The secret to success is system leadership by the LEADERSHIP

The Innovation Engineering movement defines a system as Dr. Deming did, “two or more independent parts with a common aim.”  In the case of an organization this means two or more departments that are working together towards the common aim of the organization as a whole.ThinkstockPhotos-456110931 Sadly, the average organization realizes “less than the sum of their parts” - together they realize less than what each department delivers independently.  This is because the departments first priority is on delivering their departmental metrics no matter what the consequences are to other departments or the organization as a whole.

Good organizations are the “sum of their parts” - they realize an additive impact from the interactions of their departments.   There is cooperation and collaboration between departments.  The management of each department reacts to issues rapidly.  They are willing to sacrifice short term department results for the accomplishment of the overall aim of the organization.

Great organizations are the “product of their parts” - they realize a multiplicative impact from the interactions of their departments.  This is because they have a proactive innovation culture.   Employees anticipate customer needs and the needs of other departments.   Good organizations innovate to problem solve challenges when they arise.   Great organizations anticipate issues and proactively innovate to take advantage of opportunities, lead market change and prevent problems from developing.

To move from an average or good organization to a great organization requires the full engagement of company leadership.   This is because only the leadership of the organization has the view of the overall organization as they are above the departments.  

Great leadership sets the strategic direction and enrolls departmental leaders in the pursuit of their aim for the organization.

Dr. Deming wrote of the need to replace management with leadership.   To paraphrase Dr. Deming, “The job of management is one of prediction.  It’s about finding out what will help the customer in the future. It’s about finding how to get ahead of the customer.” 

Leadership is about leading the organization into the future.  It’s about making strategic choices on what products, services and markets to invest the organization’s resources in.  It’s also about investing in internal capability building such as employee education, tools and systems to enable employees to innovate faster and with greater success.

In 1954 Peter Drucker wrote in his management classic The Practice of Management, “It is not enough for the business to provide just any economic goods and services; it must provide better and more economic ones. It is not necessary for a business to grow bigger; but it is necessary that it constantly grow better…… Every managerial unit of a business should have clear responsibility and definite goals for innovation.  It should be responsible for its contribution to innovation in the company’s product or service; and it should in addition strike consciously and with direction toward advancement of the art in the particular area in which it is engaged: selling or accounting, quality control of personal management.” 

More recently, Kouzes and Posner wrote in their leadership classic The Leadership Challenge:  “Innovation and leadership are nearly synonymous. Leaders are innovators; innovators are leaders.  The focus of a leader’s attention is less on the routine operations and much more on the untested and untried. leaders are always asking “What’s new? What’s next? what’s better?”

The good news is change is possible.   You can move your organization from average or good to great.

You can realize an "order of magnitude" improvement in the effectiveness of your existing culture.   To learn how visit

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the USA.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends in Paris.

Doug Hall