Ownership: Are You Taking Responsibility?

In order to achieve Innovation, a champion within an organization must take Ownership – one of Robert’s Rules of Innovation imperatives.  The champion, whether an officer or executive manager within the company, has the responsibility of convincing others to work outside their comfort zone, even if they are resistant to change.

To take Ownership, the champion, ideally somebody that is passionate about the initiative,  must first take responsibility of the project tasks and decisions, form the team and then clearly communicate what’s expected to the rest of the team. The champion’s unique and challenging job is to sell the new idea and convince the team to take calculated risks while working towards that goal.

Some of the most successful product development managers are often successful salespeople in the company, because their talent is building consensus around a brand new, untested idea and convincing others to wholeheartedly work towards that cause with an uncertain outcome. It is the champion’s job to empower and inspire the team towards Innovation.

That’s why it is essential to have a leader for every product development team – a powerful, respected champion for the cause, a passionate leading advocate and ultimate decision-maker.

Next, it is important to establish and maintain regular New Product Development meetings. Here are some key points for these meetings:

  • Face to face (in person) is best.
  • Keep a regular date, time and duration.
  • Clearly state the meeting objectives in a written, predistributed agenda.
  • Include cross-functional teams in the meeting: marketing, sourcing purchasing, sales, operations, quality assurance, etc.
  • Review New Product Development by priority level (high/medium/low).
  • Set next steps and a clear-cut action plan. Follow through and instill accountability.

Everyone on the team should feel like they are part of the process to get a sense of Ownership. To test Ownership, here are some questions you should ask:

  • Who’s Driving This Thing?: Your program for sustainable Innovation must have a champion, a true driver of the process.
  • Where’s the Passion?: Select associates who care and are truly passionate about the product and the effort.  Kick disbelievers off the bus – this is too important for naysayers to derail.
  • Different Strokes for Different Folks: Assign a specific task to a dedicated “owner” – this is critical to unleashing the best performance out of each member of the project team.
  • Is incentive compensation aligned? : Make sure the incentive and recognition programs are supporting and rewarding the results and those involved.

Ultimately, Ownership must extend beyond a single person to be embraced by the whole organization. The true test of Ownership is simple. Ask them, “Excuse me, is this yours?”

Robert Brands is a professional Speaker, the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation“: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman published in March, 2010 by Wiley.