"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless." ~Thomas A. Edison

"If everyone has to think outside the box, maybe it is the box that needs fixing." ~Malcolm Gladwell  

We are all naturally attracted to the latest shiny toy that is out in the marketplace. We learned it watching commercials as kids and we’ve brought it along with us into adulthood with big screen TVs, the latest fashion, and “fad” diets. This behavior has a tendency to also bleed over into our management decisions in the way of “knee-jerk” decisions, reorganizations, policy changes, etc. While a new solution to an existing problem may be the answer, it is important that you ensure that you have learned as much as you can from the existing solution before making the switch. Do we really understand the process and why it isn’t working? Are we clear on our goals for it? Is there the possibility of working with the current process to accomplish what we need?

I’m not looking to slow innovation, but I think that sometimes we move too quickly and end up losing productivity and efficiency along the way. To use an analogy, there’s no need to buy a new car if all you needed to do is to change the battery in your current car. In that spirit I recommend you check on a few things before scrapping the old process for a new one:

Take a look at each of the step – Be clear on where the breakdown is occurring and needed improvement needs to happen. Similar to the car analogy above, when you take the process apart, you may see a glaring issue that needs to be addressed that makes the whole process more effective. This can mean a simple change or a complete overhaul into a new process, but you won’t be able to confidently move forward without this step.

What can be learned prior to the change – Experience and wisdom comes most regularly through learning from the mistakes we made in the past. What lessons can be learned from the old process? Those lessons aren’t always obvious, so it is a good exercise to go looking for them before you move on. And in some cases, that forced learning yields something that can make the existing process work.

Look at the implementation cost – One of the things that so many leaders miss is the cost of implementing a new strategy. Training cost, material cost, and the cost of lost productivity while the team is learning something new can completely eliminate the benefit that was to be gained while incurring the risk that it might not work out. Change comes at a cost, make sure you know the cost so you can make an informed decision on the anticipated return.

Memorialize where you are at – So when you decide that you want to make the change to the new, shiny, and innovative process, make sure you have put together metrics showing where you are at from a productivity standpoint in the current process. These numbers can really help when justifying the change at a later date, or in the worst case scenario can show why you need to switch back to the old process if the new one doesn’t reap the results you were looking for.

Remember to keep things as simple as possible. Many of us love to complicate things, almost as a mental exercise, and this goes for innovation in your organization as well. While I am a firm believer that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is recipe for your organization being left behind in the competitive landscape, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be mindful and analytical in how you move forward.

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