If you’re frustrated by seeing your competitors consistently outperform your organization, it might be time to look for new ways of doing things. That can be an intimidating prospect – how can you be sure the new way will actually be better?
The reality is, you can’t. But what you can do is establish ways of operating that make it possible to consistently adapt, adjust, and try new things, so that you’re never stuck again – in other words, ways of operating that lay the foundation for innovation.
In this article, I’ll explain how implementing processes and embracing a flatter communication structure can empower your employees to innovate consistently.
Clear Processes Are the Foundation of Innovation
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but processes are the foundation of innovation. Process structures support everything that comes after.
This is because innovation requires collaboration. If people within your organization aren’t on the same page about how things get done, you’ll likely spend too much time reinventing that how on every process.
For example, if business-side stakeholders don’t have a defined process for communicating what they want to see in a digital product to the dev team that will actually build it, you’ll likely end up with a lot of back and forth after a product launches – an inefficient use of everyone’s time that prevents you from moving forward.
When organizations lack processes, they often find themselves overwhelmed with putting out fires. The top priority is always to fix what’s broken, and because something is always broken, there’s no time to do the generative work that leads to innovation.
When organizations have strong processes, everyone understands what they need to do and when they need to do it. In practice, this might look like having members of a product team collaborating with members of a dev team to determine how long desired features might take to build – and establishing workable alternatives when necessary.
This helps ensure that what gets built meets business needs and works within an organization’s existing code base. This helps prevent time-consuming re-work.
And it’s not just a couple members of a couple teams who need to stay in communication regularly. In fact…
Horizontal Communication Is Essential for Innovation
If processes are the foundation of innovation, horizontal communication provides its support beams. Processes ensure that everyone in an organization does their work as efficiently as possible; horizontal communication helps maximize the odds that work leads to innovation.
With traditional hierarchies, ideas come from the top. But no matter how brilliant or experienced your top-level leadership is, that structure limits the number of ideas that are generated and considered. And science shows that, to have good ideas, you have to have lots of ideas. Put differently, the more ideas you have, the more good ideas you’ll have.
By flattening organizational hierarchies and listening to every employee, business leaders open up more pathways to new ideas.
What’s more, a diversity of perspectives makes it easier to understand problems and find solutions. For example, the insights a call center agent has about common customer complaints can help a sales VP tweak their campaign.
I recently helped a team adopt more open communication practices to improve their outcomes. Their company culture dictated that no one should question their managers or say if their workload became too heavy.
But the team’s workload was too heavy. In addition, the work mostly involved addressing problems that could have been avoided with better processes.
I implemented daily team meetings where I encouraged people to speak up about what wasn’t working. It took time for employees to feel comfortable admitting that they were having trouble, but when they got there, it opened the door to idea brainstorms and process improvements that prevented problems.
How did I help the team feel comfortable enough to speak up? Read on.
How To Flatten Your Organization’s Communication and Hierarchy
Shifting an organization’s communication structure is daunting, even when you’re confident that doing so will lead to more innovative practices. One small step leaders can take right away is to listen.
That means both making it possible for employees at any level to talk to leaders at any level and encouraging those leaders to actually listen to what employees say.
In the age of mostly virtual work, when an “open-door policy” is more a figure of speech than a physical practice, business leaders can empower their employees to share ideas through initiatives that can translate to online forums. Some ideas:
Another strategy I’ve found successful: leaders can encourage employees to view their contributions as a way to help themselves and the company grow.
Highlighting a problem in live code may feel like stirring the pot, but it can also lead to much better outcomes for the organization in the long term. Leaders can explain to employees that they can mention such things on their résumés to illustrate the unique value they bring to a team.
With open communication practices in place, you can position your organization to innovate faster and better.
Improve Your Process and Communication with Apexon
Strengthening processes and improving communication take time. We know it’s difficult to disrupt years of doing things the way you’re used to. That’s why we’re here.Talk to an Apexon expert today, and we’ll help you figure out whether your current practices are holding you back and how establishing new processes and communication patterns might help you leap ahead.