Over the course of my professional life I have had the opportunity to serve on a number of advisory boards for both non-profit and for-profit organizations. I value my time and only agree to serve on advisory boards where the leaders are individuals that I genuinely respect and who I believe are more than capable of realizing the vision for the business they are leading. While the reasons are not relevant to this discussion, my experience is that advisory boards typically focus more on helping leaders identify business process improvements, which I believe is a form of innovation that is every bit as valuable as more traditional forms of innovation (new products). Interestingly, despite my belief that these leaders are capable of delivering success, I often find the same issues continue from one advisory board meeting to the next.
I attribute this to the problem that business process improvements are relatively easy for us as advisory board members to identify yet very hard for the leaders of the organizations to implement. Business process improvements involve behavior changes within the organization and getting people to change behaviors is challenging, regardless of whether the change will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the business. One issue contributing to this challenge is that not all stakeholders are considered when implementing change. For example, many business process improvements involve the redistribution of work between individuals/functions and not everyone actually feels the benefit of the change even though the net workload may be dramatically reduced.
Approach Business Process Changes with Product Innovation Mindset
To effectively drive business process changes in an organization, leadership needs to approach the change just as they would a product innovation. One must identify who the customer is for the change and understand what the value proposition is for that customer. In many cases, the “customer” for business process improvements may actually be internal, although the impact on external customers must be considered.
While the value of the change to the business may be obvious, the implementation plan must still consider all the constituents and what the critical value drivers are that need to be realized for the change to actually deliver meaningful value.
Why does this matter? A rapidly growing business masks many business inefficiencies. Strong leaders recognize this and consistently make innovation at the business process level a priority and approach these changes with the same rigor and urgency as they would a new product innovation. A well-run business capable of change can be the difference between success and failure when top-line growth becomes challenged.