Why Coaching for Innovation?

As innovation becoming more demanding of leaders, organization now realize that technology alone wouldn’t be able to achieve their innovation goals. Leaders now found out that the people felt “left behind”, unwanted and confused. There’s so much animosity around innovation implementation as well as business or digital transformation towards that. 

It seems, the high tech innovation that we brag about all these years requires some human touch eh? Yes we do, if we want to make it work and integrating well for long term. One of the tools that you can use is coaching. 

Why do you need coaching in innovation?

Other than just the familiarity of the innovation tools such as design thinking, agile, scrum, lean, strategic thinking, business model canvas, blue ocean and many others; there’s a deeper hurdle left ignored. Hurdle to make change; and change is always difficult, emotional and constant. 

Leaders with foresight know, that coaching will help them change from “me” perspective to “we”. Say, in an ideation lab, the leader’s ideas opposed, he will still feel comfortable. In fact a well coached leader would welcome opposition because it will enrich the discussion. Besides, it empowers the team. Not about me, it is we.

In another situation, when an idea is risky, poor leaders will not support. A confidently coached leader, besides the mantra “doing it right from the first time”, he’d put his neck on the choppin’ to experiment a wild idea although it might fail. His new mantra is “you either make it or learn”. The word failure now taken a back seat or eliminated. 

The speed of activities is another hurdle in implementing big scale innovation. There are so many things to do. Right from the augmented customer experience, digital touch points, integration of big data, interpreting analytics, artificial intelligence bots, blockchain in smart contract, mobile first solutions to drones operation. 

How just a leader with all these new stuffs lead? Can you imagine a senior vice president at the age of 55 going to chew while keeping his sanity? It will be too much and he might be too occupied delivering his strategic function – which is more valuable due to his/her knowledge. This is another area where coaching could help. 

A coachable senior leaders would gain through giving trust early in the relationship particularly with their direct reports. How many senior leaders do you see still unable to let go certain operational meetings because it “seems” all important to them? In times of innovation like now, decision making has to be fast and getting immediate feedback should be faster. It is also should be expected, the direct reports would make some mistakes along the way as part of their learning curve. Fail early, fail often. 

In some organizations, they are still stuck at the “over analysis becomes paralysis” situation. After round and rounds of meetings, no one seem to be willing to call the shot. Because innovation about venturing to uncharted waters, a coached leader will demonstrate higher tolerance for ambiguities and can live with “just enough” information to make a next step decision. With tools such as 2×2 quadrant or A/B testing or BMC, these well informed leaders will advance further; the rest still in another meeting.

To be an innovative leaders, coaching could help to unlearn and minimize biases of past experiences. Where the culture could be dry, brazen and unwelcoming, these coached leaders turn them around so ideas thrived, people become responsive again and businesses nourished. The best innovations in the world only flourished when a corporate culture supports and drives them forward. 

Because of the change component that comes together with innovation, there’ll be always tension of opinions, resources squabble and constant realignments. Besides, strategy is not just another management retreat or document. A strategic innovation leaders know, there’s a need to discuss qualitative data, customer pain points, challenge assumptions and question “facts” at hand; although it may not be related to his own department. Furthermore, a coached innovation leader will not stop there. He will ensure the organization have taken serious and structured considerations including influencing the board of directors to discuss innovation as the top agenda in the board meeting. 

By coaching for innovation, leaders role is reimagined to be more assertive, substantive and collaborative to make the organization future ready. Leaders, you can still keep your pride, but please don’t lose your shirt. Go coaching!

Advertisements

When Costs Kiss Goodbye!

Image credit: Kraft Heinz loses a lot of cheese as earnings send stock plunging to …

Interesting article about an investment company (private equity firm) that acquire food businesses (Heinz & Kraft Foods) back in 2013 and 2015 respectively. The firm believed these two companies could unlock more values by using ruthless focus on efficiency. They quickly employed radical cost cutting programs.

They fired thousands of workers, shutdown factories, used zero-based budgeting model (justify cost without regard of previous year spending), remove refrigerators (pantry) in the HQ known for stocking cheese sticks, set default settings of office printers (double sided with black toner) and limit meals spending during travel to $50 a day. Guess what happened next?

These initiatives and cost program led to industry-leading profit margins in less than 2 years! The stock price went up to more than $90 in 2017! See below.

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.55.51 AM

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.55.21 AM

But, unfortunately, it went to nose dive after all the radical cost programs deployed. From my research, Kraft Heinz overlooked the marketing bit, product innovations for their changing customers segments and valuable employees feedback that know how to run your operations especially in different market segments and countries.

Sometimes, big brands and companies make tactical mistakes like this. No doubt long history companies tend to have opportunities to go leaner that it was; things usually get complacent after awhile.

One of the videos, check it out.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/22/kraft-heinz-backers-face-reality-brutal-cost-cutting-isnt-enough.html

Lessons that we could take from here are:

  1. Look at at products and services innovations as growth strategy: There are probably a host of products that could be making money or probably there’d discover that most of the products are obsolete to modern customers. For the record, Kraft Heinz launched new products such as organic version of Capri Sun and expanded its condiment businesses. They tried, probably not enough time to see it through, perhaps these new lineups will grow later.
  1. People are not measured by their salary or price tag, rather by their value brings to the business: I tried looking for some human capital development strategies when the equity firm bought Kraft & Heinz, but I couldn’t find any. Although I may not a fan of “total spoon-feed your talent because you care”, I do believe the management should consider taking longer time to lay offs to ensure the tacit knowledge is transferred to the business. You should pay high for someone that could do more and pay less for someone who can only do routine work.
  1. There’s only so much you can do with cost efficiencies: Key for growth is innovation. I’d expect big brands and companies, should invest in ruthless innovation focus in three areas. First, new products and services that reflect current and future customers needs and wants. Second, leaner processes and automation to bringdown redundancies in capital & assets deployed and reduce wastages. Third, to find market creations opportunities that will need to be invested and R&D. You can read more about this from Clayton Christensen book titled, “The Prosperity Paradox”.

Innovations are for growth. Companies need to spend and invest together with their workforce to improve capability and capacity to innovate. I do hope to see Kraft Heinz able to come out from this plunge and see this only temporarily.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com