5 Leadership Lessons: Jim McNerney’s Top Tips For Implementing Innovation
In Business Management magazine, senior editor Ben Tompson reports on Jim McNerney’s focus on innovation at Boeing – specifically in the development of the 787 Dreamliner.
Never-ending incremental improvements are vital both to sustaining current business and to opening new opportunities.
Today we are managing inputs on a global scale across every boundary you can imagine – across engineering disciplines and in concert with all the other business disciplines. The challenge before us is to manage information better and get more information to more people in a more usable form. That requires more than being adept at using computers, cell phones and other tools; it requires exceptional teamwork across the entire enterprise – extending from our supplier-partners, on one side, to our dealings with customers, on the other.
Innovation is a team sport, not a solo sport. It depends on a culture of technical sharing and openness. It takes people working together across different groups, disciplines and organizational lines to make it happen. It also takes real leadership in charting the course and inspiring people to reach for the highest level of performance, supported by a never-ending focus on integrity. [When at 3M] the company changed its mindset in two basic ways. First was to switch the emphasis from the individual to the team, and to make the team an all-inclusive concept. Second was to move away from the thought of innovation for innovation’s sake and replace it with a disciplined focus on customer-inspired innovation. A heightened focus on the customer did not and does not inhibit the flow of ideas or creativity. On the contrary, through a more disciplined, customer-based approach, 3M raised the bar.
Even in the laboratory, innovation should not be left to happenstance….
In a business environment, you can’t have creativity without discipline because – like it or not – not all ideas are created equal. You need the rigor and discipline both to say “no” on some projects and to put the pedal to the metal on others. As a project moves from the lab, through marketing and manufacturing, and into the field, there is a continuing need for discipline. At every stage, you must ask whether the project is on target to deliver a compelling value proposition to your customer – and, in the business-to-business world, to your customer’s customers.
For a company’s growth to be sustainable, it must be combined with an unrelenting emphasis on productivity. On taking everything you do and finding a way to reduce waste, cut cycle time and do everything better, so you can free up resources for the next cycle of growth.
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