Building a Coalition

Much has been written about leading transformational change in large organizations. Going back to Kotter in the mid-90s we have been told that successful large-scale change requires a team of aligned executives. This is especially true when transforming innovation capabilities.

Building a committed coalition of cross-functional executives is an important activity in the innovation transformation journey. While this is a smart step in any change initiative, it is critical in innovation for two reasons; the lack of positional authority and the inherently cross-functional nature of innovation.

The job of the Chief Innovation Officer is to deliver growth from innovation. In most cases, however, this must be accomplished without the authority of a line manager. That makes the job challenging in the typical multi-business unit corporate structure. The innovation executive must lead through influence. They may have a small dedicated team, but most of the resources required for the effort will work for someone else. Buy-in and alignment will enable the program to overcome inevitable barriers.

The second reason this takes a coalition is that innovation itself is inherently cross-functional. Even with complete alignment at the business unit leadership level, there is still a need to address and improve capabilities that involve multiple business functions. Imagine trying to implement advanced portfolio management capabilities without the support of marketing or finance.

Just like the step of acquiring a charter, the process of gaining alignment and building a coalition will take time. It may seem like time that would be better spent tackling real challenges. This is another “go slow to go fast” activity that will pay dividends when you start challenging the process and shaking up the status quo. If it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes a team to transform innovation.