Innovation for the sake of Innovation

As you may have gathered, I am a big fan of innovation and generally opposed to regulation. At times, this has worked to my advantage as a leader but at other times this has worked against me as a project manager.

I have recently found myself frustrated working at a program level with process introduction within an organization due to what I felt as the level of ambiguity and subjective decision making process. In the face of what appeared to be substantial precedent within comparable organizations, there was a desire to improve upon what had achieved documented success elsewhere. While I am rarely one to shy away from process improvement, in this instance there seemed to be limited reasoning behind many of the decisions which were being made. There seemed to be an array of potentially workable solutions…including one which was well established and proven to be effective, just elsewhere.

In this program level example, I felt like we were attempting to introduce innovation to a process which, innovative in its own right, had not shown particular opportunity for improvement through trial. In a project level example I’m sure you can think of situations where team members were interested in reinventing the wheel on an issue which really just needed to be executed at that point. While I am a tremendous proponent of such creative problem solving, there are times when it feels like innovation for the sake of innovation.

There is a balance between striving for continuous improvement and execution of a plan. There are efficiencies to be found within well-oiled processes just as there is always a better way to build a widget. As a PM, it is important to help guide your team toward this balance. Too much in one direction can derail or stifle a team within even a single meeting. Consider your overall project goals carefully. Recognize that if entire meetings to not yield action item that this is truly your strategic intent. Is it your desire to stimulate thought rather than action? Conversely your project may be strongly schedule driven and guided by a established process or plan. It is important as a PM to help align your team with the overall project goals before beginning. This will help greatly to streamline your activities as you head toward the goal.

I would love to hear some additional input on how to align your team or balance when there is a time for innovation and a time for execution? Please share.

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