Agile innovation Blog Vision & strategy

What do we innovate? Vision: innovation lighthouse

Every process must have an objective, every organization as well. Innovation precise orientation and a direction. Both organizations belonging to the public sector, as well as private or associative, work on the basis that they have a mission to accomplish and  medium to long term objectives.

But what do we mean by objectives? A mission to perform? To reach certain economical performance? Objectives are for clients, to convince them of the quality of products or services offered? Are they perhaps to convince or reassure investors? Or shareholders? Or are objectives mainly intended for employees, to motivate and indicate what is expected from them?

So where are these objectives explicit? the true ones, the ones that, obviously, will be the framework for the innovation orientation and direction?

  1. In the business plans?

The “Business plan” is a projection of the strategy. In reality, they serve to convince someone.

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In large companies they are usually written on the basis of the guidelines provided by the central, in charge of “reflection”. Are planning the next periods of 3 to 5 years, in which the first year is transformed into budget, which is supposed to be fulfilled imperatively the following year.

In SMEs, typically the “business plan” is made by the entrepreneur or the owner, with their limited means, with chronic lack of time and with their proven solitude.

This plan is, above all, a mandatory to negotiate with banks for advancing the necessary funds, for finding support or subsidies for the launching of the project or to continue their adventure pénsum. Innovation rests on the entrepreneur himself, is in his head and rarely explicit in the business plan. There is little relationship between their business plan and the realization of his dream.

Therefore, hardly may be related business plans to innovation direction and how to manage it.

2.  In “mission” and “values” definition?

Statements of values and intentions often emanate from the leaders of the departments of communication or perhaps from the marketing of the company. They may be purely external use (customer focus), internal (build team spirit), or mixed.

Much more qualitative, show an interest in the company culture more or less revealed. Innovation is primarily the expression of a culture and therefore a stance against an environment. It is an opening, and values shown are a good indicator.

Without giving a true innovation objective or direction, these concepts try to give a framework and reason for being.

3.  In the business model?

A “business model” has the primary purpose of communicating how a company intends to operate in the market and realise the expected performance. All consultants want to have “their” model, with a very pedagogical vocation, sometimes also for commercial purposes.

The consultants have prepared their models as a solution for every problem that the customer is going to raise. They will propose to build strategy and action plans based in one of them. The main merit of such models is to allow visualization, sometimes very graphic and quick, about the objectives, the direction to follow and often understand how an innovation process can be established.

Therefore, they serve more to design a process of innovation, than to define or direct its content.

4.  In the vision?

The vision should be a clear and motivating formulation where you want to reach, the objective to achieve medium to long term.

Every company needs a clear and shared “vision”. It’s like a picture of what will be in the future, painted with words, essential and motivating to push the action, understood by all, as explained and shared, from the top to the farthest corners of power in the company.

The ultimate goal of defining a vision is to give “sense” and guide to action.

Therefore, the vision has a meaning, explains the content of what is to be achieved or where it is intended to reach and at the same time indicates a direction that pushes the action in a concrete sense.

The vision is therefore the expression of a common goal, which is played by each in its place in the organization, but also according to their motivations and their individual faculties of perception.

5.  Orientate innovation

If the vision is necessary to provide a framework, a content, a common purpose and direction to an entire organization, it is also to give meaning and direction to the processes that are organized to operate.

Innovation is a primary or main process, linked directly to the management process and thus will benefit from the existence of a clear and shared vision for managing priorities and success of all innovation projects.

6.  Who should create or be the author of vision?

If vision is essential, Who creates it? How is it built?

There is no absolute answer to this, but we can provide a strong conviction, based on professional experience.

The author of vision is first and foremost the leader.

In SMEs, the issue is not present and the vision is created by the entrepreneur, at the same time is the owner and chief executive. This double dimension is particularly difficult to manage in everyday life, but is part of the price of independence.

In a large company, the creator of the vision, should be at the same time, the leader, responsible for the permanence and future of the organization.

The difference will come here, in the process, how to build this vision. It may be born in the head of one, but after all, it should be shared by his first circle of collaborators, which will be jointly responsible against the rest of the company, both shareholders and staff.

In other cases, it may be the product of a job made by the entire management team, external experts or consultants, then being the leader, the “sponsor” and promoter at all levels. In any case, it is clear who is responsible.

7.  What is the process to focus and guide the innovation?

We have been collaborating in many sessions for design and implementation an innovation process in companies and organizations.

A particularly important part is to define the orientation and focus of the innovation itself, and therefore in the process design and management of it.

M Doyle enWe used not only common tools such as SWOT analysis, etc. but particularly Michael Doyle process, in this case focused on innovation, and taking place in seven successive steps, which is essential to discuss and agree on a team.

  1. Analysis of the present. Strengths and weaknesses in its current context. Something like SWOT analysis.
  2. A visit to history. Although often neglected, the history of each organization says a lot about its capabilities and, of course, it is where they have built their culture and values. There is a foundational energy (momentum), sometimes built as a metaphor, and values that make up this culture. They have led the company to where it is today. You must see the detail of these foundational values and energies and analyse what are appropriate or not to meet current and future needs. This allows guidance on possible needs of cultural change and / or securities.
  3. Identify existing forces in the market and supply chain. Current trends of these forces and their predictable movements (customers, market segments, competition, management, regulatory, capital and materials suppliers, technology, employees, culture, environment, etc.). See the risks and opportunities that these movements will cause.
  4. Analysis of the “vision” formulated and link to the basic objectives of innovation. Turning vision into the “common goal” to achieve through innovation and develop the basic lines of the same.
  5. Identify strategic axes to be covered by internal or external innovation, and to move from the current state to the desired future. Select and prioritize the various alternatives.
  6. A forecast or identification of the “obstacles”, major difficulties that innovation is facing in the present and in the foreseeable future. Develop some alternative plans.
  7. Build action plans and communication, to be motor elements and motivators for action in the innovation process.

This type of process can be conducted in the course of two days of work. It can be effective in a residential seminar of 48 hours or equivalent, where they also share informal times. Actually, it never ceases to be a team effort and it may require an external element to facilitate the process.

The working method and expression is equal to the whole team, each manager is a member of the team even if one or more have responsibilities of different levels and one of them is ultimately responsible for the result against the board or shareholders.

It always amazes the ability of a team of managers to perform effectively and quickly this process and get a good result. Above all, they get the benefits of involvement and coherence in subsequent communication.

The display common goal is extremely powerful both in the field of the company and all those who require coordination team. Sport teams can be an obvious example.

¿And strategy?

About strategy will talk later in another entry. Reference is made to this previous one:

Innovate: ¿ How to conduct a flow of ideas and projects? The innovation process

Experience has shown us the need of the periodic review of all processes in a constant and recurring renewal of planning.

The innovation process should be part of an overall management process, we have already termed as “Innovation and performance in harmony.”

It is based in the integration of all basic business processes in a single management process, and reviewed monthly, not only in the measures and indicators but also the business plan integrated, with a horizon of plan usually between 18 and 24 months, but it can reach 36.

Continuously review.

We are in an environment of continuous and accelerated change, therefore it is essential to detect and introduce changes continuously in all processes.

We do this throughout a monthly structured review by exception, i.e. introducing into the plan the last changes detected both internal and externally, the latest relevant information and thereby facilitating decision taking.

Innovation is the first process in this review, which means updating all projects or programs and projects.

In fact, companies often perform this process in one way or another, more or less strictly and more or less documented manner. It turns out that the lack of structure, rigor, data and unique and reliable information, delays or inaccuracies, cause the greatest difficulty in making decisions or inability to decide consistently when it comes into the emergency room and sometimes in panic.

Ciclo eng dir intg armIn the diagram we show the scheme on how to make monthly reviews with integrated basic processes. This format is effective for decision-taking and implementation from strategic to day to day actions, reviewing projects that form the flow of innovation, as with sales forecasts, demand and supply.

The different steps to accomplish:

  1. Reviewing projects and innovation programs.
  2. Review of demand and customer relations.
  3. Review of supply chain
  4. Review of functions and support processes. Especially finance, human resources, technology, information etc.
  5. Review of intangible resources
  6. Integration in the management meeting and decisions.
  7. Finally, implementation of decisions and actions taken in each process.

A key element in all stages that allows the system work, mainly in the management meeting, is a rigorous commitment to use a single set of data, shared and accepted by all, so that the values are not discussed.

If we ensure monthly quality processes and the introduction of changes (internal or external) into the plans, we can ensure that the quality of management process will allow progress in the strategic path and decision making will be optimized.

Each process is characterised by input information (inputs), the output result (output), by the treatment of information and actions to be taken, resources to be used and the persons responsible, and is measured by the indicators. This is also valid for innovation process.

Analysis and design can be made in the form of a matrix that is recommended in the SIPOC model, by (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer).


Francesc Guell is the owner of this site. He was CEO and director of international companies in specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The last 12 years was associated with international consulting groups, providing advice and support to businesses on topics such as innovation and agile innovation processes, operational excellence, knowledge management, change management, strategy and integrated business management. Currently creates and presents courses and workshops on these topics. He graduated as a chemical engineer, postgraduate from ESADE Business School in Business Administration and Master in Knowledge Management. He participated in numerous programs, seminars and ESADE, IESE, EADA, APD and MCE (Management Centre Europe). He is author of articles, presentations and courses on innovation in strategic management, integrated business models, knowledge management, performance measurement, change management and excellence in business processes. See more in: Professional Profile