In the Innovation and Risk Taking (part 1) I discussed risk avoidance as a reason that teams may struggle with true innovation. In Innovation and Risk Taking (part 2), hopefully you started thinking a bit about mindset and skillset on your innovation team. In Part 3, I’d like to highlight two tools that have been critical to success on cross functional teams in my career. These tools help you define roles/responsibilities and increase effective collaboration.

Who’s on first?

Have you ever been in a situation that feels like the classic Abbott & Costello routine? While it’s hilarious as a comedy routine, it’s less amusing when the situation is eroding your effectiveness.

One of the most frustrating experiences of my career was a project I undertook in early 2012. I was a marketer working with a phenomenal sales team – they were creative, nimble and solution oriented. We had some product challenges that were the result of historic decisions, but we made things work through creativity, communication and constructive conflict.

Together, we were trying to overcome a portfolio gap with a creative commercial solution – low cash cost (innovative), potentially some lost margin rate (risk), but margin dollars easily offset by share retention. We spent several months working through a multi department solution, and on the last approval call, when signing off, one guy who had been with us all along the way said, “Wait, I’m not sure I’ve got the authority to approve this…” sending us into a several month rework process.

Since then, I’ve worked on other interdepartmental innovation teams, and the one thing I’ve learned to start with – as often as I can – is a RACI document. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Contributor, Informed, and can really help streamline and organize your team, and ensure that few wrenches are thrown in at the last minute. In any multidisciplinary process, having the steps required and the people identified as doers, contributors, and authorized to stop things UP FRONT is critical. There are many project management definitions for RACI, but here are some easy to remember definitions that I use:

  • Responsible: The ONE person who will make sure the task is being completed
  • Accountable: The ONE person who “writes the check or gets fired if it goes badly” (according to my friend and mentor Charlene Grabowski)
  • Contributor: The people who commit to showing up and being doers and insight-givers in the process
  • Informed: The team that needs to know but doesn’t NEED to weigh in

Too often, people try to push themselves up the chain late in the game – particularly when risk is involved because fear festers. By documenting roles up front and having each team sign off on the RACI chart, you can ensure that late-game wrenches are held instead of thrown because everyone went in with the same understanding. For a handy guide and template, check out this guide or this one and this downloadable Excel template.

Who are you?

We talked in Innovation and Risk Taking Part 2 about growth mindset. Growth mindset requires vulnerability, but it’s sure hard to be vulnerable when you are insecure. One tool that can be helpful is a common team understanding of different behavioral styles and different approaches. I have completed several inventories – each time, I have looked at my own style differently, it has helped me understand points of tension or success with coworkers more effectively, and taught me to harness different energies. The understanding that different people will work differently is critical to any team’s success.

Much has been written and published on personality inventories and assessments, and your Human Resources team may have ideas about which is best for you. In my career, I’ve taken several assessments – some more scientifically robust than others – each one has given me more insight into myself, and helped me work more effectively with teammates if we are both aware of our strengths, potential hot buttons, and style preferences. The one I’ve found most valuable is the Personal Insight Inventory.

The most valuable part of any such assessment is self-awareness – particularly how others perceive me – so I can work to meet them where THEY are. This approach ONLY works if everyone comes from a sincere place of teamwork. At a time where I was aware of my style but many around me were not aware of theirs, I spent much of my time accommodating different styles, not a lot of time being accommodated, and found the situation frustrating and unsustainable.

I hope you have found this 3 part series helpful for your innovation journey. If so, please be sure you follow the LIDOFY page on LinkedIn to get blog updates! Comments there will feed future topics.

Have you stumbled and need help getting back on track? Could you use an innovation coach who has experienced a wide variety of healthcare technology launches and creatively solved sticky problems? Let’s talk!