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Performing the perfect combo: Change management, innovation

Posted: 21 Mar 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:change management  innovation  supply chain  B2B  iPhone 

Innovation and change management work side by side. Although it is relatively easy to innovate, getting the entire organisation to adopt that change is more problematic, even though we all know that change is the only thing that is constant. For supply chains, where conformity is favoured over individuality, it gets even more challenging.

There are many reasons for it, including: 1) Nobody likes a change in the status quo; 2) People are territorial, and nobody wants to lose their territory; 3) Organisational inertia makes it much easier to do things the same old way; 4) Embracing the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality; and 5) People in general are risk averse. Nobody wants to risk what they have and where they have gotten.

So the critical task is not just innovating, but also fostering that innovation in a way that gains adoption. Without buy-in, it's simply too easy to abandon a truly great and innovative idea.

I've experienced it in our business. For example, one customer, with the data centre GM acting as champion, bought and installed our product. A sudden management shift brought in a new DC GM and the product remained unused...and the potential for innovation was lost despite huge potential upside.

Another customer, on the other hand, installed the product and loved it. They asked us for more features, and they tweaked their infrastructure to get the most out of the solution.

Their feedback has helped us improve our product. And their enthusiasm was heartening too, as they told us how much better their work went. In the early days, adoption was a struggle, but the leadership asked us to do additional training and share tips and tricks. Eventually, everyone got on board. Older workers liked the improved ergonomics, and the ability to personalise the font size. Younger folks liked using familiar technology. Without the extra work, though, adoption might not have happened.

Innovation

Figure 1: Although change management and innovation go hand in hand, it is comparatively easy to innovate, but getting the entire organisation to adopt that change is trickier.

Any innovation needs tweaking and final touches to make sure the user experience is 100 per cent easy and smooth. That work can be done only by working closely working with the end users, listening to their feedback and incorporating their suggestions.

When Steve Jobs had the initial iPhone prototypes built, he started using it. Scratches on the screen annoyed him—and the ultimate design was improved. An article in Business Insider told the tale this way: Steve had been using a prototype iPhone for a few weeks, carrying it around in his pocket. When his lieutenants were assembled, he pulled the prototype out of his pocket and pointed angrily to dozens of scratches on its plastic screen. People would carry their phones in their pockets, Steve said. They would also carry other things in their pockets like keys. And those things would scratch the screen. And then, with Apple just about to ramp up iPhone production, Steve demanded that the iPhone's screen be replaced with unscratchable glass. "I want a glass screen," Steve is quoted as saying. "And I want it perfect in six weeks."

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