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Just about every time you have a conversation about a heat-treating business making changes for the better, the word innovation invariably comes up. Innovation should be about value, not just about change. It’s been said that “Anyone can create value once.” Spot a need; fill the need; and BOOM, you’ve just created value. The problem is… it never lasts. The value of your new product or service will erode over time because your act of creating value has just changed the business environment you are functioning within. It might be that you were creating value cheaper and more effectively than your competitors, so they copy what you have done and start doing it the same way; AND, they’ve undercut your prices just to say thanks.
Your customer expectations rise proportional to the value that is created. What was once valuable has now become the new norm, so the perceived value has declined. That is why you need to innovate and create new value in times of change. Innovation is about effectively increasing/nurturing/growing the overall value you deliver to your customers. And, because this process often involves some degree of newness (equipment, software, etc.) and change, people tend to get confused. They believe that all change is innovation; that we “do innovation” just by changing things. But change is just a byproduct of the ongoing pursuit of value. It is a means, not an end.
To grow the value of something, you usually do have to change it; but not all change adds value, so not all change is innovation. If you want to innovate, then you need to focus on what drives value. By using this approach, and focusing on value, things will only change as much as is absolutely necessary to achieve your goal. This saves you the time, money, effort, and headaches of making a bunch of changes just for the sake of showing that some changes were made. Change that drives value, is innovation.
We all know that most people hate change, but there are also quite a few that loathe the status quo. Oftentimes, implementing new technology will lead to more productivity and competitive advantage, if it’s done right and the workforce is trained properly to use the new technology. But, don’t forget that change is uncomfortable, and the ‘human nature factor’ of your workforce automatically gravitates to resisting any changes, so it MUST be communicated by upper management that the change is taking place. The staff needs to ‘get on board.’
No amount of new bells and whistles can replace employee buy-in. Companies that neglect to adequately prep their employees for these enterprise-wide transformations almost always encounter resistance. Constant communication keeps the various business departments on the same page and equally motivated to embrace the changes. But, keep in mind that there is a fine line between uniting employees across an enterprise and overwhelming them with too many details that don’t pertain to their individual roles and responsibilities. That’s all the more reason to listen to employee feedback and be willing to tweak change management processes as needed. Written by Ron Beltz, Director of Strategic Accounts at Throughput I Bluestreak™.