Step Two: Innovate Faster
It might sound obvious, but to become more agile and resilient you have to actually change things. Making real change happen can be its own reward as employees can take action, see progress, and are inspired to do more. How can leaders drive real change?
Spread decision-making throughout the organization by removing elements of the hierarchy to empower employees.
“People are energized by action,” said Murphy. “They want to feel like they’re trusted and moving forward. The more you can distribute decision-making power through your organization, the faster you’re going to be able to move. I think fatigue comes from waiting. Action is motivational.”
When the pandemic started, teams at Adobe went into crisis-management mode, leapfrogging layers of bureaucracy to do what had to be done quickly. As the crisis abated, teams slid back into their old ways of doing things.
“We said, ‘Wait a second. We don’t want to do that. We want to keep that speed and level of innovation,’” said Murphy. “We don’t need to have a meeting. We can let this team or leader make that decision.”
To go faster, stop
As innovation cycles accelerate, employees can feel pressured to work longer hours. But the goal is not more stamina, it’s more speed. Simply working more and faster leads to burnout. Real change is about finding ways to do things differently to speed up progress itself.
“Sometimes it’s best to stop and reflect,” said Calderoni. “What ideas might help you do your job better and faster? What changes could accelerate innovation?”
At Anaplan, engineers facing an ambitious timeline hit a wall. Exhausted and falling behind, morale began to suffer. Leadership decided to step in, but not to rally the team to work harder. Instead, they told everyone to stop. They had an honest conversation about what needed to get done, what was standing in the way, and what could make success possible. The team felt heard and were empowered to make changes to improve the situation, building trust, confidence, and satisfaction all around.
See around corners
In a competitive environment, the old ways don’t allow you to respond fast enough to change. Today’s organizations need flexible, intelligent tools to see around corners and support an agenda of rapid change and innovation.
“Companies used to plan based on their own historical information,” said Calderoni. “Now you have to bring external factors into your analysis so that you can have the competitive advantage of a more informed perspective.”
A key to this analysis is understanding and sharing customer needs and data. People are more willing to change when they know why change is necessary. Customer data is a noncontroversial, factual, transparent way of conveying the reason for a shift in priorities, timeline, or strategy.
Allowing the organization to hear firsthand what customers need and why lets teams understand that finding ways to deliver innovation faster is critical. It’s not an abstraction, it’s customers waiting for something they need now.
Better, faster tools lead to better and faster information and decisions. Greater visibility into not only the customer, but also processes and planning via analytics allows the organization to move with new speed, agility, and confidence.