“We develop skunk works projects, taking an idea from concept to working model or prototype. We then put the prototype in front of our management team and use it to help the team understand the value of our idea. And then I face the dilemma: Either be patient and build consensus, or move ahead without the full team’s support. My sense is that it’s time for a change in approach — time for more personal risk-taking and less conventional wisdom.” “Speed To Market Battles Consensus-Building,” John McGreavy, Information Week, May 16, 2011, pg 14.
I’m not a great fan of “speed to market trumps all else.” I’ve seen this used to produce some pretty poor products and justify some pretty poor management practices. Fortunately “John McGreavy” (Information Week’s “Secret CIO”), while concerned about speed to market, presents some great insights into how he goes about innovating to achieve speed to market as seen in the quotes above. I am a great fan of piloting and incubating ideas and techniques before turning them into projects to improve the organization (or product). This helps ensure ideas are well understood and provides a core of experts to help get them into use.
McGreavy is concerned, however, about it taking too long to get a consensus and get the innovation into use. He seems to be drifting to the “dark side” and considering pressing on without everyone’s buy in. My advice? Just do it. In my experience, taking the risk to innovate trumps patience. The drawback, again in my experience, is that it generates a lot of “what the heck are you doing” and “why are you not being a team player” negative feedback.
The impatient, let’s just do it, approach is not necessarily fun unless I am looking back on what we have successfully accomplished. During the effort it can be painful and it may feel like too much of the organization is rooting against us. Our most senior managers may not be objecting, but they are strangely silent and watching as we push forward. Innovating just seems to have that effect, primarily because people are often resistant to change (that they don’t initiate).
Making the big change is rarely safe and painless. If we want to be leaders in such a change, we will often be taking on a lot of personal risk. Being smart about innovating, and even a little impatient, can be a great project management tool for taking our projects or organization to the next level of performance.
How did your organization’s last great innovation get started?