By Heather Fraser. It’s an exciting time of reawakening – with a rich stream of design-inspired frameworks, methodologies and tools being brought to market right now. That’s a welcomed, and direly needed, stream of new thinking. While team creativity, collaboration and ingenuity can lead to remarkable breakthroughs in terms of innovative solutions and distinct strategies for success, all that forward momentum can sadly come to a grinding halt in a rigid legacy management system that doesn’t support new models of value-creation. It is all to common that new ideas hit the wall in the face of structures, systems and measurements that support old ways of doing business. Common killer comments about breakthrough ideas include:
- “We can’t do that because we are not structured to work across divisions.”
- “Our systems only support selling to retailers in a defined way.”
- “What gets measured gets treasured, and this idea doesn’t fit with our current measures of success”.
The design of management systems is a critical ‘last mile’ to support the job to be done, and define what needs to be measured to monitor and assess performance against goals. New value-creating solutions and a new enterprise strategy to deliver them often call for an evolution or even revolution in management and measurement systems. Inserting a new solution and strategy into existing systems can sometimes be counter-productive and can impede progress. By identifying what support systems are required and what measurements need to be put in place to gauge the success of a new strategy, the enterprise will be better able to make business decisions that support responsible progress. It is critical to be explicit in these areas and ensure alignment at the outset of your quest to activate new ideas.
The key questions you will need to address are: What systems need to be put in place to implement and manage the new vision effectively? What do you need to measure progress, and how will you manage the things that matter most? Here are some considerations that organizations have found helpful in resolving tensions and moving forward with new-to-the-enterprise business ideas, as highlighted in my book, Design Works: How to Tackle Your Toughest Innovation Challenges through Business Design.
Consider what management systems are needed to support your quest, using the following as guidelines:
- What systems need to be in place to execute effectively? These could include new go-to-market systems, inventory-management systems, quality-control systems, communication systems, or recruiting practices. These are essentially the systems and protocols that will enable you to deliver your solutions to market effectively and efficiently.
- What systems are currently in place? Assessing your current management systems and processes will identify what systems are already in place and embedded in the way you do business. In an existing enterprise, these are often a key factor in your go-to-market and operational success.
- Leverage and reconcile gaps and tensions. You may have some systems that will give you a good start. There may also be systems that could impede progress because they support the current way of doing business but not a new strategy. Identify what you can leverage, what new systems you will need to establish, and, importantly, where there may be conflict in management systems.
- Design how your system will integrate and be explicit about conflicts. This is important in assessing how you will manage your new initiative or strategy and getting alignment from others on how you will move forward.
Define what metrics and methods of measurement will be most relevant and actionable. Using an approach similar to one for designing management systems, ask questions like: How will you measure progress? How does this fit (or not) with your current decision-making measures? Often a new idea calls for measuring new dimensions of progress. Here are some things to consider:
- Business Results. Define your goals and the key factors that will demonstrate business performance, and include sales (dollars or units), costs, profit, points of distribution, turnover, and so on. These may be the same measures you currently use, or you may need to adjust them.
- Quantitative tracking research. These are key ‘indicators’ that you might want to track. Questions are often closed-ended and focus on predetermined indicators of success. These could include awareness, trial, adoption, satisfaction, referrals, repurchase, loyalty, or frequency of use. These are the quantitative measures you will want to keep your eye on and course-correct as necessary.
- Qualitative research. This will provide new insights that may emerge unexpectedly as you ‘learn your way to success’ and can give you new ideas on how to enhance customer value or correct a deficiency. If certain expected results aren’t being achieved, explore this openly with customers. Who knows better about what is working, or not working, than your customers? Instead of assuming what is broken, conduct interviews with your customers to find out their key complaints. This type of research is open-ended, and is a source of ongoing discovery, inspiration, and valuable feedback.
Many organizations’ experience shows that success in bringing breakthrough ideas to the market is ultimately determined by the design of the most appropriate management systems – ones that pave the way to the market in an operationally effective and efficient way, removing ‘systems barriers’ and establishing the most effective learning and decision-making pathways. Without that ‘final mile of design’, great ideas will never see the light of day.