The art of driving innovative change

Jan 04, 2017 • FeaturesManagementNick FrankService Innovation and Design

Nick Frank, founding partner at Si2 Partners outlines why the importance of people and culture cannot be overlooked when looking to instil a culture of continuous improvement and innovation...

The mistake many leaders in industry make, is to believe that defining a clear vision and strategy with ruthless follow up is the only recipe for success. This may indeed initiate change, but rarely do the results last. Often3-4 years later, the business will be addressing the very same issues, but under a new management team.

In todays increasingly digitized world this challenge is particularly relevant for leaders of service businesses, who feel they must react to new technology to avoid being left behind by their competitors. Maximizing the potential of these capabilities does not come from the technology or even adopting innovation processes, it must start with our own people.

The problem is that in their urgency to achieve results, many leaders breeze over the communication, incentives and cultural engagement necessary to achieve the required emotional buy-in from employees.

Most managers will tell you, ensuring your people are engaged in what they are doing is the very lifeblood of a business.

In their minds, treating change as a rational process makes it easier to determine key priorities, identify pitfalls and plot a roadmap with a beginning and end. But many initiatives fail, because employees and clients do not act as rationally as leaders assume. In fact people have been shown to be very unpredictable, making this part of change management more art than science.


Most managers will tell you, ensuring your people are engaged in what they are doing is the very lifeblood of a business. Some may use use fear, which gets things moving, but is only ever effective in the short term and does damage in the long term. Most agree that people have to be basically happy to sustain change over an extended time period. This ‘happiness’ is essentially influenced by the culture of the organisation, which evolves from the values displayed by leaders, their vision and the backing of stakeholders who own the business.

This is not new to experienced managers, yet so many focus on the well defined processes of moving from strategy to operational excellence. On reflection, profitable long-term profits are really generated by creating a culture that engages people to deliver excellent products or services that create customer value. This in turn drives customer loyalty, providing the opportunity to expand margins and increase profitability. This simple truth was re-confirmed to me in a recent workshop discussion, which included managers from Federal Express. They commented. ‘Our values drive us to start with our people and that the profits will come, never the other way round’

In todays world, where technology is rapidly changing the face of Field Service, many leaders would do well to focus more on the mind-set of their people that allows them to express themselves and have the confidence to try new ideas even if there is a risk of failure.

How can leaders inspire their teams to innovate and succeed?

We have seen successful leaders demonstrate five key attributes in creating a dynamic self learning organisation:

  • Powerful story telling: One of the most powerful concepts leaders can use to turn dry strategy into an engaging vision is through story telling. Since the dawn of time, people have been captivated by stories. The role of leaders is to tell the story that inspires all the stakeholders in the ecosystem, not only employees, but also clients and shareholders.
  • Walk the talk: Telling the story is not enough. Leaders have to live it and live to the values they espouse. Commitment is key to credibility!
  • Common language: If story telling is the key to inspiration, creating a common language is the key to longevity. Language becomes a habit. It influences how people solve problems whether that be inside the organisation, or interacting with customers and partners. Creating a common language and view of the business is much more than words. It is creating a mind-set that influences how we articulate ourselves and conduct our everyday business.
  • Relentless follow up: Changing culture is not an overnight process. It is often said that to integrate a new habit, one must repeat an activity 21 times. It is no different for developing culture within an organisation.
  • Solution focused mindset: Discovering problems should be encouraged as they help bring clarity to our. However it is important not to dwell on the problem and who to blame. Solutions drive organisations forward!
  • Think how many times something goes wrong in the business, which leads to significant shift in approach by senior management. To turn problems into opportunities, leaders need to be committed to creating self learning solution orientated organisations around them.

The message is not to wait until your CEO starts to talk about innovative self learning organisations. You can start ‘now’ developing a successful mind-set first for yourself and then your teams, that will allow you to take advantage of the amazing opportunities offered by the new technology’s around us.

Nick can be contacted on Si2 ON-Demand is a unique advisory and support service that enables top performing leaders to solve problems and get things done, quickly, easily and cost effectively.



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