POV: You hired a consultant and they presented their findings. Now what? In this article, we cover what steps leaders can take to get the most ROI out of their investments.
Business innovation has always been an essential ingredient for growth and sustainability, for companies big and small. It’s because of business innovation that we have everything from ketchup to ATMs. Many business leaders, over 44% of them, turn to innovation management and business incubation consulting services to develop their innovation strategies, which typically results in the identification of new product lines, markets and business models.
Despite the benefits of engaging with consultants, business leaders are often unsure about how to take consultant findings and turn them into actionable plans that align with their strategic objectives. Many times, innovation initiatives begin to die down as the consulting engagement ends and progress on innovation is stalled, if not collapsed altogether.
This is incredibly costly, both in terms of resources and morale. In this article, we’ll be sharing our guidance on how to implement consultant recommendations successfully. You don’t have to leave money on the table. With the following steps you can ensure your innovation investments yield a return.
Understand the Findings
This may seem obvious, but business leaders should thoroughly comprehend the consultant's research and recommendations to ensure they can be applied effectively. Research can be dense and take time to process critically, so make sure to timeblock one or two workshops to read the presented findings. Seek clarification to avoid misunderstandings that can impede the progress of innovation strategies. Reflect on the insights and recommendations by asking one or more of the following questions:
Can you provide more context?: Ask your consultant to provide additional context for the findings and recommendations as needed. Understanding the background and methodology can help you grasp the insights better.
What specific data or evidence supports these findings?: Request concrete data or evidence that supports the consultant's conclusions. This will help you gauge the reliability of the information and its relevance to your organization.
How do these findings align with our organizational goals and objectives?: Discuss the alignment between the consultant's findings and your company's strategic goals. It's crucial to ensure that the recommendations contribute to your overall mission.
Who should be involved in the implementation process?: Clarify the roles and responsibilities of both your team and the consultant during the implementation phase. Define the key stakeholders and their contributions.
What is the recommended timeline and milestones for implementation?: Discuss the consultant's proposed timeline for implementing the recommendations. This will help you create a structured plan and allocate resources accordingly.
How can we measure progress and success?: Establish clear key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to track the progress and success of the implementation. Ensure that these align with your organization's objectives.
Are there any alternative approaches or options we should consider?: Explore alternative solutions or approaches that may have been considered during the consulting process. Understanding the alternatives can provide a more comprehensive view.
Can you help us prioritize the recommendations?: If you have a long list of recommendations, ask the consultant to help prioritize them based on their potential impact and feasibility.
Ideally, the presented findings address some, if not all of these questions. But in the chance that they are not addressed, asking these clarifying questions will help ensure your team is equipped to manage innovation independently.
Avoid the Ambiguity Effect
Having invested in consulting services, it is important to protect against common barriers to innovation that derail potential returns. There are many things that can block innovation in an organization, and the second most common barrier is fear of uncertainty and loss of control.
Management executives looking for more control over outcomes run the risk of making decisions clouded by the ambiguity effect, a cognitive bias that causes leaders to avoid options with uncertain outcomes.
When leaders and executives operate from this bias, they often prioritize projects that are less risky and thus less innovative. Leaders who are influenced by the ambiguity effect also tend to push their teams to assure project success, which is counterproductive and discourages experimentation and creativity.
To overcome the ambiguity effect, leaders should incentivize risk taking and experimentation, as well as deepen their own personal tolerance for ambiguity.
Research encourages leaders to:
Practice personal mindfulness
Host innovation challenges as staff development to foster a culture of experimentation and learning
Carve out time for reflection and creativity before making a decision. Ask: How can you think about problems differently? What out-of-the-box ideas might work for your brand/organization?
With these interventions, you can decide on which initiatives or solutions you will organize your team to execute on.
Prioritize and Create a Strategic Plan
Once you have reviewed the consultant findings, taken steps to protect against ambiguity, and decided on a course of action, it is crucial to create a clear strategic plan with objectives, timelines, responsibilities, and budgets to guide your team’s next steps.
There are many ways to create a strategic plan. One thing we like to encourage is to make strategic planning a quick and actionable process. It can be done in one meeting or workshop with your core team. To strategically plan you will want to define:
What is the problem this initiative or solution addresses? Who is experiencing it?
What is the goal (for fixing the problem)?
Who is going to do what to get us there?
What are the deliverables? What do we have to build?
What lead indicators/metrics can we test so we’re on the right track?
These 5 questions are enough to get your initiative started. As you begin to experiment and execute, ask: “Based on how things went, what are our next steps?” This will help you track progress and adapt as your project or initiative progresses.
The Floreo Labs Innovation Plan: A one page strategic planning template for managing innovation
We developed a free one page strategic planning template with these guiding questions, which we encourage leaders implement during this phase of the innovation process.
Build Cross-Functional Teams
It can be very tempting to work in silos when executing on your strategic plan. But as they say: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Innovation is a group effort and it requires collaboration across various departments.
Leaders should build cross-functional teams to execute their strategic plan. This helps organizations gain different perspectives and improve overall execution. For example, you will need to be bringing the sales team to the table when preparing to demo and sell your innovation to your target audience. Involving them in the process from the start helps to increase buy-in and can gets your sales team excited about selling, ensuring your project can scale.
Make It Manageable: Prototype and Test
To make the most of this phase, starting small and iterating is key. It minimizes risks, keeps costs manageable, and allows for continuous refinement based on feedback. When choosing the right prototyping and testing methods, leaders must ask critical questions:
What specific goals are we trying to achieve through prototyping and testing
Which method aligns best with our objectives?
Are we testing for usability, desirability, or feasibility?
Prioritizing user-centered design is paramount and leaders should continuously engage with end-users and involve them in the testing process. By asking for user feedback and incorporating it into design iterations, organizations can ensure that the final product resonates with the target audience. This user-centric approach not only enhances the quality of the innovation but also fosters customer loyalty and satisfaction.
In terms of effective communication and documentation during the prototyping process, it's imperative to establish clear channels for sharing insights and progress updates with teams and stakeholders. Regular meetings, progress reports, and feedback loops should be integral parts of the innovation journey. Comprehensive documentation of the prototyping and testing process is also crucial. This includes maintaining records of methodologies, results and any adjustments made along the way. Such documentation not only aids in post-analysis but also serves as a valuable resource for future reference and scaling efforts.
Progress Monitoring: Celebrate Successes and Learn from Failures
To stay on course, it's essential to collect data frequently and analyze it rigorously. This data should encompass various aspects of your organization that are relevant to the consultant's findings. Technology tools and analytics platforms can facilitate real-time data collection and provide valuable insights. Regular analysis allows you to detect trends, identify areas where you're falling short and make timely adjustments.
During analysis, celebrate those wins and embrace setbacks as they are bound to happen. Setbacks hold valuable insights, and while KPIs provide benchmarks toward your goal, it's crucial to remain agile and respond to data as it becomes available. The business landscape is dynamic, and unexpected changes can occur. Be prepared to pivot when necessary and adjust your strategies based on new insights or external shifts. The ability to adapt quickly is a hallmark of successful organizations.
Address Resistance to Change
Innovation or change of any kind can face resistance within an organization. To address resistance effectively, leaders must first understand its sources and motivations. Resistance to change often stems from fear of the unknown, perceived loss of control, or concerns about how the change will impact one's role or the organization as a whole.
One of the most fundamental strategies for mitigating resistance is clear and transparent communication. Leaders must openly articulate the reasons behind the change, expected benefits and potential challenges. Consultants can help craft these messages in a way that resonates with the workforce, so it’s a good idea to work with consultants who are able to provide support throughout your implementation phases.
Regular, honest, and two-way communication channels should be established to address concerns and questions from employees. When employees feel heard and informed, they are more likely to embrace change rather than resist it. Furthermore, involving employees in problem-solving and decision-making enables their leadership and helps create a sense of ownership over the change.
Leadership also plays a crucial role in setting the tone for change. Leaders should not only endorse the change but also actively participate in it. Their actions speak louder than words. When leaders model the desired behaviors and attitudes associated with the change, they inspire others to follow suit. Leaders should also provide continuous support, coaching, and feedback to their teams throughout the transition.
Lastly, resistance can often emerge when employees lack the skills or knowledge required to adapt to new processes or technologies. Leaders must invest in training and skill development programs to ensure that employees are adequately prepared for the changes. Consultants can help leaders identify the specific training needs and develop tailored programs to address them. In doing so, leaders demonstrate a commitment to employee growth and development, which significantly reduces resistance.
Putting it all together…
We strongly encourage leaders who follow these steps to also revisit their strategic plans and consultant findings as external and internal context impacting their company evolves. Innovation is not a one-time event; it's an ongoing process that demands continuous vigilance and responsiveness. Adapting is par the course!
If you are interested in further guidance on implementing consultant findings and fostering innovation within your organization, don't hesitate to reach out to us! We'd love to support your journey towards innovation-driven growth.