Innovation to Operations

So, your organization has this group that is sort of off in a corner doing something called innovation.  And they come up with these great ideas, and develop really cool new products… and then what?  Then, the innovation needs to move to operations.

What that transition looks like will depend a lot on what rigor has to exist in the operations world.  If your industry or organization has a great deal of compliance oversight, then the innovation has to be assessed for how well it meets compliance expectations, and shored up in the areas where it might fall short, before it becomes fully operational.  If your industry requires clinical trials, there might be a span of several years before your new product finally gets to market.  The longer it takes to move from innovation to operations may provide an opportunity for the transition to be smoother, more thoughtful, and for the operations area to be better prepared for what they’re getting.

When there aren’t external constraints on what has to be in place before innovation becomes operational then the transition can be, and sometimes must be, faster because that’s where the competitive edge comes from.  This situation has an inherent element of stress associated with it.

Innovation’s goals usually aren’t to be methodical and to fully document everything about what has been created before it goes over the wall to operations to implement.  Which means operations can end up feeling like they just got dumped on when this great new thing comes at them and they need to be shipping product tomorrow but they have very little information to work from.

A couple of thoughts about how to mitigate the inherent stress of moving from innovation to operations:

  • When it begins to look like the innovation is viable and is going to stick, start involving the operations team — invite them in to “kick the tires” to get an idea of what’s coming and have them help with the planning for implementation.
  • Have people from the operations area assigned as members of the innovation team.  They can provide input on what capabilities the operations area currently has so that the effort to implement isn’t underestimated.
  • Have clear expectations about what is expected from the innovation team in order to hand something over to operations.  If operations feels confident that they will get plenty of documentation and perhaps hands-on help from the innovation team to get a product up and running, the stress is greatly diminished.
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