What to do before adopting the next big management idea…

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If you talk to people about Google most will know  about their 20% innovation time policy. If you have heard about Semco, you will know about their radical no-hierarchy management system. And when talking about Toyota, we will quickly talk about lean and mean production systems. There are many really impressive and radical management ideas out there!

However, when you are managing (in) a company your primary concern is not how to be or look cool and trendy with the latest management fad. You want to be effective and productive. Julian Birkinshaw in the Harvard Business Review provides two ways to go about the next big thing:

  1. Observe-and-apply: See if and how a new approach works and then apply it to your own company;
  2. Extract the Central Idea: Only extract the essential principles of practice and apply this within the context of your company.

The latter approach is more effective and provides less risk of needing to abandon the management idea halfway through.

However, whatever method you choose, the first thing is to know your company. Corporate self-awareness helps you to adopt those innovations which can be right for you. Another important element is to understand the source-company of the prospective management innovation. Is it an upstart?, is a “certified weird” company?, Is it a dancing giant (big traditional company)?, or is it not a business organisation but of a ‘related species’?

Birkinshaw advice is to follow some practical steps when importing new innovations:

  1. Bide your time: wait a while before adopting a management idea to see it stand the test of time;
  2. Deconstruct the management model: what is the underlying logic?, what are unusual assumptions?, what was the inspiration for the model?
  3. Understand the hypotheses: what was the company testing or proving to be true?
  4. Look for results: what were the outcomes and how do these line up with the hypotheses?
  5. Experiment: before introducing it to your entire company, test drive it on a pilot project.

Good advice!

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