In Pursuit of Successful Innovation & Change

This September 27-29, I have the privilege of speaking at the Talent Management Summit in Las Vegas on the topic of Change Leadership. This term, “Change Leadership” (CL), may be new to some, while for others, is interchangeable with the more familiar term “Change Management” (CM). To clarify, CM is not interchangeable with CL. CM is, in fact, actually included within the tenets of CL. With another spin offered to explain, CM equips people to DO, whereas CL prepares PEOPLE to do. In other words, CL address the additional strategic ingredients to CM that add critical support to impacting influence, inspiration, and methodology to integrate aspects of Change into work routines…not just the tactical process-centric components of CM. Still not quite there? Permit me to put some context around a Change initiative in the form of introducing [innovation] into the organization. Innovation in this context is “something new and different” [could be a new technology, a new process, and new business protocol, etc.] with the desired end objective of not simply successful deployment; rather; an implementation that creates a sustained capability.

Consider this approach to expanding your CM efforts to incorporate CL…

Is innovation a methodology or is it the result of our efforts? One could successfully argue both sides of this question. With either position, there exists one consistent byproduct – Change. Regardless of definition, if we overlook creation of a sustained capability as our desired result, does it really matter how we define it?


“Innovation violates tradition—attacks it in public and steals from it in private.”
Mason Cooley (b. 1927), U.S. aphorist. City Aphorisms, Fourth Selection, New York (1987)


I really like Mason Cooley’s quote above, primarily because as leaders in the organization it is our job to introduce disruption to the status quo – to introduce Change in the form of innovation. Any variant of Change has the potential to disrupt or “violate” the traditions that harbor comfort zones and resistance to changing the way things are [publicly] accomplished. If our people are not properly equipped with information, influenced, and inspired, the Change is an unexpected theft of normalcy. To avoid that end, we should consider wrapping our CM efforts within the tenets of Change Leadership principles that greatly improve our chances to render sustained capability.

Building & Sustaining Capability

Validation & Targeting of Viable Work Context: Articulate a valid business goal for the innovation. Identify a “micro-system” within the organization to serve as “ground zero” for an innovation test bed.

Calibration: Select tangible, measurable business performance indicators that demonstrate success through positive outcomes. Establish outcomes framework for business goal using SMART methodology.

Sponsorship: Recruit a visible, respected, accessible, and engaged business leader committed to acting as Change Sponsor for the innovation effort.

Transparent Value Proposition Cascade: Articulate “localized” value message at all levels engaged in the Change. Be transparent about leaders’ views on important priorities for innovation and improvement.

Develop the Road Map: The transformation process begins with the end business goal in mind. Articulate critical outcomes necessary to attain the business goal through key drivers. Link and prioritize explicit tasks, activities, and/or interventions to one or more relevant key drivers.

Engagement in Road Map Design: Mobilize key stakeholders in the program design effort that represent a blend of leadership/sponsors as well as those directly engaged within the micro-system including:
o Suppliers – source of upstream input(s) in the form of product, materials, information, data, or demands triggering action within the micro-system.
o Process Owners – primary and secondary staff within the micro-system tasked with flawless execution within their role-specific work context.
o Customers/Clients – downstream recipients of outcomes from the micro-system Process Owners.

Micro-System Readiness: Integrate a Learning Continuum where seamless, frictionless, and ubiquitous access is enabled for the right learning assets by the right knowledge workers at their moment(s) of learning need – in a work context-friendly amount – in a compelling, readily consumable format – to and from the right devices – based upon environmental attributes of the targeted work context that include:
o Space – physical location of knowledge workers at moment(s) of learning need, proximity to both work & workflow, degree of urgency, and level of business risk attached to flawless performance.
o Media – the optimal blend of medium, mode and venue of the most compelling media assets as influenced by the attributes of Space.
o Systems – the optimal mix of “human systems” and/or technology-based systems as influenced by the attributes of both Space & Media.

Deployment: Engage in iterative PDSA cycles [plan-do-study-act] to accomplish “small tests of change”. PDSA cycles include formative evaluation of results and harvesting knowledge worker feedback to fine-tune processes/protocols and define critical knowledge and skills necessary to sustain the capability.

Implementation: Routinize innovation by integrating Change into new or existing workflows with visible inspection of expectations by Change Team and management.

Sustaining the Capability: Innovation through Change is continuous, not a transaction, nor an event.
o Regular Collaboration – Strategic teams and microsystem teams meet regularly to discuss progress and strategies for overcoming any barriers to continued success.
o Routine Work Practice – Encourage leaders and front-line staff to continuously look at new ways of driving improvement through innovation.
o Celebrate Success – Recognize contributions and successes by staff and communicate results visibly and regularly.

These ten steps form a replicable model to support CL regardless of complexity of the Change initiative. From smaller, localized departmental Change to organization-wide transformational Change, this model works. I hope you find this helpful in your pursuit of successfully introducing innovation in your organization and leading the Change that comes with it. If nothing else, remember this statement – Innovation through Change is continuous, not a transaction, nor an event. This statement alone makes the case the Change cannot just be managed effectively – it must be lead.


Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning