Managing Innovation by Liquid Organizations

When it comes to Innovation, leaders have to stop managing by delegation and must start to mediate to the best co-learning environment for all available team members perceiving their involvement as a privilege to receive mentorship from each other. Usually it works best in groups of 6 – 10 as communication and sharing results, headaches and ideas but prepending any questions one of them should raise, is all! Ideally taking place in a co-working space which could even be a Cyber (Viber-) Platform if geographically separated team members need to work together.

However, to make such collaboration an organization all team members must share a joint Mission derived from a common Vision of its aspired contribution to their theme of interest to the world – the application. That shall allow to allocate possible Market Segments for the Innovation and agree upon the Beach-head Market among them. And the market defines the minimum scope and functions of the team’s organization to cover customer expectations. In order to meet an excellent performance standard to the outside world all relevant processes, necessary to fulfill the functions of the organization in the required scope, must be specified by an Operations Research Input-Output based decision matrix flow chart.

The Process-Flows need to clearly indicate decision levels and their escalation as well as all information duties by the relevant doer to an organizational Process Owner (if different) in charge of the Process-Flow definitions, and concerned parties in charge of downstream, or in the case of an imported problem also upstream processes. In cases of time delinquencies also colleagues executing parallel tasks adding to a common knot in the time-schedule must be informed. These process-flows are to be seen like the Software Source Code of the “Organization” and there cannot be any free space on interpreting each person in charge of executing the processes on duties of decisions and information documentation and circulation.

Only if everybody understands his responsibilities and where they stand in correlation with all others in the time-schedule, the WHAT-WHEN parameters can become effective specifications. The time schedule must transparently show stages of progress in the form of knots, combining the outputs of several processes. The overall project mentor will have to try to redefine stage-priorities in cases it may become necessary to countervail delays of certain processes, to allow reallocating capacities or external support purchases as may deem appropriate to remedy a situation of delinquency.

Ideally the team members share a common project management software tool, giving each other full transparency on individual capacity utilization and task progresses as well as providing a user friendly surface to record task allocated expense schedules and budgets. Last but not least such tool should ideally allow for documenting all rational behind decisions made.

Experience in my former thermal-interface material-solutions business has shown that Innovation often needs to develop from upstream the supply-chain. A liquid organization defined according to the above will allow flexible integration of team members from up- and downstream a relevant supply chain. We called it Operational Excellence and ended up with single sourcing positions for 85% of our revenues over three different business divisions.

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