In our ongoing series of The Twelve Hats Of An Innovation Manager, we are looking at the different types of roles and jobs that an innovation manager is responsible for. The sixth role that the innovation manager must play is that of the continuous improver.
Many people think of innovations in a simple way: new product developments. However, innovations can also take the form of organisational initiatives that improve processes, boost employee engagement and improve the way a company operates.
What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is a term best described as “the ongoing improvement of products, services or processes through incremental and breakthrough improvements.” Sounds an awful lot like innovation, does it not?
While an innovation event can be a one-off occurrence, continuous improvement is the flow of improvements that happen over the lifetime of a business.
An innovation manager is responsible for continuous improvement in a variety of ways. For starters, he or she manages both “incremental” improvements and “breakthrough” improvements. Breakthrough improvements happen in bursts – they are the one-off projects and the new product launches that impact a business in substantial ways. When not managing the breakthrough projects, innovation managers diligently work on incremental improvements – these are the small items, over time, that add up to big advancements for the company.
An innovation manager, while wearing the continuous improvement hat, will be very familiar with the most common continuous improvement model: plan-do-check-act.
- Plan: the innovation manager identifies opportunities for change.
- Do: he or she works with teams and experts to implement change. They use their knowledge and strong analytical skills to do so at an appropriate scale.
- Check: after making changes, the innovation manager analyses results and determines impact.
- Act: the innovation manager must use the existing data and the prototype stage to determine if the change can be more widely adopted.
An innovation manager, when wearing the continuous improvement hat, takes considerable care to look for new opportunities in all aspects of the organisation. Not only do they work on innovation on a project-by-project basis, but they utilise continuous improvement best practices to foster a strong environment of change where new ideas are accepted and calculated risks are tackled head-on.
…Want to learn more about the skills, competencies and abilities of the innovation manager? Then check out the rest of our series on The Twelve Hats Of An Innovation Manager! Subscribe to our innovation-themed blog for more exciting content.