From my Agile Coach and Agile Consultant experience, I have learned that no one is truly interested in “adopting Agile”. No one is interested in implementing Scrum or any other fancy method. What organizations are looking for is increasing their efficiency and implementing a process that will foster innovation.
Efficiency and Innovation – but why?
To be successful any organization needs to be efficient. Efficient enough to compete on the market. Gaining efficiency is relatively easy. All these fancy Agile and Lean methods are providing a lot of solutions for efficiency problems. But the key factor in “adopting Agile approach” is not to adopt Agile but to be Agile. It means that to really get all the benefits that stand behind the Agile you have to change a culture of the organization. And here is the point where innovation came on the stage.
Your organization might be efficient and it will help you to be successful for some shorter period of time. But you need something more. Even if you are the most efficient on the market sooner or later competitors will come with new innovative solutions and your efficiency won’t be enough anymore.
Being both efficient and innovative is hard but possible. After few years of observations, I have learned that there are at least 5 models of implementation of innovations.
1. Change company’s culture direction to the innovation focused one
Changing company’s culture is simple but really hard to implement. Especially for large organizations where efficiency has priority over innovation because of company’s scale. In big organizations, a lot of energy is spent on sustaining the status quo. That’s why efficiency metrics per employee in such companies might be far worse than in small companies. Effect of a scale usually excuses those wastes.
This kind of efficiency-focused culture is not as good in creating innovation as in maintaining status quo. In most cases when a big organization tried to hire me as an Agile Consultant or Agile Coach, I have been faced almost an impossible task. Making processes of such companies more efficient were usually quite easy. While changing their culture was much more complex and challenging mission.
On the other hand, it was a pleasure to work with few really innovative companies. Mostly my role there was to work on their efficiency. Results were visible very soon and were way more spectacular than in previous cases.
2. Buy innovation somewhere else
This is something that all startups are familiar with. There is a bunch of startups accelerators founded by corporates around. Why do you think they are using that? Corporates may benefit a lot from cooperation with startups. Startups could of course benefit even more from such kind of cooperation.
If you read any kind of IT news you probably have heard many times about transactions where a bigger player has been buying a new startup. It’s just one of many ways of how big efficiency-focused organizations acquire innovation.
3. Create your own R&D/Innovation Department
Another way to develop an innovation is to create a separate department in your organization that will be focused on innovations only. This is something that may work if you will manage to implement a specific innovation-focused “pocket culture” in that department. It will work as long as you will manage to protect that “pocket culture” from being corrupted by the culture of the rest of organization. Believe it or not, it is not that easy but possible.
4. Start a new almost autonomous innovation focused company
Instead of making an effort and taking the risk of changing your entire company culture or protecting your R&D department from the rest of the organization, you may just push it to the extremum and start an autonomous (or almost autonomous) company. It has already been done a few times before. The story of new BMWi car development process can be a good example.
How one of the biggest players on car manufacturing market – BMW ended up with this crazy idea. Some time ago hey realized that if they will design and build new hybrid (electrical) car models they may stay behind their competitors. But an efficiency-focused company that works really great in terms of delivering high-quality products might not be as good in creating something totally new that they do not have an experience with.
How to implement innovation in such company? Let’s try to copy from startups. Someone at BMW headquarter decided to start a new project that will be almost like a new company. The goal was to build it in a startup-like frame from the very first day. They have even sent a group of 20 or so engineers far away from BMW offices so they could start building something they have never done before. You may read more about that case in this article. The effect was beyond all expectations – totally new design and usage of new technologies and materials that have never been used before for car manufacturing.
5. Innovation Outsourcing
The last model gaining more and more popularity nowadays is innovation outsourcing. An organization always has an option of hiring another company that is focused on research and development and will help to build innovative products. It is similar to the second and third model but in most cases appears to be cheaper and less risky. You can easily scale up this model and it could be used on demand. Actually, that was the main reason why more than 2 years ago after being an Agile Coach and Consultant I have decided to stop consulting others. I have decided to provide similar value to the world by delivering innovation software development services itself. This is the model we successfully implement for our clients and so far it works great for everyone.