It’s one thing to have an innovation strategy and quite another to have the right plan to execute it. Many companies have the former but struggle with the latter. So how do you ensure you realize the innovation strategy your team has worked so hard to craft? Here are eight tips for creating greater alignment between your innovation plan and execution.
Define and capture your innovation strategy
It starts with capturing your objectives and key results (OKRs). While this step may sound elemental, many companies don’t build out definable and measurable OKRs. There’s no intuitive way to determine whether you’ve hit OKRs if they’re nebulous.
The same goes for key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics. There must be easily understood metrics to measure progress toward achieving the strategy and KPIs that show that you’ve arrived at your strategy destination.
Every strategy should have a statement of the resource investment required to execute it. Unfortunately, many strategies skip this step. And that’s a mistake. There must be a clear link between the resources and investments necessary to fund them.
Identify strategy owners and stakeholders
A successful innovation strategy shows clear lines to who owns the strategy and those with a vested interest in it. Typically parties funding the strategy have the most ownership, as they fund the components necessary for success. Depending on the organization, a wide range of stakeholders will need continuous updates to see how the strategy’s stated KPIs align with initial projections.
Keeping strategy owners and stakeholders in the loop is critical when sudden changes throw the strategy off course. Sharing potential issues with this group early can help to address them quickly while leaving stakeholders in the dark will only exacerbate the problem and erode trust.
Define governance, review process and cadence
Before any innovation initiative commences, a clearly defined governance approach must be in place. While governance provides the necessary guide rails to enable predictable and repeatable innovation, governance should also be flexible enough to allow teams and departments to work the way they need to work in order to move the strategy forward. It’s also important to know who will review the governance plan and what information they need.
Have a list of personal actions
Everyone involved in an innovation plan should find ways to hold themselves accountable. I’ve found that creating a personal action plan is highly rewarding and beneficial to make the contributions that help propel an innovation strategy. Identify the specific actions you can take and how you plan to accomplish them.
It’s also beneficial for team members to share their plans to uncover action items you might not have considered. This kind of collaboration is critical to the emerging InnovationOps approach, which is centered on bringing together people and processes with innovation jobs to be done.
Apply a risk management approach
It’s impossible to reduce innovation risk to zero, but there are ways to minimize risk to its lowest possible levels in an innovation strategy. Take an objective look at the strategy—IE, remove rose-colored glasses—and identify all the potential risks that could prevent the organization from reaching its goals. Then, work diligently to have plans to identify, report and mitigate those risks should they occur.
Create success scorecards
Look at the plan and give it a likelihood of success score. It can be as simple as scoring it from 1-10. Not all innovation plans will be scored the same. Incremental innovation—like new product revisions or features—will have a higher success probability than transformative innovation.
Risk and reward will factor in how willing an organization will be to move forward with a lower-scored plan. To that end, it’s important to determine an acceptable score based on the project and what actions can be taken to improve the likelihood of success.
Tie initiatives and projects to strategy
Indicate how an initiative supports a strategy and think about how you plan to communicate that insight. If initiatives don’t align with the strategy, look for ways to make that connection. If you can’t, then the initiative probably needs to be discarded.
Concentrating on data that helps tie initiatives and products to strategy is also essential. Consider the OKRs your project will impact and which KPIs make the most sense for your project to measure.
Take a portfolio management approach
Think about all the initiatives to support a strategy and identify which are most important. If more funding is needed, identify if too many initiatives are being funded within the strategy. From there, you can extend that to multiple strategies.
Successful execution of an innovation strategy requires careful planning, alignment and accountability throughout the organization. By following the eight tips, companies can enhance the alignment between their innovation plan and execution, increasing their chances of success.