3 Steps to Develop Strategic Agility and Deliver Innovation

K. Melissa Kennedy

The road to innovation is never straight. It’s the direction, not the destination.

In order to plan for the unknown and unpredictable leaders must build productive flexibility into strategy and process. But how can you offer flexibility without inviting in abuse and waste?

How can you keep your team on task with room for insights and genius built-in?

You must first change your mindset. You must let go, trust and empower to consistently deliver innovation at speed. Have no fear your path to strategic agility is just 3 steps away.

3 Ways to Develop Strategic Agility

1. Ditch these destructive beliefs

Whether you know it or not, you are sabotaging your efforts. These 2 simple beliefs are holding back your innovation and impact:

  1. The incessant need for perfection
  2. The fear of the fallout without it.

Stop believing this nonsense. Perfection doesn’t exist.

Things change whether we are looking or not. Need convincing? Think about how many applications on your smartphone changed while you were sleeping.  Accept it. Change is constant.

Next, the fear of failure forces leaders to over rotate on systems and process that destroy the very flexibility needed to create mind-blowing, market-creating innovation. Dig deep and ask yourself: “Are my actions based in these 2 destructive beliefs?”  If yes, pause and make a different choice one interaction at a time. You must recognize and acknowledge before you can change.

2. Rely on a direction not a destination framework

Clarity is essential for employees to deliver on projects. But that doesn’t mean you have to tell them exactly what and how. You hired smart, capable folks not first graders. Give them the credit they deserve. Give them room to create and rise to the level of their genius.

Communicate a specific measurable goal, not a paint-by-number plan or destination.  This is a direction. The objective measurement offers all the control you need. It provides a framework where teams can create with enough constraints to deliver on the goal you need without suffocating the innovation. Then build in checkpoints to coach and adapt.

Here is a strategic agility example to show how setting direction not a destination created a more collaborative, effective plan to grow revenue exponentially.

A large telecommunication company asked 48innovate to help them deliver on a huge growth goal. They needed to grow sales by 20% despite an uncertain economy, a mature market and no increase in resources. We facilitated our Smart Speed method – Plan-Pitch-Vote-TeamUp-Create-Present-FollowUp – with a group of 50 cross-functional employees to help create a plan to reach this goal.

The method always begins with an objective measurable challenge – math is the great equalizer.

The simple 20% growth in sales was the direction.

Individuals pitched their best ideas to meet that 20% growth goal based on their own expertise, meaning marketers pitched demand generation and targeting campaigns, engineers pitched network assessment-like ideas and sales peeps pitched demo programs. Everyone voted on their top ideas to filter to 5 themes. Teams formed and set off to build a plan for final judging and execution.

Teams worked out plan details to meet the measurable objective by calling on contacts and colleagues. It took them 2 days to create a validated plan to reach the measurable goal. The managers advised along the way and helped move obstacles. The winning team incorporated many of the elements of the individual pitches, starting with a targeted demand generation plan then created a network assessment offer and followed by a demo seeding sales presentation. It worked. The plan drove 20% growth within 1 year.

After the experience, leaders and managers were interviewed about their observations. They were impressed how aligned they all were on the market and competition. They admitted they wouldn’t have come up such an integrated plan in that amount of time. And that they now have confidence that setting direction through objective measurable goals can deliver.

For your next big project rely on a direction not a destination framework and watch the innovation roll.

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3. Embrace Strategy Sprints vs Annual Planning For Strategic Agility

Agile is all the rage these days, especially in development, but can it work for strategy? Is it possible to have a sound strategy that is flexible and adaptable without losing focus and execution?

A Harvard study found that annual planning cycles and formal strategic planning has been proven to not benefit the company in that it takes too long to make decisions, hence they are irrelevant once they are made.

You may want to consider transforming your annual planning cycles for more iterative strategy sprints. In this fast-paced change dynamic, too often plans and decisions are already irrelevant by the time they are approved. You don’t want to cause disruptive changes, but you do need to embrace a more strategic agile approach where you use these traditional planning cycles to decide on direction, but then create planning sprints to tweak closer to real-time to address market dynamics.

All aboard the fast train to strategic agility.

Get ready to crush your competition, anticipate disruption as business as usual and discover all that hidden genius  to thrive in the hyper-connected, warp speed business environment of today. Accelerate into that turn with confidence, flexibility and strategic agility.

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K. Melissa Kennedy is a bestselling author, speaker and innovator at her company 48 Innovate.

She has parlayed many years of experience working for and building successful companies into a unique process for harnessing hidden assets inside organizations and turning them into big-idea-generating, $1-billion-revenue-producing resources. (Spoiler alert: It’s the people.) She’s an internationally acclaimed expert, happy to share the not-so-secret actions that have led to impressive outcomes for Fortune 100 corporations, major educational institutions, start-up companies, and entrepreneurs. Her bestselling book, available on Amazon,  The Innovation Revolution, Discover the Genius Hiding in Plain Sight details a proven rapid-charge method to bust business as usual and transform ideas to impact through INTRApreneurship. She was recently named to Triangle Business Journal’s 40 under 40 Leadership list.