India’s Next Global Export: Innovation

Here is a quick read on a new framework for innovation from business week: India’s Next Global Export: Innovation:

A Hindi slang word, jugaad (pronounced ‘joo-gaardh’) translates to an improvisational style of innovation that’s driven by scarce resources and attention to a customer’s immediate needs, not their lifestyle wants. 

The concept is to get work done by improvising around constraints – the approach does not matter as long as goals are met.  However, as we had discussed in assumptions that executives need to challenge, jugaad can have pretty negative implications:

Moreover, because jugaad essentially means inexpensive invention on the fly, it can imply cutting corners, disregarding safety, or providing shoddy service. ‘Jugaad means ‘Somehow, get it done,’ even if it involves corruption,’ cautions M.S. Krishnan, a Ross business school professor. ‘Companies have to be careful. They have to pursue jugaad with regulations and ethics in mind.

This might be a good idea to drive innovation in a culture that is overly burdened with bureaucracy.  However, one must really ask the question about why there is bureaucracy in the first place.  In fact,  work getting done bypassing  bureaucracies will reduce the need to remove inefficiencies…

How to Manage Virtual Teams

MIT Sloan Review had an interesting article on How to Manage Virtual Teams. As we have discussed in the past, the need for effectively managing cross-cultural cross-organizational virtual teams will only increase with time.

The article measures virtuality in terms of  “dispersion” of teams and finds that even small distances (different floors of the same building) have a significant impact on team cohesion.  R&D managers probably need to understand that processes and tools needed for managing virtual teams may actually benefit teams that are traditionally considered collocated.

The article is a very good read.  However, here are the key findings:

* The overall effect of dispersion (people working at different sites) is not necessarily detrimental but rather depends on a team’s task-related processes, including those that help coordinate work and ensure that each member is contributing fully. 

* Even small levels of dispersion can substantially affect team performance. 

* When assembling a virtual team, managers should carefully consider the social skills and self-sufficiency of the potential members.

I guess the main takeaway is very encouraging – virtual teams can be as effective (or probably even more effective) than collocated teams as long as tools exist to provide effective communication.  The key challenge is for R&D managers is to avoid communication through large documents: they are filled with discipline-specific jargon and no one has time to either develop thorough documentation or to read someone else’s large document.  More importantly, documents fail to capture rationale followed by one team member to reach decisions that impact other team members.  Interesting challenge…  DPSTBNMT3VHA

Success of change (improvement) programs

Financial Times has another interesting take on success of process improvement projects in Management – Failing to cope with change? 

At the meeting, survey data were presented which suggested that, while 37 per cent of UK board members believed that their change programmes were generally successful, only 5 per cent of middle managers did. 

As we discussed in the recent post on key success factors for lasting process improvement results, managers have an inordinate amount of responsibility and power to drive success.

A confident leadership team may know that the right choices have been made. But it may take longer for this to become apparent to the rest of the organisation. Of course, there are two other possible explanations for this gap in perception: wishful thinking in the boardroom or plain bad communication. 

The keys to success (real not imaginary) remain the same: long-term focus, metrics, rewards/raises tied to metrics and manager involvement.  I guess the point the article makes may be important to – a consistent simple message from the executives (and board) to the teams:

Send a small number of simple messages again and again,” he advised. “And the larger the organisation, the simpler the message has to be.