Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
Posted by Jennifer Luik (@Leong_je) under:
Decision Making, Government, and Innovation
In the past year or so, we have seen an increasing effort between the Department of Defense and industry to bring innovative, ideas, processes, solutions and technologies to solve national security and defense problems. In 2015, the White House revealed the 2015 White House American Innovation Strategy and in March 2016, it established the Acquisition Innovation Labs in Federal agencies with a goal to reduce procurement and acquisition lead time. Other efforts to improve innovation in the government included SOCOM’s SofWerX that facilitates rapid procurement of special operations technology, and the DOD’s Defense Innovation Unit experimental DUIX that matches technology to military buyers. Despite these efforts to enable innovation across the department, mission owners and acquisition professionals often operate within perceived rules that are also barriers to innovation.
Why is that?
Well, the acquisition and procurement process is only ONE part of a larger problem to innovation: multiple missions and accompanying multiple objectives within an organization is its own impediment to innovation. This is also an issue that is not commonly addressed when analyzing the barriers to innovation in the government. When there are multiple objectives, from multiple stakeholders striving for an innovative solution, technology or process with shared resources and government funds; the ability to truly innovate can be impaired.
While this wicked problem can’t be solved overnight, here are some key things to remember if you are trying to innovate in multi-objective; multi-stakeholder environment:
- Innovative System vs Human Function Trade Space: In a multi-agenda environment, an innovative solution to one person’s perspective may be a threat to others. The best known example of this case is the development of innovative technology that replaces the need for human beings. A 2012 DOD Task Force Report on “The Role of Autonomy in DOD Systems” encourages investigation of human-machine trade spaces. While this recommendation may be ripe for enabling innovation with DOD systems, the trade space may actually be between a person’s careers and livelihood vs machine. When it comes to your livelihood vs a system, you will use your authority and power to preserve your career over surrendering the mission functions to a system. As a result, one will overtly resist the innovation. Communication and expectation management, and detailed career planning conversations are key to navigating this type of trade space, and ultimately getting buy in for your innovation effort.
- Choose Win-Win Innovation Projects: In addition to placing effort into an innovation to achieve a common goal, consider choosing innovation projects that satisfy common objectives amongst your stakeholders. If you can select 2 innovation projects that satisfy at least one objective between 5 stakeholders; then can all stakeholders agree to jointly fund and resource the two innovation projects and agree to disagree on the other 20 innovation projects that are on the table? This is the goal and the compelling case that must be made. While it might seem like only a small win, those two innovation projects selected will be a true test of how each of the stakeholders can best work together. An effort like this will establish the relationships, processes and ground rules for how multiple organizations can work together to achieve innovation. Design facilitation is common technique to discover win-win innovative efforts.
- Budget time and resources for strategic communication- Even before you select an innovation project, implementing best practice strategic communication across all organizations and stakeholders is essential. Consider creating a salience model to identify stakeholders of power, authority and influence over the innovation project. Once determined, utilize strategic communication best practices to develop ONE consistent message about your innovation effort in the perspective that matters to each of the organization and stakeholders involved. Now, are you thinking that you need an entire liaison and communications staff? You probably do or at the very least a dedicated resource to ensure effectiveness of your communication strategy. However, in a multi-agenda organization with limited time and resources, can your innovation project risk not having the buy in of the stakeholders with power, authority and influence? Will the mission suffer? Investing some time and resources in a good strategic communication effort will be worth the effort.