Want to Innovate? First Learn What Your Team Actually Does!

Want to Innovate? First Learn What Your Team Actually Does!

By Susana Gonzalez Ruiz

If we don’t understand what our employees really do and how they do it any attempt of innovation will be doomed to failure.

In most companies, the strategic decision-making is limited to the Management Team. They decide where the company should go, what services should be strengthened or abandoned and which innovations in the business model will be carried out.

Ideally, everyone in the company should participate in this process, but when the number of employees increases, including the entire team becomes impractical. It is for this reason that companies are generally structured hierarchically, with managers and supervisors representing their respective departments.
So much for the theory.

In reality, one of the basic pillars of this structure rests on unstable foundations, reducing the ability of firms to make good decisions about how to innovate in a processes and business model.
This unstable pillar is the superficial knowledge that managers of many companies have about the work done by the members of their teams.

Obviously, managers know what each employee does because they work for them. They know whom to entrust a specific task and, once finished, they receive the outcomes. The problem arises when their knowledge does not go beyond this.

The innovation strategy of a company with superficial knowledge of the work done by employees is, inevitably, superficial.

How can we innovate if we do not know which steps are taken in work processes, what resources are needed, and how much time is really required to carry them out?

When we do not have this real and detailed knowledge of our business, any attempt at innovation is doomed to failure.

To decide where we go is essential to understanding exactly where we are, what we do and how we do it. If we do not know these factors, our innovation projects will encounter a wall because we have miscalculated the time and resources needed to accomplish them.

It would be like planning a battle strategy without knowing how many weapons we have, where our soldiers are located and what their current status is.

In some companies, such as Ikea, McDonald’s or Fnac, employees must pass through all the positions before they can be promoted. Unfortunately, in most cases, this is limited to the lowest ranks.
There are other business management strategies that aim to bring managers to the real work of their employees. These are, for example, “Management by Walking Around” (MBWA) or “Gemba walks”. In both cases, the goal is to get close to the place where the real value is generated and observe how employees work.

Although the MBWA is the best known, it is often used only to generate a false feeling of proximity to the employee. In comparison, Gemba walks are based on a much more structured system.

In short, no matter what method is applied. The essential thing is to understand that innovation is not possible without a thorough understanding of each of the processes carried out in the company.

This should be our first step towards innovation.

Never miss an insight

Get insights delivered right to your inbox

More of Our Insights & Work

Never miss an insight

Get insights delivered right to your inbox

You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter.

Too many subscribe attempts for this email address.