Tag Archives: mission

What Company Do You See in the Mirror?

What Company Do You See in the Mirror?

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

There are many types of companies, and it can be difficult to categorize them. And even within the company itself, there is disagreement about the company’s character. And one of the main sources of disagreement is born from our desire to classify our company as the type we want it to be rather than as the type that it is.

Here’s a process that may bring consensus to your company.

For all the people on the payroll, assign a job type and tally them up for the various types. If most of your people work in finance, you work for a finance company. If most work in manufacturing, you work for a manufacturing company. The same goes for sales, engineering, customer service, consulting. Write your answer here __________.

For all the company’s profits, assign a type and roll up the totals. If most of the profit is generated through the sale of services, you work for a service company. If most of the profit is generated by the sale of software, you work for a software company. If hardware generates profits, you work for a hardware company. If licensing of technology generates profits, you work at a technology company. Which one fits your company best? Write your answer here _________.

For all the people on the payroll, decide if they work to extend and defend the core offerings (the things that you sell today) or create new offerings in new markets that are sold to new customers. If most of the people work on the core offerings, you work for a low-growth company. If most of the people work to create new offerings (non-core), you work for a high-growth company. Which fits you best – extend and defined the core / low-growth or new offerings / high growth? Write your answer here __________ / ___________.

Now, circle your answers below.

We are a (finance, manufacturing, sales, engineering, customer service, consulting) company that generates most of its profits through the sale of (services, hardware, software, technology). And because most of our people work to (extend and defend the core, create new offerings), we are a (low, high) growth company.

To learn what type of company you work for, read the sentences out loud.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Assemble Your Avengers to Accelerate Your Mission

The right team will move your innovation effort forward. Here’s how to build it

Assemble Your Avengers to Accelerate Your Mission

BMNT Editor’s note: This is the third in a weekly series explaining the common beginner-steps needed to get an innovation practice off the ground or improve an existing innovation practice. Find our first post, explaining the goals of implementing a structure to guide innovation and training workers how to use it, here. The second installment, on how to create an innovation thesis to guide your team’s activities, is here.

GUEST POST from Brian Miller

The surest way to get your innovation practice off the ground is to assemble your Avengers – a diverse team working together to solve hard problems. Here are some ideas for doing it, remembering that while an innovation system encompasses problems, technologies, and ideas – it’s powered by people and their abilities, skills, and knowledge to operate within the right structure, processes, and culture (more here from the first post in this series). Human nature being what it is, it can be challenging to get your team aligned around a different way of working.

No organization can change overnight. There is plenty of research to illustrate how changes in human behavior take time even with the right scaffolding and incentives. Yet a small team can punch way above its weight with the right methods for making progress and tools to measure it.

Once you’ve established why your innovation practice exists and assembled the right team, it’s time to figure out exactly what elements (and people) within your organization need to be connected, when, and where. Do this while increasing the volume of opportunities for the organization and the velocity of learning and progress.

Assemble a minimum viable team

This will look different in each organization that adopts it, but the initial innovation team is typically and intentionally small, somewhere between seven and 14 people, including informal allies. Some have started smaller and been highly successful, like the Defense Logistics Agency Technology Accelerator. However, additional personnel, even those contributing part-time or in their spare time, simply increase the probability of early and transformative wins. This is critical to maintaining buy-in and support from leadership and – just as important – the internal and external customers of the Innovation Pipeline® (e.g., capability developers, end-users).

  • The senior champion is a General Officer (GO) or the civilian equivalent (Senior Executive Service) unafraid to challenge the status quo – and if they made it to this level of seniority while doing so, they also know precisely how the legacy system works in practice (vice on paper) and they have a strong network to navigate it.
  • The full-time innovation project leaders (at least two to start) are generalists with a broad and diverse range of experience and networks to draw from. They have always leaned into their job, leaving it better than they found it. They are disciplined yet creative, rigorous yet personable, and are probably seen as a “fast riser” or “up and comer,” despite a reputation for comparatively risky decisions within the legacy execution system.
  • The part-time problem scoping liaison (at least three to start) are natural collaborators with a growth mindset. These team members are always looking to make improvements wherever they go and seem to find opportunities at every turn. If you ask them for information, they’re forthcoming. Instead of who is it for?, they ask, when do you need it? and what comes next?
  • A procurement or contracts specialist who is known as the go-to person in your organization and will not shy from the creativity required to be innovative. They get things done faster than their peers, seemingly without breaking a sweat.
  • Numerous on-call allies with whom you have a personal relationship, who are tired of the status quo and would jump at the chance to stealthily use their expertise to help change organizational performance.

Give them clear responsibilities

— Senior Champion: This is the most important connection to the traditional execution system within your organization. This individual provides top cover for the team, and owns the innovation thesis or purpose driving the innovation practice. The champion also removes barriers and creates workarounds (often via policy or doctrinal exceptions) when the team inevitably runs into a bureaucratic roadblock.

— Innovation Project Leader: Leads individual innovation projects, ushering them through the Innovation Pipeline® from problem sourcing and curation to the scaling of a new capability, like a mini CEO. They will:

  • Identify and test critical assumptions to validate solutions
  • Use proven methods for making progress (e.g., Lean Startup, design thinking, beneficiary discovery, minimum viable product testing, root cause analysis, user experience and user interface testing, rapid prototyping)
  • Rely on proven tools for recording and measuring progress (e.g., Investment Readiness Level, Adoption Readiness Level)
  • Alert the senior champion if something is stuck and a workaround or exception is needed

— Problem Scoping Liaison: This is a part-time role, performed while the individual is already embedded in offices, divisions, or external organizations served by the innovation system. They are your eyes and ears, working to continuously:

  • Collect innovation opportunities
  • Scope innovation projects through a formulaic, easily trained methodology
  • Recruit the right people to innovation projects based on their relationship to prioritized problems (e.g., end-users, subject matter experts, even saboteurs)

— On-call Allies: Finally, you have your allies, almost like assets planted deep behind enemy lines, waiting for your call. They are essential to achieving that goal of delivering at least one new capability within 15 months. Until your innovation practice has an alluring reputation, you’ll have to recruit these people through personal relationships. The common persona is someone tired of the status quo, with a growth mindset, an intrepreneurial spirit, who has been heroically innovating, and is dying to work within a team of like-minded heroes. Just imagine how the Avengers come together in a Marvel movie. In a way, they simply just find each other. These team members can provide:

  • IT for security and network integration
  • Engineering support to evaluate technical feasibility of new capabilities
  • Legal, policy, and human resources experts for essential advice

Train them

Now, your Avengers need a common framework and language for innovation. Your core team will be moving faster than ever before (and get uncomfortable doing so). They need the innovation basics to ground them in their new world, accelerate collaboration, and reduce the uncertainty associated with innovating. For starters, train them:

  • How to conduct beneficiary discovery interviews
  • How to turn assumptions into facts by generating and testing critical hypotheses
  • How to articulate and properly refine problems that others, without domain knowledge, can understand and contribute to solving (problem curation)
  • How to identify and recruit a coalition of stakeholders around each problem
  • The basics of Lean Startup and design thinking

Next, you’ll operationalize the pipeline by generating deal flow in the form of problems, curating them, discovering solutions by testing critical hypotheses, then incubating and transitioning solutions into enduring capabilities.

Image credits: BMNT

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Accelerate Your Mission

Moving Beyond Luck, Genius and Heroics

Accelerate Your Mission - Moving Beyond Luck, Genius and Heroics

BMNT Editor’s note: This blog series will explain the common beginner-steps needed to get an innovation practice off the ground, like creating an innovation thesis, organizing a minimum viable team, operationalizing the Innovation Pipeline®, leveraging world-class universities, and more. And if you already have an innovation practice, consider this a way to update or improve what you already have, because if you’re not learning, you’re already behind the curve.

GUEST POST from Brian Miller

Today’s complex era requires that governments adapt to emerging challenges by harnessing novel technologies, fostering a resilient workforce, and embracing new ways of doing business. To some, this means simply increasing research and development budgets and establishing clear national objectives. Yet this moment requires something more foundational: a new doctrine.

There is currently no doctrinal clarity or operational support for innovation at any level of the US government, so while increased spending and transformative goals will help, what the nation really needs is the implementation of a disciplined system designed to innovate and a workforce trained to use it.

Our traditional systems were designed for an earlier era of greater predictability and government-led technology development. They no longer work as intended. The current approach is not maintaining, let alone improving, the capabilities available to national decision-makers. Moreover, relying on luck, genius, or heroics to get the job done is not sustainable – if it ever was.

The US government simply lacks the capacity for enterprise innovation because the human (abilities, skills, knowledge) and organizational (structure, processes, culture) capabilities pertaining to innovation are insufficient.

These deficiencies manifest in several ways, including but not limited to:

  • Poor understanding of problems and opportunities across an enterprise
  • Disconnect between capability development and end-users
  • Limited success solving hard problems programmatically
  • The process for creating requirements is not rigorous
  • Acquisition personnel are required to make assumptions years ahead of time

At BMNT, we work with large government organizations seeking to fix or create a sustainable innovation practice in order to reliably produce transformative results.

This Mission Acceleration series is designed to share some of the common learnings and recommendations from years of supporting the lifecycle of civic innovation in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere.

This first post explains the high, hard goals: implementing a structure to guide innovation and training workers how to use it. Subsequent posts will share other common beginner-steps to creating a sustainable innovation pipeline.

1. Implement a structure designed to innovate

Investing in innovation differs significantly from other types of decision-making. Large organizations need a reliable system to address the inherent risk associated with innovation projects. The system that fuels the necessary risk management approach is called the Innovation Pipeline®. It’s a separate but parallel structure designed for enterprise innovation that complements the legacy systems of large government organizations.

At its core, it’s a framework, helping senior decision-makers link various methods, tools, and activities into a system that is repeatable and scalable. It does not focus solely on technology, which will conceal the issues around value, usability, and adoption. It does not focus solely on end-users or the organization. Instead, it’s the means to assess all three dimensions, and it maximizes the probability that each innovation project delivers a solution that solves a real, mission-critical problem in a way that the organization can sustain at enterprise scale.

The Innovation Pipeline is necessary for many reasons, but principally because innovation projects are not simply smaller versions of existing programs. Resources are first invested in validating a project, and only after validation are significant investments made in deploying a new capability. This ensures an organization has addressed the three main sources of risk associated with any innovation project:

  • Desirability (users need it and key stakeholders will adopt it)
  • Feasibility (it can be built affordably)
  • Viability (there is a pathway through the bureaucracy to deliver it)

2. Professionalize an innovation-capable workforce

An innovation system encompasses problems, technologies, and ideas – but it’s powered by people. Yet people can only innovate if they are trained to do so. An accountable innovation training program consists of three main thrusts:

  • Energize networks within and outside government to rigorously test solutions against specific mission-critical problems
  • Provide a common language, methodologies, and tools to generate evidence for resource decisions
  • Generate buy-in and support from key stakeholders responsible for transitioning and sustaining capabilities

What we’ve learned is that a training program must address three levels of the organization in order to begin to change human and organizational capabilities.

  • Senior leaders (via a 1-day offsite to build consensus and commitment about how to permanently improve organizational effectiveness)
  • Innovation program managers (via a multi-day executive training course, plus weekly check-ins as part of a practicum)
  • Innovation project leaders (via multi-day basic and intermediate training courses, plus weekly check-ins as part of a practicum)

Eventually, the entire workforce can be harnessed to innovate.

Next in the series: Why your organization needs an innovation thesis and how to create one.

Image credits: BMNT

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