Archive for October, 2010

Incentivizing Innovation in your Organization

October 31, 2010

To encourage the employees to continue innovative thinking and active participation, the organization should reward all contributions by employees based on the range of success and effectiveness of the ideas. Compensation should be reworked to include a percentage towards work outside those tasks described in the standard Job Description.

Employees should be incentivized to utilize them more often. Employees should be made to realize that they should change their mindset to the new culture or be left out. Each one should be given a target of a certain number of ideas in a year (if not half-yearly). This will keep everyone on their toes and look out for options to help the organization.

The appraisal process/system of organization should be tweaked to include the additional participation / projects that will be undertaken by the employees. The daily tasks will be the basis for their fixed part of the salary while the extra ones will determine the variable salary that will be paid out by the organization.

Stock options would be another route to consider rewarding the high-performing employees.

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Using Tools to help employees Innovate

October 29, 2010

To enable employees start thinking about what they are good at, any organization should enable the leaders with various tools and technologies. These should be deployed as a continuous process within the organization, not just a one-time exercise.

The first tool that needs to be institutionalized is one that gives information about all projects that are initiated by the organization. This will be web-based Project Management software, accessible on the intranet to all. Employees will have visibility on the new projects and have the option to express their interest to work on the program. Each project will have an initial Ramp-up Period by when the employees are expected to express their interest. Once the period closes, the Manager designated for the Project will take a decision on his team members. Projects can be initiated by employees also – not only the Managers. Like Google’s policy, employees should be given the option to utilize 20% of their time (roughly one day a week) for these individual projects. A designated Sponsor will approve the project
for further progress, based on the alignment with organization’s core values of entrepreneurship, solidarity and responsibility. This tool will help the employees know about the ongoing projects and participate in those that interest them.

The next tool ideally will be an internal Idea Junction. All employees will have the ability to write ideas on how the organization or they will benefit from. These ideas will have the visibility all the way to Senior Management. Other employees can comment/vote on these ideas so that the Management can select the best idea of the month and implement it. This gives the employees a sense of ownership within the organization. Another tool that can be implemented within the organization is that of a Knowledge-Base. Employees can ask questions and answer them, related to various topics. This tool will help those who are experts in their designated areas explain issues/queries to those who are still learning. Along the process, the tool will very soon become a hub of knowledge.

One can search through the tool and retrieve valuable information across diverse areas. Levels can be assigned to employees based on their answers or comments. Thus, they will transition from Amateurs to Knowledgeable to Experts based on their participation. This will give an added fillip to their standing within the organization and makes everyone aware of the skills that are available. This tool will help the organization on how they can make these available skills visible in the organization. It is quite surprising to look at the results when one reaps the benefits of such a tool implemented well.

There are a number of Open Source Software available on the Internet that can be utilized for these. One can easily install it with little effort and configure/customize to use it internally, reducing the associated costs to the minimum.

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Sustaining Innovation with Leadership

October 28, 2010

Leadership plays an important role in sustaining Innovation within an organization. Commitment and Patience are two most important attributes that the Leaders will be expected to have in the new setup. Commitment to new initiatives suggested by the employees and the patience to stick with them through the lean times. “If there’s a glimmer of hope, you’re encouraged to keep a project going and see if it could become a big thing” says Bob Doak, who leads a Gore plant in Dundee, Scotland.

Projects might fail initially but that is where the Leaders are expected to analyze where things went wrong and take corrective steps in subsequent projects so that same mistakes are not made over and again. As we all know, making mistakes is not an issue. Making the same mistakes repeatedly is an offense. Leaders will be expected to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Counseling the employees who do such mistakes will be the responsibility of Leaders. They will be expected not only provide creative inputs themselves but also play the role of enablers.

Leaders are also expected to give their employees a long haul and be patient enough to reap the benefits of the new culture. Often, this is where organizations fail. A couple of projects fall through and the Leadership is fast to move back to their old ways. Traveling unchartered territories obviously has its own risks and rewards and patience is one virtue that Leaders will possess in abundance. The attitude should be to make the initiative a success – if that is made clear to the leaders, the good ones will come up with proactive ideas and suggestions on how to clear the hurdles that come their way.

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Instilling an Innovation Culture

October 27, 2010

To instill an Innovation Culture in the organization, the first step is to introduce an Open Culture. If an organization has a Flat structure, then that itself is a good first step. A flat structure enables Innovation in a great manner by giving employees more opportunities to make a difference. Extensive hierarchies in an organization size of 700 impacts the growth negatively. Not just the structures, the creation of project teams also influence the success of the projects. In fact, some organizations encourage project team members to choose their Managers, rather than the other way around. Communication between the employees and Managers should be direct and without any barriers. Like W.L.Gore who insisted on direct, one-on-one communication, anyone in the company should speak to anyone else.

Culture plays an important role in transforming the organization from their current thinking of “Doing what the job description states”. Setting expectations on employees like what WL Gore did (As a Gore “associate,” you’re supposed to morph your role over time to match your skills. You’re not expected to fit into some preconceived box or standardized organizational niche), will be one of the steps that Organization can take. Town-hall meetings are necessary to drive home the new message to employees.

Are the employees currently happy to do the tasks as defined by their Managers. If they are not, then there is a worry. Is it a matter of capability or attitude of the employees? A bit of both, one might say, without having too much insight to the character of employees. The employees should first move to a phase where along with their thinking, they will have to identify what they are good at.

How does one do it? There are various psychometric tests that can identify strengths and weaknesses of individuals clearly. It has been noticed that employees find it difficult to list out their strong areas – this is where the organization can help them in bringing in external consultants who can not only conduct these tests but also interpret the
results for better results.

Once they have identified the key areas, they can move to the phase of “Doing what you can do well”. Employees should be encouraged to think outside their standard job descriptions regularly – incentives should be put in place that will reward them accordingly.

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Utilizing the available talent in Organizations

October 26, 2010

Talents are special skills present in each individual – each one diverse and different from the other. Each one is endowed with a different gift when born – one adds to it by his effort, character and discipline. If the employees are able to utilize their talent to the maximum extent, it relates to a better work-life and higher levels of satisfaction at work.

The first aspect is to change the culture of any organization to foster innovation – the mindset of employees must change from reactive to proactive approach. This can happen effectively by instilling a good organization policy with Senior Management Commitment. Once the employees see the change occurring around them, they will start coming up on their own, with suggestions and improvements.

Policy changes should work in line with the tools that capture these ideas from the employees. Adequate tools have to be installed within an organization so that there is no leakage of ideas/projects. Tools to capture ideas internally and later on, from customers will definitely result in a number of ideas being generated.

Culture has been changed to enable innovation; Tools are in place to capture the ideas from the employees – what next? Leaders. Since the employees will explore uncharted territories in the new set-up, they will need to look up to the Leaders to mentor and motivate them through the process. Employees with potential, if present internally, must be given responsibilities to Mentor and Motivate others. If not available, external candidates must be hired for the vital positions.

Employees need to be rewarded for their efforts in coming up with pro-active ideas. There is a need for an appropriate incentive policy for the employees. With all these changes in place, an organization is definitely on the way to maximising the talents available in the organization to the maximum.

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