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Sandeep Nath
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July 13, 2021

INSIGHTS ARTICLE: RENEWALism.com - Sandeep Nath: Using Operational Excellence for Innovation Execution

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Using Operational Excellence for Innovation Execution
 
What is Innovation? If you examine the basics when one innovates one makes the variables redundant. When the iPod came into the world, it didn’t matter whether 33 rpm was better or 45. Whether the right tool for rewinding a tape was a pencil or a screwdriver. It didn’t even matter whether market research showed up a need for the product.
 
Innovation directly grabs the market and shakes it into a new paradigm. But does that apply to every innovative idea? Clearly not, or else with 7 billion thinking humans, we could be in a perpetual shake. So why aren’t we? Because it takes a structured system behind the innovation to bring it to fruition. And that system relies on the three Operational Ps, which are:
 
1. Purpose
 
Organizations can be set up with various purposes. For the sake of understanding, let’s take three:
• To disrupt the market
• To serve a defined market
• To cash in an opportunity
 
An organization that is conceived with the purpose of disrupting the market is very different from one set up to serve a market or cash in an opportunity. Microsoft saw the opportunity where IBM didn’t and moved in. While it evolved to serve with its basket of products, Apple aimed at disruption starting with a concept as obscure as a font.
 
Naturally, therefore, Apple’s DNA has been about making the variables redundant. The approach – while Jobs was there – was to think ahead of the customer and build a wow-factor into every product. Arguably, by now, the iPhone would have become less hardware and more projection-ware. And that demonstrates how, when Purpose changes (twice at Apple), innovation goes down the toilet.
 
2. Process
 
Using operational excellence for innovation execution links directly into the processes set up within your system for taking innovation to scale. Without the right communication and marketing, even the iPod could have slid under wherever biodegradable toilet seat covers went. Without financial planning to scale up, it could have been a fond memory, a blip.
 
So how do you structure processes to move from point A to point B? How do you ensure that inter-departmental processes and workflow are continuous and seamless to avoid waste and inefficiencies? Do you evaluate customer demands to ensure that your organization is operating on the feedback and not expending resources on more than what is necessary?
 
3. People
 
The crux of organizations running with/on Purpose and Processes is People. While leadership (like Jobs) is important, the operations are carried out by the rank and file which are the real people that must be aligned in two ways.
 
One, every JD, KRA, and reporting matrix must map with the organization’s vision, values, and purpose. If not, this misalignment will cause organizational stress as individuals work at cross-purposes and their output is anything but innovative. And two, every individual must be in internal alignment of body, mind, and spirit, so that what they do, say, and feel is congruent and supportive to the overall dynamic of operational culture. With this, execution will become stress-free within teams, despite differences.
 
To conclude, organizations driving an innovation agenda must constantly review their operational Ps. While the right inputs of people, process, and purpose can heighten innovation execution, a more innovative company might not necessarily have the Ps set in place, which makes the possibility of sustaining innovation questionable. 

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