Innovation never goes in one direction. You’ll take one step forward and two steps back. Then, you’ll take three steps forward and one step back.
Managing the forward steps is easy. Everyone is excited about positive changes that are being made. The hard part is when you take a step or two back. It’s easy to say things just aren’t working and stop the project all together.
Recognize that set backs are part of the game.
When you start a lean operation or try to re-invent parts of your company you can be sure that the change is not going to go in just one direction. You will have times where you wonder why you started your project in the first place. You’ll even have times where want to stop and throw in the towel.
If you decide to follow your instincts and throw in the towel, you’re proving to your employees that you really aren’t committed to change. Since you’re not committed, they won’t be either.
Let’s face it; your employees take cues from you. If you decide to stop, they’ll stop. Next time you want to start an improvement or innovation project there will be less support. You’ve trained your employees that change always stops when things get hard.
Have an outside expert work with you who has been through it before.
In lean programs they call this person a Sensei. It’s an expert who’s been down the road before. Your outside expert will know that setbacks are part of the game. They can help you understand that a step or two back is something you need to expect.
Make sure your expert is very clear on your goals. They should see and completely understand why you want to make the change. They can and should help you take an objective look and learn to adjust or even pivot to move in a direction that will get you back on track.
Make sure you have commitment from senior management.
In most cases this means the owner of the company. You can’t delegate innovation or change in a company. If there’s going to be real and lasting change support has to come from the very top.
I like to see owners of companies be the leaders of an innovation or lean project. If the owner is responsible for keeping things moving, it’s likely that it will. When the step back happens you won’t quit. You’ll keep moving forward and get your project back on track.
Too many companies accept mediocrity. It’s one of the reasons we see so many businesses with average or even below average profits. If you expect to have outstanding financial performance you must demand excellence.
The challenge with this attitude is you have to learn to adjust along the way. You have to learn how to deal with setbacks.
Make the changes you’re working on small and achievable.
This might be the biggest challenge you’ll face in the beginning. Many projects I’ve seen fail because they’re too big. Remember, you run a small company. Small companies only have so much time and resources for strategic activities.
If you’re trying to accomplish a major initiative with lots of moving parts you need to focus on one part at a time. If you try to work on five, six or more parts at once you’re dooming yourself to many steps back. You might end up getting so discouraged and confused you just call the whole project off.
Keep records from where you started.
I often see fantastic results early in a project. After a few months things start bogging down. If you see this happen and have measured where your starting point is you’ll likely have made pretty good progress.
Pointing out what this progress has been to your team can help everyone get moving forward again. Sometimes you’re going to have to look back to see how far you’ve come.
You need to have a strategy to use when things don’t work well. It’s just part of moving forward and managing change.
We’ve put together a special report on using key metrics in your business. If you know what’s important to measure you can get a lot of value from just posting those numbers. If you’re interested in reading about what can help you measure your progress, click on the button below.