In 45 years of general and engineering management, I’ve compiled an extensive list that seems to work to improve innovation at all levels of a company. In a recent article, I found it noted that innovation and new products and services are down 14% compared to 2020. I also hear from our industry friends that the same type of reduction is true and concerning. As we all know, innovation is the lifeblood of any company, and we must focus to improve this important strategy. Following are just a few items from the How to Manage list that may spark additional focus.

Fear is the enemy of improvement and innovation.

Never use fear to gain what you want and work hard to drive fear out of your group. Weak leaders use fear as their first tool of action, and this only accomplishes short-term improvement. It may seem easier to use the “just do as I say” method, but it quickly kills buy-in.

Talk to all your direct reports every day and ask how they are doing.

Understand their families and their needs. Fostering a “family first” mentality in your group will serve you well. Your team needs this daily contact and fearless communication.

Encourage a “let’s try it” mentality.

You can do so by quickly prototyping ideas into real objects. Too much analysis can diminish innovative thinking. Build it and test it as soon as possible!

Become a teacher of value-based techniques to drive out waste.

Much of our time is taken up by details and reporting. Automate all your metric taking and reporting to relieve your team of wasted time.
Focus meetings into two days per week and no meetings longer than 45 minutes.

Organize around a team-based structure.

Assign teams to every project and use project management tools to update everything daily. In this way, everyone knows the score.

Create personal plans for all of your team members.

This will help to take their careers where they should go.

Work to remove the natural “silos” that separate departments.

Invite sales, manufacturing, finance, human resources and maintenance reps to all your recap calls and share your metrics with them.

Build trust and responsibility across the organization by keeping your promises. 

Obviously, there are many other details to leading an innovation- and/or engineering-based sector and the key is good and timely decision making. As a good friend says: “The only real value you as a manager bring to the team is quality direction and decisions.”

Keep innovating!

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