Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.
Innovation seems to be the new mantra for companies -- even though it has affected and shaped all aspects of our lives. And innovation covers not only the creation of a product, but also includes the process to produce it, how it's delivered to customers and even how value is generated, both for the company and the customer.
Some argue that processes and policies are barriers to innovation. These people confuse innovation with creativity and believe that trying to implement a well-thought-out, standardized process to manage innovation will constrain the results. But the opposite is true: A method for innovation sets the ground for achieving success in an efficient way. After all, creativity is only a part of a more complex innovation process, driven by project management -- and as such, you could say that project management is the vessel for innovation. That's because the best way to guarantee your organization's innovation efforts are well-managed, successful and deriving true value is through the use of program and project management tools. In addition, portfolio management can help define where to invest innovation dollars.
The problem is that those in the innovation field do not necessarily see project management as a useful tool, and those in project management do not feel that what they do is so beneficial to the innovation process. But let me give you seven processes to break down those perceptions for the sake of fostering innovation:
Innovation happens in a company or a project team when leadership sets up a culture and environment for it. Senior management should first define why innovation is important, how success is going to be measured and how it will be rewarded.
Define a standardized innovation project life cycle. This definition should include a description of the interim products that are expected at the end of each of the major phases.
Innovation is a social process: It's about the people in the process. Creativity and new ideas always come from different sources. Therefore, flexibility, constant team interactions and empowerment of team members should be embedded in the process.
Innovation is all about failure. Enough room to fail fosters creativity and eliminates barriers that could seriously limit our ability to change. But knowing when to stop a failed project is also important. Leave bad ideas quickly.
Always pilot-test what you are proposing before taking it to a full scale. Gain enough data to either modify what was defined initially or to definitely cancel it, if the product or service developed is not successful.
Innovation doesn't have to mean new product development. Manufacturing processes, delivery, distribution, customer experience and financing are all fertile grounds for innovation.
Project management itself needs to be innovative. Adapt the tools and techniques to the type of projects that you have. If you think, for example, that agile or lean tools can be beneficial, test them and use them.
For organizations that compete on a global scale -- that is, most companies -- innovation can be their most important competitive advantage and the factor that guarantees long-term success. Innovation might sound like the flavor of the month, but in the future, success will be on the side of organizations that know how to do it and excel at it.
How does project management foster innovation at your organization?