. In order to grow, we all need to start doing things differently!" - Regional Technical Director.
We are all getting used to our remote working situations and the virtual meetings. We know that we need to connect frequently, use video for a richer conversation, use collaborative tools for discussions and brainstorming. Why does it feel that it is not effective?
From friends I hear different issues. Some get overloaded with topics and discussions, loose track what is the objective of the call. Some are trying to initiate a good conversation and are confronted with silence. Some feel they need to rush through many things because we are inefficient. All these situations cause stress, confusion and additional uncertainty.
From my knowledge management experience, I think we can try to achieve less in one call at the time; focus on one topic. As we have frequent calls we will still be able to cover many things. Here some tips for effective virtual meetings:
What did work on your side? Share your experiences...
For a while now, I am an advocate for empowering teams to reach their northpole autonomously - a human-centric and sustainable formula for success and growth. Recently, I got introduced to the story of the USS Santa Fe, a submarine that was commanded by David Marquet from a desolate state to the best operated submarine. A story of positive leadership.
Captain Marquet took a totally different approach to his role on the vehicle. Instead of being the centre of operation where all the information is gathered and he is making the decision, he delegated decision-making authority to the different units and ensured the relevant information is flowing between all units.
In an interview he mentioned that a first key change was the way he formulated orders. A typical command is direct like "sail the ship to this location at this speed and that depth". He started to express an intend: "I intend to be at this location in order to achieve that". Then the relevant units are required to suggest the right method to achieve this intention. This changed how people got involved and shared their expertise.
Other learnings shared by David Marquet:
How can you apply this in your leadership role?
Learn more about the story:
Our current COVID-19 situation is accelerating at an enormous speed and we can only wish that the peak will be getting closer and all our families and friends stay healthy. At the same time, it is not all gloom - it is an excellent opportunity to take responsibility for our own excellence.
The article here - How Will things Be Different When It's All Over? - is rightly asking the question: what can we as business leaders do now to prepare for the next three phases: Rebound, Recession and Reimagination.
Rebound: are your teams aligned with a collective dream? Do we all run in the same direction? And did we establish effective collaboration routines that create transparency while avoiding micro-management? When I talk to teams struggling with working from home, I often hear that people lack motivation, trust, efficient tools, etc.
Recession: one way to react is to shut down everything - total cost management. For me another question is more forward-looking: how can we maximise value creation with the existing assets. That might mean, we can find new customer groups that have an interest in utilising our assets. And we can take the economic slow-down and review our operations and make the fit for the rebound.
Reimagination: here we can be creative and see new opportunities unfolding. And a human-centric approach will allow us to go deep in understanding our existing customers how their needs have changed. Where are the new value generation opportunities? How did preferences have changed? How can I react fast to deliver on this value? Everyone in the organisation is part of the customer journey; in my experience we all need to work closely together to create an experience for our stakeholders.
Back to the article, it suggest a few inspiring success factors:
Thank you, Daniel Benes, for sharing!
The year 2020 has started in a weird way. And the current virus situation many companies start to struggle. In this context, I see many leaders react in the same way: push for targets!
Here an example. The productivity team has a target to achieve 4 million savings in production costs. Initially a tough objective. Now, imagine production slumps down 20%. We have reached our target. Do we celebrate? Did we really get more excellent? How will our productivity results look like if production is increased by 20%?
Instead of focusing on lagging indicators and financial targets, I advocate to look at how do we operate. How do our structures support collaboration in cross-functional teams? How well are we aligned and promote transparency? Can I talk about my mistakes? Who is listening to my ideas?
Companies that want to achieve sustainable success, need to look more at how we are doing business, focus more on values and principles. Look at the financial indicators once in a while to see if we are on the right track. And, set targets to operate in an effective way - especially for yourself as a leader.
This week I coincidentally stumbled across this simple explanation of the foundation of agile. A reminder for myself - and for all of us - where does agile come from.
"A set of values and principles that guide the team’s decision making."
For example, the interaction with people is more important the processes and rules; or the collaboration with the customer is more valuable than the contract we negotiated. These will guide a team to make the right thing.
And as a leader? Give your teams a clear direction, remove barriers, motivate intrinsically, stay close with them and join the party as an equal.
What did I miss?
End of last year, we initiated a benchmark survey on how different companies experience their journey to accelerate innovation mindsets. How can we fully exploit our potential to deliver novel products, processes and experiences to our customers. We presented a number of activities and traits and asked two simple questions: are these important for innovation? and are they established in your organisation?
Here are the results of this APAC-focussed survey; they show clear indications on where to put energy and where to start:
Find here the complete survey results: The Current State of Innovation - Report.
Big Thank You to all that have participated in the survey!
The world is getting automated, more mundane processes are taken over by robots and all of us will be confronted to interact with smarter machines. This has an impact on the future-proof skills we require.
This McKinsey report highlights the key skills that we need to focus on for our employees:
Are you ready to solve problems with speed? Are you ready to pick-up the latest trends? How well are you collaborating beyond your silos? In my eyes, this underlies the need for new structures to create deeper understanding of the people we work with and to experiment and execute creative solutions.
Five Fifty - Soft Skills for a Hard World
We at Hive17 Consulting are devoted to creating an environment for people to work with passion, engagement and fun via positive leadership and intrinsic motivation. We believe that it takes more than perfect processes, systems, organizational charts and value statements to make your company successful. Our people need to understand, shape and believe in the change journey. And for us, it is clear that this foundation will unleash people’s full potential.
"The Value of Everything"
Everybody is talking about innovation and yes, it is a critical components for the sustainable success of companies - and entire societies.
This article (long read) shares the experience of successful innovation in a larger scale - how governments can push creativity and successful new solutions for cities, provinces, countries - large scale. And the result:
>> Innovation is driven by a mission <<
In detail this means:
* let's be bold and inspirational
* aim at high ambitions that are risky
* define clear timelines and results
* connect people across silos
* give research teams autonomy and allow them to experiment
How are you applying these points in your team / lab?
This economist has a plan to fix capitalism. It's time we all listened
Linkage has organized a great event earlier this year and shared here their insights.
1) Be authentic
2) Leadership requires intention
3) Collaboration is key
4) Look to your own "Success Circle"
5) Seek out your opposite
6) Never stop learning
Do we need more inspiring people that can give us direction and at the same time provide space to others to grow? I do believe so...
What are your favourite leadership traits?
6 Leadership Truths from Learning Teams at Linkage’s Global Institute for Leadership Development (GILD) 2019
Last week, the community of Design Thinking professionals met in Singapore. On Friday, we discussed how culture can be influenced and how Design Thinking might support transformation - very interesting question...
I have started to use Design Thinking in order to cultivate customer value focus, agility and cross-silo collaboration. With great success.
Another thought we developed is around intrinsic motivation. Design Thinking facilitates:
* a clear definition of challenges that supports purpose;
* autonomy due to the focus on empathy (button up thinking)
* the iterative prototyping allows mastery (getting closer and closer to the customer needs)
How do you see the connection between transformation and design thinking?
During the last two days, the regional Design Thinking community met in Singapore to exchange experiences, thoughts and questions. Here my key take-aways...
"Experience design is about *real people*, real life; let's focus on empathy and ethics."
"Idea creation is *messy and random*; don't kill it with KPIs."
"Use Design Thinking as a *pull* to a new way of working."
"Continuous improvement brings detractors to passives; experience design brings passives to promoters."
"Good design is about an integrated view of the entire business and brings alignment across all stakeholders; that is where the value comes from."
"Design thinking transforms to drive value creation, better collaboration, a culture of experimentation and a common purpose."
A big thanks to the organisers, speakers and participants! I enjoyed the event a lot.
This is where diversity meets innovation. Do you want to through the ball very far? Then you will get more crazy ideas when you connect with people that are different from you: different departments, different regions, and why not with your customers and suppliers?
Diversity for me means to absorb insights and opinions from any person you interact with; irrespective from their gender, race, education, hair colour, social status, etc. This is the start of deep learning.
Pull intrinsic transformation! Instead of pushing change to people.
This week, me and my colleague had a very insightful conversation about how to lead people through change. The question is, how can we prepare people for upcoming change.
Can we really get people ready for change? Or will they always fear it?
I suggest a different path of thought. Let the people discover and design their own transformation journey. Create motivation and excitement for a new strategy and then allow them to run towards these goals. As a leader you might only focus on removing the barriers.
In this sense, I believe that true success can be reached by creating a meaningful purpose, facilitating cross-silo collaboration and cultivating a willingness to experiment.
Where do you see the leading indicators for success?
When looking at the key drivers for innovation in general, we identified three main elements to focus on:
* Value creation: create a good understanding of the needs and insights of our customers and then focus on delivering value to the customers
* Taking risk: create an environment where people are encouraged to experiment and instil entrepreneurship
* Leadership: guide people with purpose and be mindful to be a role model in the journey to create an innovation culture
Other elements that have highly scored as well are setting the right targets, focus on speed, learn from diversity and facilitate collaboration across silos.
Where do you see the key drivers for innovation?
"Imagine your phone is in your ear. And you can make the screen fold open in front of your eyes and then we call each other, see each other. And I can share photos with you as well..."
What a brilliant idea! Who's intelligent mind is behind that? My six-and-a-half year old daughter.
This is a great reminder that creativity is where we don't expect it and hidden in all of us. We need to focus on letting it come out.
That's the mindset we will need for the upcoming Innovation Hack Days in Bangkok this week.
IMD Alumni invited us to a speech by Diana Wu David sharing her experiences and thoughts about how we can make ourselves Future Proof! Globalisation, Automation, Longevity all creating the need to look differently at the 'world of work'.
The future will bring lifelong learning, demands flexibility and soft skills, and requires us to be enabled by technology.
How can we get there? And her thoughts really resonate with my experiences and believes:
These behaviours and routines will lead to creating a more satisfying life for us as leaders and family members.
The still open question is: how do we convert our top leaders to stop looking at the past (lagging indicators) and start embracing the future. Any thoughts from your side?
And that's when I find myself working in a coworking space in Taipei city. What is my experience? Yes, tech today is enabling this... More important, I feel a surge of new energy and focus on my work tasks. The change in scene helps to keep distractions low (that's a surprise) and discipline on the defined tasks high.
In the context of people excellence this is an example to let people choose where and when to work - autonomy is a great driver for motivation. For sure the purpose and objectives need to be clear. We learn every day...
Oh, and yes, it helps to pay a bit of money to get a professional workplace - for me, it doesn't work well in a coffee place.
It is always exciting to start something new. This week in Thailand, we launched an Innovation Program to drive Operational Excellence for the production site here.
Inception of a new way of thinking: accelerating results with focus and structure. We defined six opportunity areas which we will work on over the next 12 months.
What I have learned? Build on existing activities and explain based on examples - keep this in mind.
This week, I spend one and a half days with the diverse BPO team in Singapore. We discussed how to lead with positivity, define meaningful and actionable objectives and tried ourselves in creative solution finding.
What did I learn? Yes, people like crazy ideas and they are important as inspiration to start things in a new way.
“If we keep doing the same thing,
we keep getting the same results.
In order to grow, we all need to start
doing things differently!”
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.