Everyone working in innovation has more ideas in time. Every organization has more projects to work than resources. And all of us truly believe in the purpose and benefits of the ideas and projects we create.
Yet, we also have limited resources. There are only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week. We have limited budgets and talent to accomplish our innovation project vision. It is an age-old problem.
Alongside your business and innovation strategies, it is important to implement a capability strategy. The capability strategy is an offshoot of product portfolio management, allowing an organization to plan and execute projects with higher productivity and efficiency. You will learn to schedule and balance resources and talent to ensure effective product innovation.
In the resource-view of the firm, capabilities and competencies represent the talent and special skills of an organization. For example, the capability to run ultra-high vacuum electron scanning instruments requires not only specialized equipment but competent and trained users. Similarly, a successful restaurant requires specialty software to convey orders to the kitchen and well-trained staff that are attentive to diners’ needs.
Any special equipment or skills of your staff that differentiate your organization are key capabilities. These are listed as strengths on a SWOT analysis (read about Using SWOT to Reset your Innovation Strategy here). You also might work diligently to train and acquire staff with unique competencies. This includes giving employees both formal and informal learning opportunities, on-the-job training, and freedom for idea exploration.
The Capability Plan
In product portfolio management (PPM), senior management prioritizes a list of innovation projects to maximize value. Optimizing resources (time, money, equipment, and people) is a key activity of PPM. In prioritizing active projects (those assigned budgets and resources), the portfolio managers must assess the capability strategy. Where there are competency gaps, provide training or hire new talent with appropriate skills. Where there are deep skills without immediate project utility, re-train or release resources for other work.
“The Toy Box” (an imaginary but representative company) has five innovation projects on the books. One project is nearing completion and will be launched soon. The others are at varying stages of completion, from concept development to final prototype testing.
Because The Toy Box has only a handful of market researchers assigned to innovation projects, they note a gap in the “motors” and “boats” projects. Each project needs the attention of three full-time equivalent (FTE) market researchers to conduct prototype testing during the next three months. The Toy Box employs only four market researchers full-time. This results in a gap of two FTEs for market research with a crisis level gap in the next three months.
Capability Strategy Choices
In this case, The Toy Box has several choices to balance their project needs with required capacity, as follows.
- Delay one or both projects
- Cancel one or both projects
- Hire more (temporary or permanent) market researchers
- Re-train other staff to learn market research skills
- Advance these projects without market research
- Abandon these projects and work on ones that match availability of market research FTEs
Each of these choices is a strategic decision, since the outcomes impact the ability of the organization to execute projects, generate revenues, and satisfy customers. Each choice also has both short-term and long-run cost impacts. Thus, capacity planning is a senior management activity and is a strategic (not operational or tactical) decision.
Your Capability Strategy
Learning and growth are foundations of successful innovation. In your strategy, do you account for training, hiring, and development of human resources? Do you balance talent against project needs in the product portfolio? Do you have a specific and actionable plan to close capability gaps for innovation?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you need to join our Reset Your Strategy Workshop. You can pre-register here and we’ll send you the full details soon. Contact me at [email protected] or area code (281) phone 787-3979 for more information.
- Innovation and Project Management: It’s NOT about You (PMI Houston Virtual Chapter meeting, Tuesday, 2 June 2020 at 5:30 pm
- The Innovation ANSWER Book (available at Amazon and now in Kindle format)
- NPDP certification (register for New Product Development Professional self-study here)
- 20 Tips for Innovation (webinar recording and eBook)
- The Innovation PRACTICE Book (coming soon)
- Life Design Master Mind Q&A webinar (18 June 2020 at noon CDT, register here at no cost)
I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced innovation professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at [email protected] or area code 281 + phone 787-3979 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.