We've all heard it before – “if it we have not thought of it then it is not worth doing.” “No one knows our business better than we do.” This attitude is referred to as the “not invented here” syndrome. Consultants have seen it for years. Department managers and employees use it to fend off outside influence from other departments or intervention from consultants or advisers. Regardless of where the invasion is coming from, protectionism is the defense.
“Not invented here” is a cliché. But like many clichés or popular beliefs, we tend to think there is truth in the statement. However, “not invented here”, is a problem and it serves as a form of organizational resistance to change. “Not invented here” conveys an important message – “if I am not involved with defining the situation and working on solutions, then I am not interested in your ideas, opinions or solutions.”
When an organization is facing a challenge, it has 3 options:
1. Do nothing
2. Understand the challenge and create solutions
3. Hire outside help to assess and facilitate the solutions.
Assuming that the challenge is real and that it presents a threat to the organization …
. Option One will lead to a further deterioration in organizational performance.
. Option Two will work if the members of the organization possess the skills, knowledge, objectivity and support to identify and implement the required change.
. Option Three will work if it is combined with Option Two.
Using outside resources can be important for an organization, especially if the business leader believes that an objective third party may have a pioneer experience in identifying potential solutions. The danger, however, is to engage a third party who has a one-size-fits-all solution. And it is this attitude that reinforces and solidifies the “not invented here” syndrome. In fact, run quickly from anyone that has a solution to your problem before they fully understand it.
When your organization is faced with a challenge, here are 7 steps you should take.
1. Understand the Problem – Do this before anything else is done. Take the proper amount of time to talk with and listen to people (inside and outside the organization). Look at the numbers and compare it with the general marketplace, the economic trends and the trends in your industry. Objectively understand the issues. If this step is missed, a good solution will only occur by pure chance.
2. Identify Options – Whether it is in a brainstorming session, a general discussion in a series of meetings or in any other organized forum, it is important to identify potential solutions. At this stage it is important to identify solution options and not just one solution. Many people stop at the first or easiest solution.
3. Select an Option – To select the best solution as determined by the group and the evidence there should be healthy discussion or even a vibrant debate. The risks and gains of each option should be vetted before an option is selected. It is at this point when the influence of the owner, unit head or outside third party should be tempered. One person's influence, especially a person in authority or an outside consultant, will solidify the “not invented here” behavior and the chance of implementation success decreases.
4. Understand What It Will Take to Implement – You need to know what it will take in time, money, personnel and other resources to implement. When a solution is chosen, detailed planning must occur so everyone involved in the implementation fully understands the investment and commitment required for a successful outcome.
5. Prepare an Action Plan – Your plan should describe …
. What will be done (the task)
. Who will do it / who is responsible
. When it will get done
. Important milestones or benchmarks
. Resources required / anticipated
Remember, in most cases, who has assigned responsibilities for this project also has another job to do, as few organizations today can afford to put a dedicated team on a project. This is why an Action Plan with tasks, due dates and individual accountability is important.
6. Implementation – This needs to be managed and managed well. Regular status meetings must be held to track implementation progress. If the project is getting off track, awareness should swift and corrective action should be taken immediately.
7. Evaluation / Post Implementation Follow-up – After implementation, the working group should evaluate lessons learned. That is, what went well, what could have gone better, what was learned in the process, and did the change initiative have the intended impact (desired result) on the organization.
If these steps are followed, the chance of successfully implementing a change effort will increase. It will increase because the members of the organization most affected by the change initiative will have been involved with the problem and solution identification. This is a powerful engagement and retention strategy. It's your business. It's your future. Take hold of it and “invent it here.”