It has often seemed like a bit of a conundrum to me to manage innovation. Developing a plan inclusive of a schedule and budget is fundamental to every PM’s role on a project. How on earth, then, is this supposed to be accomplished if you are going to be breaking new ground with a process or product which has never been developed quite like this before? Can your plan include a 100% contingency for time and money, just in case you have to start over 3 times before you can deliver? Doubtful. Instead, let’s discuss some options for the PM to flex with change yet deliver on their goals.
Multiple Options – Always have a Plan B. Do you know what you will do if Plan A fails? In many projects, this secondary option is given very little thought. Some are extreme hypothetical doomsday scenarios and others are just such well-established deliveries that the likelihood of failure is miniscule. However, in an innovative process or projects in general, you need to have that fallback plan on hand up until the last minute to stay flexible.
Broad, yet Firm Constraints – What if your process involves developing an innovative widget by xyz date and that’s it. Like an independent study of sorts, this is for the advanced team. Performance based management. With regular ‘check-in’ meetings and firm end goals, your team will find the path. Don’t micromanage the process, there is nothing to manage. Let the team find their own way and you just stick to the end date and budget.
Manage the Mindset – While the team continues to succeed, constantly challenge them with ‘what if’s’ and curveballs. It is easy for teams to get locked into one solution and it is a fine line between over-taxing their psyches and supporting their successful decisions. Constantly keep an eye on the team’s view of where they are headed and how they will get there. Never let it get too stable.
You have to plan for flexibility in your project management from the start in order to foster and have the ability to incorporate innovation. Then through specific management approach you can encourage greater innovation from your team while staying nimble enough to adopt change through failure / innovation.
It is never an accident!