A few weeks back, I shared some views how you can let go of control. Why would you want to do that? Because the people at the front know how to create value to our customers; and they need to be able act fast without barriers - control from the top. Have a look at the previous post: Letting Go of Control - Made Easy?
Once you let yourself guide by others, how do you get up along the U?
That's a valid question I received after sharing the last post. Here are some thoughts around the right side of the U. Before we climb up, let me share more about the left side and the valley. With the steps on the left side, you can imagine that you are going down a hill. In the moment you think that you let yourself be guided by others, you realise that hill turns into a cliff and you need to climb further down. And most probably it feels like you are walking in a fog; there is no view of the other side of the valley. It feels like going through a tunnel or crossing the sea. I like this analogy because in problem solving you often want to immerse yourself in the current situation like an anthropologist and thoughts around possible solutions should be far away - early solution ideas might only lead you into a wrong direction.
Only when you really let go and you are in that opaque place, the magic can happen. Ok, not real magic, though it might feel like this. When we are drifting (not consciously seeking anything) then suddenly things will get clear, the new journey will appear right there. This might sound very esoteric but it is not. People who practice design thinking might be able to share similar experiences when they get inspired by empathising with the people they are creating value for.
Long prologue... So now, how does that journey up the hill look like?
Reflecting on the entire journey along the (theory) U, I think the right side might be more familiar. The big part of letting go of control happens on the left. Letting go of judgment, ego and power are essential for this new leadership. It starts with difficulties on the path down (left), and it continuous inspired on the path up (right). It does feel like a freedom once we don't need to control anymore.
How did you apply these steps into your leadership role?
End of last year, in the context of an agile transformation in a global financial institution, we delivered a series of design thinking trainings to a global audience. The sessions introduced the people-centric problem solving methodology, shared some case studies, and allowed the participants to practice some of the tools. After the program, we checked in with the teams and observed that they didn't take up design thinking in their practice.
How often did you observe that your training efforts have little impact on people's daily work? What can we add to bring the excitement from the training back to work? In my experience, this is an essential step for success.
At the bank, we selected a few teams that were excited about design thinking and willing to explore ways how they can overcome barriers and adopt the new principles and tools in their daily work. Typical barriers were a strong focus on delivery, very limited perceived time for other activities, a feeling that there was not much room for creativity. On top of this, the team also needed to build confidence with the methodology itself.
So, the journey began. Two important things we laid down from the start: everyone in the team is committed; what we are doing is relevant for daily work. We reviewed the deliverables for the quarter and based on that, the team identified areas where the team required a better understanding what the customers needed. Based on this, we started an iterative process to identify the best ways bring design thinking into people's daily work. Here are some of the lessons learnt:
One way we reduced the number of tools was the way we looked at the journey map. This became the key canvas to collect information during the inspiration phase. The map included the personas, the process steps, the needs and tools required, and the insights via a mood curve. These journey maps started with a broad scope and later we narrowed them down to a small scope which reflected the current activities. We used them first to collect information from within the extended team and then showed them to groups of customers (internal stakeholders) to validate assumptions and gain further insights.
While it took time to find a good way to bring design thinking methods into people's daily work, the team appreciated that we have cultivated a customer-centric mindset and provided a path to regularly interact with the customers. This allowed the teams to build deliverables that are much closer to the need of the customers and create more value. Now the initial efforts are shared to other teams and the seed is passed along.
What is your experience to cultivate customer-centricity in your teams?
Image source: Ideo U.
About three years ago, I started to run design thinking workshops and brought the topic closer to people in various companies and functions. As a change management practitioner, I immediately realised the attraction and the synergies between the two stream of thoughts.
Let's look at two of the traditional barriers to innovation and leadership: lack of speed in decision-making and lack of creativity. Both barriers are behavioural. While these are typical barriers to innovation, they are also holding up most change initiatives. And design thinking is a method to address both barriers in simple ways.
Speed - in design thinking we encourage to try things out; the focus is on learning by making mistakes. When we present prototypes early to the customer, we get early feedback on how we can get closer to create value for them. This early feedback facilitates decision-making. Design thinking also promotes to spend a significant amount on identifying the right problem; and still, this time is well invested and allows the team to create the right value for customers in a short period of time.
Creativity - here, design thinking brings many activities that allow people to use their inert creativity. The immersion into the customer's environment creates exposure to gain and pain points that trigger inspiration and critical thinking. During all my workshops we are spending time to prototype - to make the solution ideas tangible. With this activity, we are activating the creative brain and further facilitates the discover of new ideas and solutions. And finally, when we converge and digest the information by using gallery walks and journey maps, we extract the essence of the challenge which triggers further inspiration.
In addition to these two barriers, here are four points how I see design thinking is supporting your change initiatives:
How did you adopt design thinking for your change project?
Source: Why Design Thinking Works, Harvard Business Review, October 2018
Keeping traditions... Huntsman's technical campus in Shanghai celebrated again an Innovation Day last week. This is the third iteration since I met the local leadership team in 2015 and a great routine to keep.
In my recent experience, many companies and teams are pushing for daily delivery without pause and reflecting are we running in the right direction and are we using the right gear. And I am observing that only after a few months in this mode, teams are getting exhausted.
The Innovation Day in Shanghai is reversing this trend and the leadership team understands the wider purpose and benefits of such an event:
Thank you Enshan, Renyi and Stella to keep this tradition alive!
Today, I had the opportunity to share a hybrid approach to transformation in operational excellence together with Pascal Daniel during the OPEX Week Live APAC. What excites me about conferences are the interaction between peers and experts in the same field - even in a virtual format. So, we had an interesting sharing of insights how we can trigger lasting success in the current disruption. Exciting to see that the audience is also focusing on innovation, positivity, adaptation, health, empowerment, etc. A very people-centric view.
The hybrid approach we presented is pushing along these keywords; the approach is based on human-centricity, bottom-up and and an ecosystem & value focus. The method is inspired by design thinking and lean startup and follows four key steps:
Join us in a workshop where we guide you in applying this approach to your own challenges and opportunities. Fill in this form to express your interest: https://forms.gle/9W3MqGuwsvrEY39PA
A manufacturing site in Thailand had an established continuous improvement program that included brainstorming sessions, Kaizen reports, 6-Sigma activities. Still, the plant management team saw a need to drive excellence. They felt there was a lack of innovation and inspiration. And headquarters launched a strategic initiative to significantly improve productivity. How can the local team achieve this?
While observing the 300-people site, there was no lack of team spirit and engagement. They were a happy family. At the same time, most topics and issues where dealt within the respective departments. Also, the annual improvement topics where defined within these silos. The familiarity between the functions did not translate into deep cross-silo collaboration. New activities were required.
With the local leadership team we decided on a 12-months innovation program that had a clear focus on a) driving excellence & optimisation, b) cultivate innovation & agility, c) strengthen cross-silo collaboration. The program had two core phases: create crazy ideas and then execute these ideas.
During the first phase we conducted a Innovation Days event for about 70 people from various functions. We defined six teams that focused on different, specific challenges around maintenance, process technology, supply chain, environment and others. During these two days workshop, the teams engaged in brainstorming to better understand their customers and the brainstormed solution ideas. The success here was that the insights and the ideas were discussed across silos; this sparked creativity and opened people's mind. (Previous blog entry)
In the second phase we executed these ideas with Focus Cycles that lasted three months. Again, the six teams took their crazy ideas and started to work on implementing these ideas. The big change for the people was that we didn't chase a specific deliverable. Rather, we gave them a time frame (three months) after which the teams shared what they achieved and what they struggled with. This resulted in a big mindset shift and the teams realised that in this way, they are operating much closer to what they want to achieve and were delivering value to the overall operations. (Previous blog entry)
After about six months, the local and regional leadership team looked at exciting results:
Thank you Aphisak Traipoonsin, Teerapan Jaieam and Paul Seagle for your support and enabling this great journey.
Agility is for many the path for success, and I see many teams trying to run faster, sprinting and simply spinning the wheels faster. In my experience, this is not a sustainable approach; you are burning energy, burning people.
Velocity means that all your efforts are adding value and none is wasted. In this way, we are achieving results faster and with higher quality. To make sure, we know where to add value we need to be close to our customers, get their guidance on where to focus our efforts. This means we need to build relationships and connect frequently with the customers and stakeholders of our products and services.
One excellent way to do this is with prototypes. Why are prototypes so important? They make our ideas, achievements and challenges more tangible. The customers can imagine how the future solution will add value and where we need further tweaking. In addition, it is a fun way to celebrate what we have achieved within the team.
During my observations, I realised one thing that many teams forget. Demonstrating your prototype is a great opportunity to obtain direction and priority from your customers and key stakeholders. Prepare questions that provide this guidance in key areas.
Which achievements have you been proud of? How did you demonstrate them to your customers?
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. These communities then established a routine of brainstorming new technologies; each cycle lasted about 3 months and focused on one 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.
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 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, crazy ideas. At the start, keynote speakers inspired all 200 participants. Then, we split into teams and they 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 got 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 turned to the core team members to become facilitators. A few weeks prior to the Innovation Days we invited all of them to a preparation workshop; there 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 for their projects and 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
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!
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!
In the recent months, I am very happy to support various teams in getting more agile. Last week, I had a call from one of the sites: "Tim, we have a huge problem! Some of our experiments have failed and some teams can't finish their projects" - "Hey, that's great! What we are focusing on is that we experiment and learn - getting faster along the way."
In a conversation earlier this week we reflected on this. Cultivating an agile mindset not only means applying the processes and methods for developing new solutions. In the example above, the teams struggle with significantly shorter project times and delivering experiments instead of fix deliverables - as usual, this is a journey.
Therefore, we need to experiment and use agility in applying the methods, concepts and processes of becoming agile. Experiment to experiment, be agile in becoming agile - if that makes any sense.
Implementing visionary solutions is like climbing a mountain. And so is to change a mindset of people. Why not using the same approach to take small steps to conquer the summit?
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.
Where is your heart: in Design Thinking? or in Agile? Both concepts are used a lot in the context of innovation and excellence. I heard a lot of arguments from both "camps" which is superior and that the one is a subset of the other - rich discussions.
What most can agree is that the underlying concepts are pretty similar - why not use both? In programs I have conducted - especially in order to become excellent - I have combined them to accelerate creativity and speed.
There is a huge overlap: both concepts are about empowerment, experimenting, minimal viable products, fundamental concepts of agility (arguably from Lean Manufacturing).
Where they distinguish are in two particular areas; and it is good to understand their strength apply where most valuable. Here is how I make the simple distinction.
> Create Ideas: human-centric Design Thinking helps to go deeper in your understanding of the customers and stakeholders.
> Execute Ideas: the strong focus on iterations in Agile, combined with the scientific approach of measuring assumptions are great to accelerate momentum when solutions are implemented.
How do you see the two concepts play with each other?
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.
While supporting large corporate organisation, I often hear that we need more entrepreneurship. What makes entrepreneurs so special and different?
as start-up there is no other way than to deep-dive into the needs and insights from your customers; in the corporate world, there is a huge lack of this mindset; and it starts with identifying, who is my customer
2) taking risks
no risk, no reward; following the beaten path, the safe path is the quickest way to failure as an entrepreneur; most larger organisations stop to experiment and create a culture that builds on fail-safe results
people start their own, successful business based on a strong belief, a product or solution they are passionate about; corporate leaders often fail to create a purpose the people in the organisation care about
how will you cultivate entrepreneurship in your organisation?
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?
First we created a good understanding of the needs and insights, which helped to explore a wide range of ideas. Then the teams crafted prototypes and presented their pitches.
All these activities will greatly impact manufacturing excellence; and we can already see the positive impact we made on the people; triggering mindset shifts and better work relationships:
"We were able to bring issues on the table with a smile and positive energy; this was never possible before."
"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.
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!”
Last week we have reflected on the innovation program for our R&D team in China.
a) a structure to regularly interact, be creative and execute these ideas is leading to success
b) we need to focus on two type of innovation: one driven by market needs; another driven by cutting-edge technology
c) we need to cross more silos; engaging with more people in other functions, other regions, etc.
Thank you very much for your continued support!
Day 1 - Great networking and discussions today with peers in operational excellence. My first impressions:
- Focus automation on areas with minimal viable products; and don't forget to clean-up your waste first
- Operational excellence is bottom-up and top-down at the same time
- Start your transformation journey with the 'why'; and then experiment in high speed to create tangible results
- Yes, you can have a global IT organisation with only three hierarchical levels - implementing self-organising teams
- Who owns the customer journey in the company? Ideally the Operational Excellence unit; it is a cross-functional topic
Day 2 - Excited about the feedback I have received for my presentation about People Excellence; people are not machines and we thrive with freedom and passion.
Though the day continued to be exciting with many insights; here is what I got out of it:
- Operational Excellence is not a nice to have - it is about surviving in the market
- Rule-based activities can be automated with a bot; a great opportunity to up-skill people and engage them in more meaningful activities
- Employee Experience is a broad journey with social, physical and technical aspects; and requires a wide set of methods
- Drive agility by moving the focus (30%) from big ticket improvements to small Kaisen improvements
- Create an environment that allows and pushes experimentation; this is one of the foundation for transformation initiatives
- Ownership and curiosity easily compensates for the lack of expertise
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.