Project Management

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Topics: Innovation, Organizational Culture, Using PMI Standards
What role does innovation play in project management practices? Is it possible to innovate within a project, or a framework, and where is the line between the need to meet metrics and improve future
In most projects, there are opportunities to innovate. Is there a right time to introduce them, or are they acceptable throughout? Is not meeting metrics of the current project worth the investment for reduction of cost or improvement of quality in future projects? What methodologies outside of the PMI framework exist to facilitate this?
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I'll leave my two cents here, first, even though I work in "innovation", innovation for innovation sake, is obsessing with a tool instead of the reason why you need it.

Many companies and enterprises FEEL the need to innovate, which if you come to think about it, is like going back to middle school, all the cool kids are doing it, hence you must too, because there's this fear of missing out the cool wave, and because head honchos live fearing being disrupted somehow by someone somewhere, but you know, FEAR has never been a good adviser specially when it is about business.

What we need are great products and services that DELIGHT the consumer, (human, non human, corporation, country or whatever), meeting and fulfilling the needs of them is what is really paramount, surely we have already a product or service that covers it, but there's always a place for improvement or "disruption", but the onus of this should never leave the idea of what your costumer needs.

In my career i've seen lots of innovation labs, innovation initiatives, and white whale big kahuna projects meant to help to "transform" digitally entire companies, but when you ask the higher ups why you need to do so, they seldom give you a straight answer, it is just fear.

Meanwhile a humble (yet mythical) startup somewhere, is doing the legwork trying to find out how to better meet the customer needs in a better and more compelling way.

So innovation for innovation sake is a waste of resources, what you need is a good understanding of needs, also a way to find out where this world is taking us into the future, trying to see whats incoming.

Also, innovation runs on creativity, so people should stop trying to create a "recipe" to "implement" innovation, each company or enterprise got a different culture, a way to get things done, some things good, some things bad, and they MUST find their own way, you can't just hire a big paycheck consultants that would arrive with their tailor made (copyrighted-of course) digital transformation model to implement disruptive innovation in your company.

To foster creativity into your culture most companies need to leave behind old practices like scientific management, for god's sake let our friend Frederick Winslow Taylor rest in peace. His ideas were good in other centuries but they are pretty toxic to creativity, sadly as with "traditional" project management, letting it go is hard, the same way as many "old" project managers feel confused about Agile, and some end wondering what they must do now in a "agile" world.

Incidentally, not just the culture must be adapted, the way you measure things, your KPIs your OKRs, how you strategically manage things, from a very hard structure to a soft changing one, with loosely coupled organizational units with enough freedom to try.

If you wanna foster innovation, go take a look at the agile manifesto first, it would be a good start, and get the higher ups to really feel and understand that to begin with, before they hire consultants, launch initiatives, and start firing people, innovation and creativity sometimes comes from the most humble servant, even the lowly peasant of the totem pole could be the source of that killer product/service/app or whatever that you so much need, after all most humans are creative in their own way.

that's all!
Feb 25, 2020 8:06 AM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
To add to my earlier response, the word "innovation" itself has gained some unwanted baggage over time.

This is a link to an article from HBR over the past week which highlights this challenge in further detail: https://hbr.org/2020/02/stop-calling-it-innovation

Kiron
Kiron,

great article, and, as someone who has worked in innovation, the issue looms very real. The fact is that humans are not amiable to change; to change, ultimately means you are telling someone what they are doing currently is not good, or doesn't work, or could work better. To combat this, I found two strategies useful: bring the people that will be effectively affected by the change on board early, and often. This way, as active participants, they will "buy-in" earlier and have a more invested approach to adopting "their" change. Secondly, focus on the positive side of the change; instead of laying out change processes and tactical items, talk about how their job will improve with the change, and focus on the positive aspects of innovation. Thanks for sharing.
Peter,

great points you bring up. Without a clearly marked goal in mind, the projects could drag on forever. My hypothetical scenario was probably closer to a small, incremental innovation, that may impact a lot of projects. However, the funding is a great question as well; if your project sponsor does not feel like spending additional cost to assist projects that may or may not benefit them in the future, it is a valid concern. Thank you for your reply.
Kiron,

good point about regulatory guidelines, and, yes, at most times, as PMs, we are bound by guardrails that are not movable. Thank you for your reply.
Thomas,

you bring up a litany of great options. I especially like the sharing of cost, and your sentence about enhancing benefits. I think the same way; in an exponentially changing environment of business, it is our obligation to at least identify potential opportunities, and let the sponsors and CCBs decide their faith. As a PM professional, understanding what residual and future benefits an innovation may have, exceeds the scope of any project. I guess it goes back to culture; you need to build an organization that is agile (pun intended) and nimble enough to take advantage of opportunities, and leave red tape for others, making it into a competitive advantage. Yes, we won't always have the opportunity to do this, but it is probably the most important part of the lessons learned process, at the very least, to identify areas of immediate innovation, be it incremental or monumental, which can facilitate future success. Timeliness is key in the current economy, and tomorrow may be too late.
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