Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Aug 08, 2019 • FeaturesManagementJann Van VeenmoreMomentum

Regular contributor to this magazine, moreMomentum’s Founder and Director Jan Van Veen continues to urge firms to move out of their comfort zone in order to achieve real innovative change. Mark Glover picks some key points from Jan’s recent appearance as a guest on The Field Service Podcast.

The benefits of servitization and digitalisation continues to fill content in podcasts, conferences and academic papers. Indeed, much of Field Service News’ pages is dedicated to these two phenonium and how the service industry should embrace both.

However, it takes a certain amount of courage for firms to break free from their traditional business-model, which might well have served them perfectly well over the years, in order to undertake a strategy which demands a long-period away from the comfort zone.

I hosted the Field Service Podcast where Jan Van Veen, Director and Co-Founder of Consulting and Training company moreMomentum was a guest. Jan continues to work closely with manufacturers, encouraging business innovation and change in their make-up and I began the podcast by suggesting to Jan that some manufacturers are reluctant to make changes in their set-up; reluctant to innovate. “I think it’s more about making sure that everybody is happy,” he responds. “That everybody has the same sense of direction of what needs to happen, and then also to make it happen. I think this is the biggest challenge.”

The comfort zone here is ‘business as usual’. Firms, Jan believes, can see the advantages of servitization and digitalization as a release from the pressure of performance but they are struggling to make the process happen, or the rate of change is too slow.
“In general, what we see is that change is not growing rapidly enough in business,” Jan says. “There is more and more of doing the same, of doing business as usual which does incrementally improve business offerings, products and services etc., which is all good but that doesn’t take them to the future; that doesn’t help them reap the benefits of digitalization and servitization.

Jan identifies the comfort zone as something that manufacturers have been doing – albeit successfully – for many years: improving reliability and preventing disruption through a focus on asset uptime and product-related services. It’s a rut that could potentially leave firms lagging behind competitors, competition that could even come from their own customers as they become more digital savvy.

“I think that’s the main concern here,” Jan warns. “Digitalization is becoming more and more ingrained into everything a business does. We are seeing clients of manufacturers becoming more digital in their operations and therefore start to think about other solutions that can improve their own operations. The questions become about the role of the manufacturer in all this.”
It’s an interesting point and one that challenges the traditional notion role of a manufacturer.

Should they stick to the traditional product-related services offering or attempt to get closer to the business processes of their clients and pursue a more operational-oriented approach achieved through committed servitization and digitalization adoption? Jan, of course, encourages the latter, but admits the difficulties it poses, particularly when it comes to altering a rigid business-model, which involves risk and requires cultural buy-in.

“There’s a bigger bet involved,” he says. “We have to seriously re-invest in new capabilities, digital capabilities, new competencies, new operations and processes. It becomes about political decision making. Reframing and changing the business logic is something which any kind of business finds very difficult.”

Reframing and changing business logic, as Jan says, can be extremely challenging. Firms are reluctant to alter a process that may not be flourishing but is working. Tinkering with a framework does indeed carry risk where the fallout could be extremely damaging. However, most firms are aware there needs to be some type of change and innovation in order to improve processes, services and products. There is a range of innovation, ranging from short term improvements to disruptive radical change and it’s the most forwardthinking companies that embrace this entire spectrum that ultimately succeed.

   "Firms are reluctant to alter a process that may not be flourishing but is working..."

“They play the game on each type of innovation at the same time and are therefore working on performance for today, tomorrow and the day after,” Jan explains. “It means that every type of innovation and change has different challenges and pitfall and therefore requires different strategies and techniques. If we are not aware of that we will find ourselves applying the wrong approaches, which may work for one type of innovation, but not another. We then fail.”

The key in the process is business logic. But what exactly is it? How can we define it? Let’s strip back one of the basics of enterprise. Every industry or business has a prevailing set of thinking patterns or knowledge about their customer’s needs: yearly performance; information about competitors; world trends which we then, as a business, make appropriate strategic decisions from. It essentially defines how businesses act, decide, change and learn.

With this in mind and in order to helps businesses observe their own rationale for change, Jan has developed a Hybrid Innovation Matrix. Relatively small, incremental changes, shown in the bottom left of the matrix represent what most businesses are doing. These take place during the day which includes customer feedback, marketing and R&D. “I don’t think this is the real challenge here,” Jan tells me. “Most of the companies have that right. It becomes more challenging when we move up the left column to the bigger changes within the current business logic, such as applying new predictive technology in our maintenance and services. This includes political decision making and serious change management if you want to launch that new technology.”
Yet, it’s the red side of the matrix – the new business logic - splintered by disruption, that is the most challenging but most rewarding. The bottom right is where firms, by thinking about their current business model can start to extend and develop new knowledge and potentially reconfigure their business model. “Here, we are challenged by re-thinking, reframing, and, ultimately,” he says, “developing new models,” Jan said.

More generally, in the top right, darker red quadrant is where new solutions and markets are being created. Usually through a cluster of companies focusing on one area, for example, digital becoming more common in healthcare or the emergence of renewable energy. Here, Jan predicts the incubation of further ideas and disruptions. “We will see different kinds of developments going on and we still don’t know which one is going to emerge or be dominant, but one thing is for sure, in the next five to ten years, something serious will happen and change here.”

But how can companies use the tool to establish their own potential for change, or more specifically, make sure they’re avoiding ‘business as usual’? The key is ensuring any large-scale changes (top left of the matrix) such as a new software system, does not come at the cost of new business innovation that is incubating in the right-hand side of the matrix. “If that happens,” Jan says, “then you will see that every initiative in the right column will be sacrificed for something which has a shorter-term result in the left column, and then you’re really stuck in business as usual.”

Jan is passionate about change management and innovation and it was obvious during the podcast how much of a difference this matrix and other tools can make to a manufacturer’s outlook. He’s the first to admit that it’s not an easy process but is adamant about the advantages it can bring, an attitude affirmed when I ask what inspires him to do what he does. “I believe that it’s all about empowering and enabling everybody in an organisation to be eager and passionate about performing, learning, developing and growing; as a person and therefore as a business.

“It is all about people making it happen, and I’m a firm believer that people do drive change and want to change, as long as there’s a good reason and not too many obstacles. Therefore, we have to give them good reasons and avoid all the obstacles, and then,” he says, “great things can happen.”