Why It Is Not Good Enough to Just Have Good Ideas

I posted a link to a Forbes article titled Five Character Traits of Innovation Leaders in one of the Linkedin discussion groups last week. I found this article very interesting. Here is a summary of the 5 things and how they could apply to purchasing leaders:

  1. Don’t do. Influence. – Instead of accepting the status quo, influence leaders in other organizations to initiate change.
  2. Seed the future, not the present – Don’t get bogged down in firefighting and daily routine. Envision and talk about the future.
  3. Work for love of change and improvement, rather than what you get or yourself – If you are innovative, the” What’s in it for me?” will take care of itself.
  4. Take personal risks that will benefit others –As a purchasing leader what can you do to help sales, engineering, operations, etc.
  5. Share, share, share all the time – You have insights to commodity markets, what competitors are doing with your supply base, etc. How do you share this information?

The ongoing discussion points in the LinkedIn groups indicate that many people believe they are innovators but have trouble with getting buy-in to their innovations and getting them implemented. One of the best resources I have found for implementation is John Kotter’s eight-step change process outlined in his 1995 book, “Leading Change.” His eight steps for leading change and how I believe they apply to purchasing executives are below:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency – Establish a sense of urgency within your purchasing organization and with other functions impacted that change is required. Are company profits declining? Is the company growing and needing change? Are there outside challenges/threats?
  2. Create a guiding coalition – Identify who in the company needs to be actively involved and/or buy into the changes you will be proposing. Obtain their buy-in and commitment to support change.
  3. Develop a vision and strategy – What is the envisioned state of how things will be when the innovation is fully launched? How will you launch the vision?
  4. Communicate the change vision – Many innovators assume that other people to “get it” as easily as they did. They won’t. The innovator needs to assume that they won’t get it and that the message will have to be repeated several times. I am reminded of Alan Mulally former CEO and innovator at Ford Motor. Alan successfully guided Ford through one of the most turbulent automotive markets in history. At every event I saw him speak at he explained the “One Ford” Vision and the strategy for getting there. I almost knew it by heart and I was not even an employee.
  5. Empower broad-based action – Make sure the structure of the organization, the skill of the employees, key metrics and performance objectives will support the change.
  6. Generating short-term wins – Find the early adopters who can and will implement the change in areas where you are likely to have some short-term wins.
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change – A few short term gains do not guarantee success and turn all the naysayers into supporters. Continue to refine the innovation, publicize the gains, admit and address shortcomings.
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture – The key question to ask yourself if you are the innovator or change agent is: If I were to leave would the innovation continue on? If yes, then you have been successful.

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