Innovation Without Gizmos
As the market became very competitive, this engine manufacturing company needed to innovate and innovate quickly. The target was to design a new engine that consumed less power and weighed even lesser. As this engine would be customised with every sale , there was also a need to innovate on redesigning it very quickly.
Just the mention of the word innovation could give a license to the employees to request hi-tech gadgets and expensive infrastructure. But the management had very limited budget and even lower appetite for risks. They were looking for a radical way to design the most efficient engine in the world
A transformation team was appointed to innovate on designing a new engine on a shoe-string budget and no risks.
The team started at looking at the workflow.
They started mapping out the absolute critical activities required to transform the idea of an engine to a complete build-able design. And then they started looking at the activities that support this design process
The intent was to find a set of activities that enables or blocks a good design process. The analysis revealed the following two activities held the key in making the engine design process more efficient
- Ability of the management to manage their employees by objectives (and not by presentee-ism)
- Ability of their work to travel with them when they visited their suppliers, designers and other colleagues involved in the design process
Designing an engine is a complex process. The designer for example may specify a material which is very critical for the performance but is impossible to be manufactured by the supplier. To make sure that every part of the value chain "does it right the first time", it is important that the workers travel with the work.
But the prevailing practices in that company were incentivising employees to stay in their offices, work on their part of the design without proactively collaborating with suppliers, customers and colleagues. And these incentives were in place because of restrictions imposed by static technology, compartmentalised workplaces and command and control management style
The solution: A replicable plan
The beauty of finding a root cause is, if you address the root cause it solves all the other symptoms as well
The scientific approach by the transformation team enabled them to attack the root causes. The transformation effort was focussed on
- training the management staff to manage by objectives
- and provide the technology and space infrastructure that allowed employees to move with the work
These 2 steps along with a rigorous follow through enabled the realisation of the innovation
No fancy gadgets were purchased. No compromise was made on the corporate processes. The risk profile of the whole project was in the green zone. All this was made possible because the team addressed the root cause to springboard their business towards success.
The engine they designed became the fastest selling engine in the company. Special studies conducted in partnership with a reputed university showed significant increase in employee productivity. And the project director got promoted to the role of a segment leader.