Operations maturity and innovation

What says “Operations” to you? For many, it’s all about planning, process, documentation, compliance, standardization, optimization, and efficiency. Good, solid stuff, and not in any way sexy.

What about “innovation”? Innovation seems to be about chaotic change, fluidity, rule-breaking, risk-taking, creativity, and disruption. Rebels on motorcycles!

This sets the stage for tension, because innovation typically touches on technology, digital platforms, data, and applications – projects that demand IT and technical expertise. Led by the wrong team, such projects are subject to high risk and failure. Yet led by traditional Ops, they might also not be very innovative.

I think Operations maturity must be characterized by seeking a middle way in partnership (and fruitful tension) with the more innovative elements of the Advancement organization.

  • Traditional Operations plans, then executes. Innovation executes, then iterates. A mature partnership pilots, learns, then executes.
  • Traditional Ops avoids risks. Innovation takes risks. The mature partnership identifies risks and mitigates them.
  • Traditional Ops insists on process and procedure. Innovation doesn’t have time. The mature partnership finds ways to continuously improve.
  • Traditional Ops seeks to optimize. Innovation prioritizes impact. The mature partnership figures out the right thing to do, and then figures out how to do it right.

Traditional Ops is reactive. Innovation is proactive. That contrast disappears in the mature partnership that has both sides working from a common strategy.

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