To put meaningful transformational innovation in place, you need governance and culture across three different types of teams
Every team has its strengths, and when different teams work together well, innovation magic happens, according to Ray Wang.
As he sees it, there are three types of team in every organisation. “First, you have what we call the sustaining operations teams,” he says, “who represent between 85% and 90% of your workforce. These teams are awesome, they ‘keep the trains running’ as it were, and they deliver. You don’t want to mess with these teams, and your job is to make their working lives as productive and as easy as possible.
“Next, you have teams who are great at incremental innovation. These team members often migrate from sustainable ops, they are Six Sigma Black Belt, and they can find and squeeze incremental improvements of between 105 and 15% out of most operations. They just know how to make things faster, better and cheaper.
“Finally, you have the transformational innovation teams. These guys are nuts! They don’t colour within the lines, the break all the rules and get away with it, and the sustainable ops teams and incremental innovation teams hate them because they are rowdy and disruptive. These are the teams who find improvements of as much as 200%. They are the teams who really make the difference.”
But Ray makes the point that organisations need all three types of team. The crazy guys in transformational innovation must be able to convince those in incremental innovation and sustainable operations that their breakthrough ideas will actually work, and make the case that these new concepts should go on to the company’s P&L. If they can’t, the project fails.
And that’s the real task of organisations seeking to transform: to use governance and culture to bring these three different and disparate teams together.