Innovation Team is Key for Successful Operation of a Business

Innovation Team Meeting. Robert Daly

Every company should have a team that helps to grow a component of the business.  Such a team would be one of the growth catalysts for the business.  The team would be granted authority and would be given specific goals to either start a new venture or to grow a business that is ailing and would benefit from focused attention. This Innovation Team would be staffed with individuals that are knowledgeable in their areas of expertise.

The Innovation team concept works in companies of any size and is not dependent on a certain type of project or product. The team should be comprised of existing product managers that cater to an adjacent market, finance/CFO, R&D/Engineering, and Sales.  This is a suggested makeup of the team and can be scaled accordingly.  For example, if the innovation is a service, perhaps Engineering would not be required, but can be substituted by someone who acts in a technical capacity and is knowledgeable about the functionality of this innovation/service.

The Innovation Team Leader needs to be a diplomat, an ambassador, and a doer and must be viewed by the C-suite management as a peer. This is not a figurehead position--it is the critical position to ensure that the team accomplishes what they’ve set out to do and that they accomplish it within the scheduled time frame.

The Innovation team leader should also be the cross-functional team leader and act in the capacity of the project manager.

  As the team’s project manager, the innovation team leader is accountable for the milestones and outcomes/results of the team.  This Innovation/Technical Marketing Leader will ensure that the team is cohesive and that each individual is delivering their part of the effort according to the schedule that is created by the team leader and approved and jointly monitored by the CEO.

The Innovation team would ideally report to the CEO or a member of the senior management team to ensure that they are focused and have the appropriate level of authority needed to eliminate obstacles and reach a successful launch.

Here now is a case study that will be used to describe how this team would function and what their deliverables should be.  In this case study, the product is in the introduction phase and competition is fierce.  This is a high-tech product, and the previous generation of this product already dominates the market. But because of its late entry to the market, it has struggled to gain ground on the competitors who launched their product earlier.

The Innovation Team is created with the goal of getting this current generation product to market dominance as quickly as possible.  They are given financial targets to achieve and a schedule of reviews with the CEO where they are expected to provide detailed reports about the progress they are making.

In this particular case study, the team was able to exceed/achieve all of their goals by using the innovation team concept described here.  There were four key components to the team’s success.  

First, the CEO took time out of his schedule every month to meet with the team for an hour.

He asked probing questions and offered to help where he could.  We loved assigning him “to do” items that often led to a major barrier removal!

Secondly, the team worked well together due to clearly defined roles and boundaries.  Each team member recognized that individual contributions, when added together had a multiplicative effect on the outcome.  For example, knowing what the competitors’ weaknesses were allowed the team to shuffle the product’s development schedule so that the new product could leapfrog major features that the competition had deferred in order to get their product introduced.

The innovation team also had a development schedule that everyone had previously agreed to, which kept everyone on the same timeline and focused on meeting the deadline and kept everyone on target.

  The features that were needed in order to leapfrog the competition  were funded and they had been market tested for priority order so that the product could be re-branded accordingly.

Lastly and most importantly, the team was given the autonomy to make decisions as quickly as they needed to be made.  The team streamlined the wish list to development process period of time and had the blessing of the CEO to create innovative processes to accomplish what the team had been tasked to do.

The innovation team is not only about introducing an innovation to the market.  It is a team that is empowered to innovate processes and techniques in order to achieve the established financial and growth targets.

Collaboration was a critical component of the team’s success. An important component of this collaborative effort is to recognize the team leader as the project manager and to adhere to the mandated milestones.  The team leaders are also the enabler for all of the team members. The team leader was the creator of all reports that are used to monitor/scorecard the team’s performance.  To that end, the team leader creates the monthly review materials that include a financial statement (pro forma), a market analysis, a report on how the product was performing in the marketplace based on current and potential customers’ feedback and lastly, to work closely with the team on the CEO “to do” list.

The Innovation Team concept has been tried and tested in both small and large business environments and proves equally successful in both sized-companies due to its scalability.