Innovation Development is an unusual organizational process. Keep in mind these attributes when you design and operate your process and the productivity of your projects will benefit from this sound structure.
A Formal Development Process Is Needed
A formal process is required to ensure completeness and reach across functions of the organization. Innovation Development is an activity not often practiced in an organization. There are relatively few development projects and the people on each one often change from project to project. Development should also involve many representatives of the organization whose primary job is not development. Therefore, a formal process is essential to guide the participants and ensure best practices and completeness.
Organized and Non-Sequential
As discussed previously, Innovation Development is chaotic and seldom orderly and sequential. As such, organize accordingly. Have a well organized, clearly defined set of potential tasks that are grouped by commonality. Four to seven major activity groups are typical. I prefer four – Select, Design, Build and Market. Within each of these groups are subgroups and tasks. You can pick and choose what is appropriate to the project. There are probably also new tasks that you may not have encountered in a previous project. These are the unknowns that you should prioritize to know. These are groups of tasks, not necessarily steps and definitely not sequential.
Innovation Development is multi-functional activity. Everyone needed participates from day one. This is a tried and true essential discipline that ensures that all persons that will implement the innovation into the organization and deliver it to its Customers is involved from the beginning to understand their role when it is time to perform.
The simultaneous completion of tasks is encouraged. The project should move ahead deliberately without delay. Precedent tasks, due to needed information or to minimize rework or waste, are few and should be dynamically monitored not rigorously enforced. Do what is right for the project not a procedure constructed without knowledge of the specifics of each innovation.
Innovation Development processes should be scalable. This primarily means making the tasks fit the needs of the project. Procedures must be flexible to accommodate the specific requirements of the innovation development. Often this means a group of tasks to be checked for necessity and completion rather than a rote procedure to follow. If a task is clearly unnecessary for the project, delete it, or better yet, identify why it was unneeded for this project. Conversely, if a project unknown demands more tasks, add them in to the process. The groups of activities should be organized in a hierarchical manner. Not only is this helpful for task scalability, it is helpful for resource scalability as subtasks can be delegated to team members as required.
A documented process is simply best practice. For an ISO 9000 registered organization, it may be a requirement. A benefit of a documented process is that it assists infrequent participants in understanding the process and their role in it. However, the most important benefit of a documented process is that it “Maintains the Gains” by recording best practice.
Development is a great opportunity for organizational learning. There are few other activities where the organization is intentionally trying to do something new and better. As such, employ practices that encourage the retention of what was learned. Brief reports of key project activities stored in a searchable format is one important way to formalize learning and pass it on for future innovations. A “reflection event” reviewing the good and bad outcomes of the project is another form of learning. Of course, all of the learning should result in revisions to the process to maintain the gains.