Getting To 'Excellence' Faster – The Innovation Maturity Model

by Luis Solis

Getting To 'Excellence' Faster - The Innovation Maturity ModelProcess excellence rarely is accidental.  As we learned with TQM, Six Sigma, Lean and Supply Chain transformation, it is indeed very possible to accelerate (and increase the likelihood of) enterprise process excellence with the help of a comprehensive, rigorously applied roadmap and resource matrix.  Why does this matter?  First, more valuable benefits streams are associated with more advanced maturity levels.  And, accelerated development reduces risk.

In point of fact, it is advisable to rely on a maturity framework to focus your entire organization on improving the management and development of innovation across several distinct phases.  In recent years it has been popular to prescribe standard solutions for innovation development, usually under the convenient guise of “best practice learnings”.  However well intended, this form of advise is at best risky (and possibly quite misguided) because it ignores a fundamental law of system evolution: process selection and improvement, plus human asset organization, must vary in proportion to the organization’s maturity.

I call it the “one size fits none” method of improvement.

Innovation Maturity ModelMy work with global organizations across numerous industries validates the notion of an Innovation Maturity Model whereby organizations evolve focus, processes and resources across five stages of development:

  • experimentation
  • structure
  • processes
  • standards, and
  • full capability

For brevity I avoid a detailed description of each phase.  However, the chart below will help you visualize the sub-processes and organizational commitments associated with each phase.  For instance, it is common for a global organization to focus on Processes in about year 2 or 3 of its excellence journey, whereby management and team members give serious attention to risk management, formal methods of idea management, metrics, and broadened training and education.  It is not that these processes must wait until year 2 or 3 to be addressed, rather, it is that they are pre-conditions for implementing Standards, and should be addressed well before any attempt at Full Capability.

Importantly, as with all forms of system evolution, development resembles a random walk versus linear progression, and, a 3-5 year initial horizon is essential.

Failure to address sub-processes in a sequential manner entails several risks.  The most common ones are (i) a mismatch between required resources and measurable benefits and (ii) inconsistent operations because the organization simply is not ready.  Without proper processes in place, futile efforts may be made to throw money or bodies at Idea Management or Portfolio Management when in fact steady practice, correct skills, and early wins are required for sustained success.  For many of the same reasons, the organization may complain about lack of follow-through or a shifting innovation strategy as team members adopt a hit-or-miss approach to development.

What else is at stake?  It turns out that the Innovation Maturity Model can be an indispensable ally in addressing several other very strategic concerns:

  • what type of leadership do we need for innovation right now, and for the next year?
  • what is the proper financing or funding model (centralized; decentralized; venture; project specific)?
  • what inputs or outputs should we measure on our dashboard?
  • when and how should we integrate innovation into our other institutional meta-processes?
  • what are the best ways to organize our innovation initiatives?

The end game is to development innovation into an integral capability of the enterprise.  To get there faster, with less risk and higher returns, consider the usage of the Innovation Maturity Model.

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Luis SolisA 25-year veteran of enterprise transformation, Luis F. Solis is President-North America of Imaginatik plc. His DNA blends private equity, M&A, strategy consulting and software entrepreneurship with emphasis in collaboration, innovation and supply chain.

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  1. This is a useful commentary that I would use in the productivity and quality improvement class I teach; however, the innovation maturity model graphic included is illegible to the point of uselessness.

  2. “Innovation Excellence / …” is the title of your posting. Please add information to our “Sustaining Excellence Project.” Very helpful would be your views on (1) “What IS excellence?” and (2) “How do you or would you make excellence actionable and sustainable” in your world of innovation? Thank you.

    P.S. – Same questions for our hosts, Braden Kelley and Rowan Gibson, re their statement: “Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization …?

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