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What to Do when Top Management Isn't on Board?

What to Do when Top Management Isn’t on Board?

| On 01, Jan 2010

Message: 1941
Posted by: Lisa
Posted on: Tuesday, 9th November 2010

Our organization's (a non-profit organization in the business of performing rights management) first attempt at developing an innovation culture was back in 2008 with an “idea generation” program. After approximately one year, staff participation in the program significantly decreased, and the majority of ideas that were being submitted were not necessarily innovative or seen as adding value to the business. In my opinion, the program didn't promote an innovation culture and instead, drew attention to our bureaucratic and risk-averse culture.

In April 2010, I was promoted to the newly created position of “Innovation Champion.” Position overview: The Innovation Champion is committed to promoting an innovative culture and the right conditions for innovation within the organization. He/she supports the innovation strategy and facilitates innovation through educating employees about the strategic importance of innovation, and empowering and encouraging employees to participate in innovation and contribute to the future growth of the organization. Although I was to “support the innovation strategy,” the organization didn't have any strategy or plan for innovation; and so, my first task was to assist senior management in developing an “innovation strategy.”

Upon proposal of my framework (including defining what innovation means to us, the value it is expected to generate, linking it to our strategic plan, identifying areas of opportunity, etc.), it became clear that at least half of senior management didn't support innovation. These individuals are of the opinion that innovation isn't as important to the survival and competitive advantage of our organization when compared with other businesses. They also believe that we are already innovative, referring to new technology and audio identification systems put in place (though others in our business have done or are doing the same!). To make matters more complicated, other VPs (including some of those who support innovation) believe that we should proceed with innovation by developing a few programs to encourage ideas and creativity – forget about a framework to guide our efforts.

By creating the position of “Innovation Champion” I was under the impression that top management wanted to proceed with innovation. Now I find myself trying to convince some that we need innovation, while at the same time recommending that the senior management team lead the organization in potential innovation efforts by creating some sort of framework. After a couple frustrating team meetings, having to produce a detailed report supporting the innovation imperative, meeting with each VP individually to obtain input, and etc., I am still left with only a few VPs committed to innovation (and in agreement with my proposed framework).

Any thoughts on getting the entire team on the same page?

Message: 1942
Posted by: Zvi Ben Dov
Posted on: Thursday, 11th November 2010

Hi Lisa,

I would suggest you to use TOC (theory of constraints) to overcome the obstacles you have described.

Why TOC?

Because this approach enables you to consolidate your team. If your team works according TOC it:

Gains agreement on the problem
Gains agreement on the direction for a solution
Gains agreement that the solution solves the problem
Agrees to overcome any potential negative ramifications
Agrees to overcome any obstacles to implementation

Try it and good luck!

Message: 1945
Posted by: L.R.Natarajan
Posted on: Wednesday, 17th November 2010

Dear Lisa ,

Before I respond to your question , I should compliment you for many things a) Having got an oppurtunity to be an Innovation champion for your organisation b) Having succeeded in your efforts to connect innovation strategy , with that of business strategy c) Having influenced few VP's,

Bringing about change ( that too through consensus ) in an organisation is the most difficult thing to happen. In this light ,  (in the overall interest of the organisation ) , as i see it , the innovation champions need to exhibit two important traits 1) Never say die attitude 2) Perseverence

Having said that , my experience is that innovation ( any change ) has to be a top down agenda. The top man CEO , should drive it , and he should take the VP's into confidence , and after that spend time to review with the innovation champion.

What is required to sell innovation across the company is INFLUENCING ABILITY , and the CEO as a leader should have this quality , and it is his responsiblity to set the tone for change. Many a times the senior managers will not look at what is said , but will look at who had said it , before acting on it.

My suggestion is a) Continue to be passionate b) Influence your CEO to set the tone for innovation c) Ensure that there is a systamic review which your CEO also attends. Rest will be history

All the best


Message: 1946
Posted by: Lisa
Posted on: Thursday, 18th November 2010

Dear LRN,

Thank you for your encouraging reply. Your response brightened that light at the end of the tunnel that has been dimming over the past months.

Rather than taking-on full responsibility of getting top management on the same page regarding innovation, I will take your advice and work more closely with the CEO in mitigating and/or eliminating resistance from our leaders.

Kind Regards,


Message: 1947
Posted by: L.R.Natarajan
Posted on: Thursday, 18th November 2010

Dear Lisa ,

For passionate , focussed , committed , hard work , the results can be delayed , but will never be denied.

All the best

Best Regards