Does innovation keep you up at night? If not, it probably should. Despite our best efforts to move forward in the disruption economy, infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations are not moving fast enough. Whether it is the adoption of outdated operating models or an inability to anticipate the sheer need for speed, the path to survival is littered with companies that could not evolve fast enough to survive the new arrivals of digital-first and innovation-driven competitors.
Process Over Agility
I attended a recent conference (back when we still met face to face), and I walked into a session with a business executive presenting on how his company transformed its operations by utilizing a new system.
At some point in the conversation, he said: “Is anyone in here from IT? If so, I’ll apologize now. We didn’t ask IT’s permission to invest in the platform. It would have taken too long to adopt following their rigorous change management process. The cost of entry for us was minimal, we adopted a very small footprint, proved the business case, and established a contract directly with the cloud provider … ”
Wait, what did I just hear? Has IT really become that slow to adapt that the business — taking the path of least resistance — decided to ask for forgiveness instead of permission? Gone are the days when process-oriented IT organizations could dictate what changes get approved and scheduled for implementation.
What does this example have to do with knowledge capacity building?
Velocity Is A Business Requirement
In our search to better support the business’s need for innovation, I&O organization and development teams are embracing DevOps and product teams. But those initiatives alone will not support the continual need for innovation. Acceleration requires a long-term strategy where capabilities are at the core. According to Nicole Forsgren, PhD, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim, “By focusing on a capabilities paradigm, organizations can continuously drive improvement. And by focusing on the right capabilities, organizations can drive improvements in their outcomes, allowing them to develop and deliver software with improved speed and stability.”
I&O leadership must do more than just look to innovative organizational structures and frameworks to empower agility. Investments need to be made in our people, their skills, and their capabilities.
A People-First Strategy — Knowledge Capacity Building
Knowledge capacity building focuses the organization on the sustainable development of the knowledge and skills that are required to support the constant cycle of innovation. It sits at the unique pentagram of:
- Training and development.
- Knowledge management.
- Continuous improvement.
- Organizational change management.
Knowledge capacity building doesn’t stand alone as an innovation strategy; rather, it is an initiative that is required in support of existing innovation initiatives and operating models. A well-defined capability model is required to build a modern, resilient organization that can adapt to the changing needs of the enterprise. A people-first strategy means aforethought, perpetual development of employee capabilities with a focus on innovation and in alignment with desired business outcomes.
Successful knowledge capacity building leads to enriched capabilities to deliver value to the business. Knowledge is exchanged across a value stream and empowers insights-driven decision-making. At the heart of organizational change, agility is not a pendulum that swings back and forth between operating models and broad, sweeping change. Rather, an organization arrives at true organizational change through an iterative process of creativity — try, learn, and adapt. Continuous improvement will be key to success.
For more on knowledge capacity building, read my report, Knowledge Management Needs A Capacity-Building Approach.
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