posted 15 Jun 2005 in Volume 8 Issue 9
The new fundamentals
by Verna Allee
Agility, rapid response, execution, customer intimacy – all are strategic capabilities managers are being asked to achieve, usually in impossibly short time frames. Meeting such demands requires mastering new business fundamentals across three core arenas. Jeff Shuman and Jan Twombly, of Rhythm of Business, define these three areas as: new mindset; new skills and behaviours; and, new tools. In The Future of Knowledge, I defined these as strategic, tactical and operational levels of innovation.
Operational level: new tools and ways of working
New technology tools are the most obvious need for many companies – especially tools that support collaboration and KM. But less acknowledged tools include models, frameworks and methodologies for intangible-asset management, tracking and managing relationship value, building brand, negotiating roles and relationships, making agreements, and implementing new systems of indicators.
What works – Introduce tools into everyday business situations by expanding on what people already have in place. For example, expand cost/benefit analysis and ROI assessments to include both financial and non-financial value and benefits.
Tactical level: new skills and behaviours
Without the right social innovations to support them, investments in new tools are simply wasted, costing companies millions in under-utilised or even counter-productive technologies. When ‘teams’ were introduced in the 1980s, there were huge investments in training and infrastructure to support them. Where are comparable investments today in helping people learn to participate in communities of practice and virtual workgroups, or to facilitate collaborative group processes?
What works – Introduce knowledge-café and open-space methods into management meetings that are already on the calendar. Find existing knowledge communities and help them fine tune their business focus, define and fill needed roles, and link focus areas to strategic and business needs.
Help people to communicate success. Link leadership development and performance measures to community participation.
Strategic level: new ways of thinking
These investments in tools and skills only make sense from a new mindset. We all know how difficult it can be to help people see with new eyes, and this world of intangibles, knowledge and networks is strange territory for managers. It is futile to try to change the mindset first. Demonstrating results is the quickest way to focus attention.
What works – Take an action-learning approach. People can discover the new fundamentals simply by using different tools and methods. Test different approaches through small and smart pilots, then showcase success. Position yourself as a thinking partner for executives in planning processes and during project launches.
Change initiatives that fail almost always innovate on only one level. New fundamentals must be introduced in all three arenas to build a strong foundation for success.
To monitor and join the discussion, visit www.ikmagazine.com/advisorycentre.asp.