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Innovation Types

In the beginning of Scott Berkun’s delightful and entertaining “Managing Breakthrough Projects” video, Scott talks about two supposed types of innovation: product and process. He (rightly) poo-pooze away process innovation as not being innovative at all. Remember the business process re-engineering craze of the 90’s, anyone? Sick-sigma? Oh, I forgot that sick-sigma works. So, I’m sorry if I offended all you esteemed, variously colored belt holders out there.

According to self-professed process innovators, the process innovations they conjure up reduce the time and/or cost of making a product or performing a service without, and here’s the rub, sacrificing quality. Actually, most of the process improvement gurus that I’ve been exposed to don’t ever mention the word “quality”. They promise to reduce time to market (via some newfangled glorious tool or methodology) or cost (via, duh, outsourcing). Some of these snake oil salesmen dudes actually profess that they can  increase quality while decreasing time and cost.

The difference between a terrorist and a methodologist is that you can negotiate with a terrorist – Unknown

Most process improvement initiatives that I’ve been, uh,  lucky(?) to be a part of didn’t improve anything. That’s because the “improvements” weren’t developed by those closest to the work. You know, those interchangeable, fungible people who actually understand what processes and methods need to be done to ensure high quality.All that those highly esteemed, title-holding, mini-Hitlers did was saddle the value makers and service providers down with extra steps and paperwork and impressive looking checklists that took away productive time formerly used to make products and provide services.

Process improvement is a high-minded, overblown way of saying “kill the goose that laid the golden egg before it lays another one“.

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