Barriers to Innovation and New Product Development
Part 5 - Too Much Internal Focus
Published 8 January 2019
To create, develop and nurture new ideas and transform them into successful new product launches for your business, you will always be fighting on two fronts – externally (customers, competitors, regulations, etc.) and internally (organisational structure, Not Invented Here Syndrome, etc.). In the last of our mini series of short articles, we identify more of the internal barriers you are likely to have to deal with during your career and how you might overcome them.
Too Much Internal Focus
Many businesses I have worked in are very inward looking. They create so much internal structure, so many internal processes, so many layers of accountability, and have so many internal meetings, that people working in the organisations can lose sight that they actually have customers to service. Everyone seems to get wrapped up with the importance of their own job and with internal politics, and not pay enough attention to customers. This loses perspective for too many people in businesses, especially those who never see customers face to face. This is a particular challenge for large, more complex, multi-site businesses.
People get so wrapped up in the internal culture of their own organisations, in personal power struggles, in one-upmanship in meetings, in the minutiae of form filling, that these things can become the most important aspects of their working day. Too often this internal focus creates so many barriers to making things happen, not just to your process of Transforming Technology into Profit, but to everything. This is also where the internal structure of your organisation can hinder your efforts to progress projects. The classic communication barriers created by Organisational Silos (different departments, different sites and different divisions) all serve to reinforce these internal barriers based around people, politics and process. Some internal focus is necessary of course. Building a strong culture, and great teamwork is very important for success, but it cannot be at the expense of putting customers first.
So first and foremost, you must talk to customers, get to know them and your markets. Too many companies have a lack of real understanding of their markets or are still basing their actions on out of date market information. Customers bring in the money to the business that pays your salary, pays your bonus, so put them first. Otherwise the internal will dominate the external in people’s working day. This issue is really one of cultural versus structural balance.
The need for good, efficient management processes within a business is obvious, and the larger the business, the more complex is the organisation and the more process is necessary to stay in control. But every business needs to make sure that this is not done at the expense of customers. Customers and end users of your products and services must be the number one priority in everyone’s job, even those that don’t normally interact directly with customers. This is vital because it gives everyone perspective. If you put the customer first in everything you do, then you can begin to question all the politics that you are involved in, all the time sucking processes you have to do, and you can start to see them for the time wasting, non-value added activities that they are. This is where LEAN, Six Sigma, and other waste minimisation techniques, normally applied within manufacturing environments, can be useful approaches to analyse activities throughout the organisation and strip out the bullshit.
Dr Andy Wynn
Managing Director, TTIP Consulting
Adapted from the book ‘Transforming Technology into Profit – a guide to leading new ideas through the complexities of the corporate world and transforming them into successful new products’, available now on Amazon