SECTION: PLANNING

2050912 Create a Culture of Innovation through Implementing your Strategic Plan

Published: 05.09.2012 |
Last Updated: 01.05.2013
Tara Cunningham
Tara Cunningham
Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is an internationally recognised, award-winning CEO and Social Entrepreneur with proven leadership in critical thinking, operations, and strategic change management.  She is an Ashoka Fellow and appointee to the Board of the National Disability Authority.  

Preparing an organisational strategy is one of the most important things a Founder or CEO must do.  A good strategy will involve: all internal and external stakeholders; quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the past strategies successes or failures; garner insights (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) from all members of the team; develop goals that will bring the organisation to the next level; research best practice worldwide and apply it to those new goals; innovate and finally implement and make changes as appropriate.
Often however, once the strategy is published, it is placed on a shelf and forgotten about, only to be dusted off three years later when the new strategy needs to be developed.  This is a critical managerial mistake.  The best CEOs and leaders understand that the organisation’s Strategic

Planning is a moving target, a living document.
Any strategy agreed upon must be developed to fit the culture of the organisation.  If the culture does not allow for change, then strategy formulation is a waste of time.
Most executive teams know the long-term strategic goals of their organisation as they must answer to their Boards; unfortunately, most staff do not have a notion of where their day-to-day work fits in on any strategic level.  This always leads to staff at the bottom feeling there is a lack of communication between them and the top levels.
More crucially, the executives at the top miss out on the expertise from those delivering your services—opportunities your organisation could use to consistently innovate and thereby bring higher visibility and funding to your work.

What is innovation strategy and why is it important for your organisation?
In today’s corporate world, if you are not constantly innovating, your company will not survive.  For example, every six months a digital camera becomes completely obsolete.  Technology is driving harder and faster – just as the current economic crisis has turned the not-for-profit sector on its head, socially, politically and financially.
When writing our strategic plans five years ago, taking the view social media would become one of the most important methods of public relations, marketing and promotion would have been seen as irresponsible nonsense.  However today, we know that incorporating social media is as necessary, and in some cases more important than traditional communication methods.
Moving forward still, could you imagine in 2008 that you could access and use your entire business and personal computer suites with your mobile phone?  That working from home, could be translated to working as effectively on a plane, train or in your car?

Going more sector specific, innovation in the medical, therapeutic and service delivery advances are happening at record speeds; often debunking old thinking.  For example, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) funded research published in 2010 that “…discovered and confirmed the genetic basis of speech and language disorders such as stuttering” which “…may also serve to reduce the stigma that individuals are ‘not trying hard enough,’ which is often associated with these disorders.”   Retrieved from http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/about/plans/2012-2016/Pages/Recent-Advances-in-Voice-Speech-and-Language-Research.aspx on 30 August 2012.  This significant research has priority in the NIDCD’s 2012-2016 Strategic Plan.
At the same time, service providers throughout the world are creating changes to their work practices to make them more efficient and cost neutral in order to keep up with significantly reduced budgets.

Innovation strategy is a living strategy.
A strategy that is not a living document is a strategy that is useless.
Innovation requires weekly analysis of current trends, reviewing what we are doing and how we can do it differently, better and at a lower cost.  Most of today’s answers have been answered – instead of reinventing the wheel, creating a culture of innovation will have your organisation finding and adapting those answers to propel your organisation ahead of the competition.
A good strategic plan allows for a culture of innovation.  The goals in the plan should be added to and deleted over the three years to allow for progress and changes we cannot possibly foresee.  According to Rumelt (2011, p. 20) “Strategy is at least as much about what an organization does not do as it is about what it does.”

Key Elements to Create a Culture of Innovation

10%

All staff, including the CEO and Management Team should be encouraged to spend 10% of their time researching the field, finding potential collaborators or finding system-wide solutions to an operational or service-led problem.  Although many managers and staff will feel they cannot afford to spend 10% a week doing this desk research or collaboration, once put in practice they will see the positive effects on both their own and the organisation’s work.

Create SMART Goals
Goal Planning Sheet - For every root cause, or new idea sparked from a ‘ gut idea’ to desk  research etc., develop a new Goal Planning Sheet to bring the idea to completion.  SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Tangible.  LMI has developed an excellent Goal Planning Sheet (www.lmi.ie) which I have adapted over the years to help teams to implement their strategies. 

Getting Momentum behind a SMART Goal
Once a SMART Goal is verbalised, or indeed if the group cannot find the words to summate the SMART Goal, momentum can be harnessed by getting everyone to list the benefits from achieving the Goal; and conversely the losses to be avoided by achieving the Goal.
Benefits from Achieving the Goal Losses to be Avoided by Achieving the Goal


 
 
 For every obstacle – find a solution
When implementing an innovative goal, you will always find yourself up against an unforeseen obstacle; and many offices have “that guy”, the one who always complains about a certain topic, but once a solution is found, they are quick to find another obstacle. 
This obstacle, if not tackled head on, will suck the life out of the goal.  The momentum will begin to slow down and the achievement of the goal will be tenuous at best.
Instead of trying to circumvent an obstacle, use the obstacle as a potential to find another innovation to make service delivery, productivity and or innovation even better.
List out the possible obstacles, and for every obstacle, find a solution.
Possible Obstacles Possible Solutions
 
 
To find a solution you can try a number of methods. 
Naive Intelligence – This refers to the insights a person with no knowledge of your sector may have about a particular problem you are facing.  These insights are extremely powerful when trying to find solutions to a problem.
Learn from other sectors – Write a list of six adjectives that describe the people you serve.  Think about those adjectives, and who else they could describe. 

For example, the homeless community serves:
1. Isolated
2. Segregated
3. Marginalised
4. Helpless
5. Uneducated
6. Sick
Those same adjectives can describe the disabled community, the refugee community etc. 
Look at the problem you are experiencing and see what efforts, research, advocacy, program development etc. those groups have made to tackle the same problem.  See if you can localise their solutions to your sector.

5 Whys – This technique was developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation in order to improve their production system.  Basically, every “technical” problem leads to human error.  If you cannot find the solution, then find the root cause. Eric Ries, (2012) entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School, explains how to find the human causes of technical problems.  http://blogs.hbr.org/video/2012/02/the-5-whys.html

Ownership of Goals
In order to cultivate a culture of innovation, SMART Goal should have the following:

Executive Sponsor - A member of the senior management team who reports to the CEO.  The Executive Sponsor will have a number of actions under their remit throughout the three-five year strategic planning cycle.  It is their job to ensure the Goal Manager is meeting the goals targets.

Goal Manager - Is responsible for the full completion of the action and reports to the Executive Sponsor (who may or may not be in their typical chain of command).  Becoming the Goal Manager is a tremendous opportunity to take an idea for transforming the organisation through to completion.  They are in charge of keeping the team invigorated and constantly looking for new innovations / naive intelligence.

Action Owner – Every action requires an Action Owner; the person whose job it is to complete that task.  The entire team’s effort is down to the individual’s participation.  The Owner reports directly to the Goal Manager, but more importantly, is a key member of the team who will turn the Goal into a reality.

Timeline for Completion – Every action must have a time for completion, to be reviewed monthly by the Goal Manager.  Timelines will move due to the addition of new ideas, concepts or knowledge.  Pushing out dates is acceptable for proactive reasons – not having the time to do it is unacceptable.  It is the Goal Manager’s duty to ensure that timelines are managed appropriately.

Communication Plan – The last action for every single goal is a communication plan, for the internal team, executive team, service users, funders etc.

Specific Action to achieve goal Sponsor Goal Manager Action
Owner Target Date Date Reviewed Date Completed
      
 Process Model for Innovation
In order to take advantage of the full team’s knowledge, systematic reviews should take place both quarterly and monthly.
Quarterly, Senior Management teams should meet with each of their service managers to quantitatively and qualitatively look at how they are performing against the current strategic plan, and goal planning sheets.  They should be able to give the managers an update on the current financial and policy structures to inform how they progress with their individual teams.
Monthly, Managers review the current SMART Goals and how they are progressing with their team.  They also communicate applicable information regarding organisation policy, fundraising efforts etc.  Actions, time changes etc., will be reviewed and changed as appropriate.
At monthly meetings, staff members have an opportunity to present a proposed SMART Goal, using their Goal Planning Sheet, complete with proposed Sponsor, Owners, Actions, Timelines and Communication plan.  The proposer becomes the Goal Manager.
If the team feels this works with the mission, vision and values of the organisation, the objectives of the strategic plan and those of the team, it can be passed up to the Executive team for inclusion in the strategic plan. 
If the team, or an individual finds an obstacle within the proposed SMART Goal, the group must complete a ‘5 Why’ exercise to find the root cause, and create a new SMART Goal that addresses that issue.
Additions / deletions and current insights should be amended and applied to the organisations strategic plan and communicated to the organisation as a whole.

In Summary

A Strategic Plan is not worth the paper it is written on if it is not a living document.  The only thing which can bring life to the plan is its inclusion in the day-to-day operations of the organisation and the continuous input of every single stakeholder within the organisation.
Keeping the momentum going through monthly and quarterly meetings with the adaption of Goals to meet current needs will garner excitement throughout the organisation.
Very quickly you will see the culture of your organisation going from a reactive viewpoint, to an innovative and proactive one, making your organisation a leader within your sector.

 
 

My Top Tips
Top Tips
1
Set 10% of your work week for planning, strategy, innovation, implementation.
2
For every obstacle, find a solution.
3
Use naïve intelligence to gain insights.
4
Set achievable, measurable, time lined goals for implementation. Review quarterly.
Suggested reading
1
Richard Rumelt (2011) Good Strategy Bad Strategy, The Difference and Why It Matters.
Profile Books, London.
2
Good Strategy Bad Strategy, The Difference and Why It Matters.
Richard Rumelt (2011)
3
Karen Blase, (2009) Opening Plenary19th Annual Research Conference.
4
Building Your Company’s Vision. Harvard Business Review.
Collins, J., Porras, J., (1996)
References
References
1
Rumelt, R. (2011). Good Strategy Bad Strategy The Difference and Why It Matters. London: Profile Books Ltd.
SECTION 1: PLANNING

2050912 Create a Culture of Innovation through Implementing your Strategic Plan

Published: 05.09.2012 |
Last Updated: 01.05.2013
Tara Cunningham
Tara Cunningham
Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is an internationally recognised, award-winning CEO and Social Entrepreneur with proven leadership in critical thinking, operations, and strategic change management.  She is an Ashoka Fellow and appointee to the Board of the National Disability Authority.  

My Top Tips
My Top Tips
My Top Tips
1
Set 10% of your work week for planning, strategy, innovation, implementation.
2
For every obstacle, find a solution.
3
Use naïve intelligence to gain insights.
4
Set achievable, measurable, time lined goals for implementation. Review quarterly.
Suggested reading
Suggested Reading
Suggested Reading
1
Richard Rumelt (2011) Good Strategy Bad Strategy, The Difference and Why It Matters.
Profile Books, London.
2
Good Strategy Bad Strategy, The Difference and Why It Matters.
Richard Rumelt (2011)
3
Karen Blase, (2009) Opening Plenary19th Annual Research Conference.
4
Building Your Company’s Vision. Harvard Business Review.
Collins, J., Porras, J., (1996)

Preparing an organisational strategy is one of the most important things a Founder or CEO must do.  A good strategy will involve: all internal and external stakeholders; quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the past strategies successes or failures; garner insights (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) from all members of the team; develop goals that will bring the organisation to the next level; research best practice worldwide and apply it to those new goals; innovate and finally implement and make changes as appropriate.
Often however, once the strategy is published, it is placed on a shelf and forgotten about, only to be dusted off three years later when the new strategy needs to be developed.  This is a critical managerial mistake.  The best CEOs and leaders understand that the organisation’s Strategic

Planning is a moving target, a living document.
Any strategy agreed upon must be developed to fit the culture of the organisation.  If the culture does not allow for change, then strategy formulation is a waste of time.
Most executive teams know the long-term strategic goals of their organisation as they must answer to their Boards; unfortunately, most staff do not have a notion of where their day-to-day work fits in on any strategic level.  This always leads to staff at the bottom feeling there is a lack of communication between them and the top levels.
More crucially, the executives at the top miss out on the expertise from those delivering your services—opportunities your organisation could use to consistently innovate and thereby bring higher visibility and funding to your work.

What is innovation strategy and why is it important for your organisation?
In today’s corporate world, if you are not constantly innovating, your company will not survive.  For example, every six months a digital camera becomes completely obsolete.  Technology is driving harder and faster – just as the current economic crisis has turned the not-for-profit sector on its head, socially, politically and financially.
When writing our strategic plans five years ago, taking the view social media would become one of the most important methods of public relations, marketing and promotion would have been seen as irresponsible nonsense.  However today, we know that incorporating social media is as necessary, and in some cases more important than traditional communication methods.
Moving forward still, could you imagine in 2008 that you could access and use your entire business and personal computer suites with your mobile phone?  That working from home, could be translated to working as effectively on a plane, train or in your car?

Going more sector specific, innovation in the medical, therapeutic and service delivery advances are happening at record speeds; often debunking old thinking.  For example, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) funded research published in 2010 that “…discovered and confirmed the genetic basis of speech and language disorders such as stuttering” which “…may also serve to reduce the stigma that individuals are ‘not trying hard enough,’ which is often associated with these disorders.”   Retrieved from http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/about/plans/2012-2016/Pages/Recent-Advances-in-Voice-Speech-and-Language-Research.aspx on 30 August 2012.  This significant research has priority in the NIDCD’s 2012-2016 Strategic Plan.
At the same time, service providers throughout the world are creating changes to their work practices to make them more efficient and cost neutral in order to keep up with significantly reduced budgets.

Innovation strategy is a living strategy.
A strategy that is not a living document is a strategy that is useless.
Innovation requires weekly analysis of current trends, reviewing what we are doing and how we can do it differently, better and at a lower cost.  Most of today’s answers have been answered – instead of reinventing the wheel, creating a culture of innovation will have your organisation finding and adapting those answers to propel your organisation ahead of the competition.
A good strategic plan allows for a culture of innovation.  The goals in the plan should be added to and deleted over the three years to allow for progress and changes we cannot possibly foresee.  According to Rumelt (2011, p. 20) “Strategy is at least as much about what an organization does not do as it is about what it does.”

Key Elements to Create a Culture of Innovation

10%

All staff, including the CEO and Management Team should be encouraged to spend 10% of their time researching the field, finding potential collaborators or finding system-wide solutions to an operational or service-led problem.  Although many managers and staff will feel they cannot afford to spend 10% a week doing this desk research or collaboration, once put in practice they will see the positive effects on both their own and the organisation’s work.

Create SMART Goals
Goal Planning Sheet - For every root cause, or new idea sparked from a ‘ gut idea’ to desk  research etc., develop a new Goal Planning Sheet to bring the idea to completion.  SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Tangible.  LMI has developed an excellent Goal Planning Sheet (www.lmi.ie) which I have adapted over the years to help teams to implement their strategies. 

Getting Momentum behind a SMART Goal
Once a SMART Goal is verbalised, or indeed if the group cannot find the words to summate the SMART Goal, momentum can be harnessed by getting everyone to list the benefits from achieving the Goal; and conversely the losses to be avoided by achieving the Goal.
Benefits from Achieving the Goal Losses to be Avoided by Achieving the Goal


 
 
 For every obstacle – find a solution
When implementing an innovative goal, you will always find yourself up against an unforeseen obstacle; and many offices have “that guy”, the one who always complains about a certain topic, but once a solution is found, they are quick to find another obstacle. 
This obstacle, if not tackled head on, will suck the life out of the goal.  The momentum will begin to slow down and the achievement of the goal will be tenuous at best.
Instead of trying to circumvent an obstacle, use the obstacle as a potential to find another innovation to make service delivery, productivity and or innovation even better.
List out the possible obstacles, and for every obstacle, find a solution.
Possible Obstacles Possible Solutions
 
 
To find a solution you can try a number of methods. 
Naive Intelligence – This refers to the insights a person with no knowledge of your sector may have about a particular problem you are facing.  These insights are extremely powerful when trying to find solutions to a problem.
Learn from other sectors – Write a list of six adjectives that describe the people you serve.  Think about those adjectives, and who else they could describe. 

For example, the homeless community serves:
1. Isolated
2. Segregated
3. Marginalised
4. Helpless
5. Uneducated
6. Sick
Those same adjectives can describe the disabled community, the refugee community etc. 
Look at the problem you are experiencing and see what efforts, research, advocacy, program development etc. those groups have made to tackle the same problem.  See if you can localise their solutions to your sector.

5 Whys – This technique was developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation in order to improve their production system.  Basically, every “technical” problem leads to human error.  If you cannot find the solution, then find the root cause. Eric Ries, (2012) entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School, explains how to find the human causes of technical problems.  http://blogs.hbr.org/video/2012/02/the-5-whys.html

Ownership of Goals
In order to cultivate a culture of innovation, SMART Goal should have the following:

Executive Sponsor - A member of the senior management team who reports to the CEO.  The Executive Sponsor will have a number of actions under their remit throughout the three-five year strategic planning cycle.  It is their job to ensure the Goal Manager is meeting the goals targets.

Goal Manager - Is responsible for the full completion of the action and reports to the Executive Sponsor (who may or may not be in their typical chain of command).  Becoming the Goal Manager is a tremendous opportunity to take an idea for transforming the organisation through to completion.  They are in charge of keeping the team invigorated and constantly looking for new innovations / naive intelligence.

Action Owner – Every action requires an Action Owner; the person whose job it is to complete that task.  The entire team’s effort is down to the individual’s participation.  The Owner reports directly to the Goal Manager, but more importantly, is a key member of the team who will turn the Goal into a reality.

Timeline for Completion – Every action must have a time for completion, to be reviewed monthly by the Goal Manager.  Timelines will move due to the addition of new ideas, concepts or knowledge.  Pushing out dates is acceptable for proactive reasons – not having the time to do it is unacceptable.  It is the Goal Manager’s duty to ensure that timelines are managed appropriately.

Communication Plan – The last action for every single goal is a communication plan, for the internal team, executive team, service users, funders etc.

Specific Action to achieve goal Sponsor Goal Manager Action
Owner Target Date Date Reviewed Date Completed
      
 Process Model for Innovation
In order to take advantage of the full team’s knowledge, systematic reviews should take place both quarterly and monthly.
Quarterly, Senior Management teams should meet with each of their service managers to quantitatively and qualitatively look at how they are performing against the current strategic plan, and goal planning sheets.  They should be able to give the managers an update on the current financial and policy structures to inform how they progress with their individual teams.
Monthly, Managers review the current SMART Goals and how they are progressing with their team.  They also communicate applicable information regarding organisation policy, fundraising efforts etc.  Actions, time changes etc., will be reviewed and changed as appropriate.
At monthly meetings, staff members have an opportunity to present a proposed SMART Goal, using their Goal Planning Sheet, complete with proposed Sponsor, Owners, Actions, Timelines and Communication plan.  The proposer becomes the Goal Manager.
If the team feels this works with the mission, vision and values of the organisation, the objectives of the strategic plan and those of the team, it can be passed up to the Executive team for inclusion in the strategic plan. 
If the team, or an individual finds an obstacle within the proposed SMART Goal, the group must complete a ‘5 Why’ exercise to find the root cause, and create a new SMART Goal that addresses that issue.
Additions / deletions and current insights should be amended and applied to the organisations strategic plan and communicated to the organisation as a whole.

In Summary

A Strategic Plan is not worth the paper it is written on if it is not a living document.  The only thing which can bring life to the plan is its inclusion in the day-to-day operations of the organisation and the continuous input of every single stakeholder within the organisation.
Keeping the momentum going through monthly and quarterly meetings with the adaption of Goals to meet current needs will garner excitement throughout the organisation.
Very quickly you will see the culture of your organisation going from a reactive viewpoint, to an innovative and proactive one, making your organisation a leader within your sector.

 
 

References
References
References
1
Rumelt, R. (2011). Good Strategy Bad Strategy The Difference and Why It Matters. London: Profile Books Ltd.