There is a fabled story about US President Kennedy in the early days of the NASA space agency. While on a visit to Cape Canaveral, the President asked a man with a broom, “What do you do?” The man answered, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” Every employee believing that his work contributes to a greater goal is the core of a great organization.

You too can inspire your already high-morale workforce reach new levels of engagement by reframing and elevating the meaning and purpose of their work.

Key among the common denominators of truly innovative companies and high performing Posts is inspiring leadership that focuses on growth, leads by example and rallies employees and customers alike via an articulated, concise idea or vision that expresses the soul of the company, or what it wants to be, and ignites excitement.

It’s also all about the transformation to an innovation culture that – removes the barriers to innovation; engages employees who consistently contribute ideas that help the company succeed; listens and learns from others; creates commercializable products that are taken quicker to market; and deeply respects customers and all stakeholders.

Here are 6 ideas that will help you become a better postal organization:

  • Define the vision: An innovative culture comes from leaders who dare to dream. They explain to employees the difference that they make for people and the benefits that a Post Office brings to the economy of their country as a whole. Leaders create a shared value or a higher purpose. Leaders reframe the role of employees, encouraging them to see themselves not simply as postal employees, for example, but as members of a highly respected organization that has a long history of service. An organization that that helps families improve their quality of life; helps commerce; helps businesses to grow; helps create jobs and moves the country’s economy forward.
  • Plan Carefully: The right leaders know how to take the current values and attitudes and goal and kick it up a notch by defining the company and creating a change plan and vision that can inspire employees, customers and shareholders. Skilled leaders also know how to deal with niggling distractions and cynics that don’t want to lose power.
  • Lead by Example: In 3 words – leaders  “Walk the Talk” every day in every way… they talk to people, mentor and coach. They walk the mail processing floor and visit post offices every day. They are passionate motivators. They want to make a positive difference in the lives of people. They lead through integrity, transparency and ethical behaviour. They don’t accept mediocrity.  They allow people to talk to them about the impediments to success. They respect employees, customers and shareholders.
  • Recognize Employees and Create Camaraderie: Celebrate and highlight and reward employees that exemplify the vision; that are doing the right thing and doing it right. Value the employees that go the extra mile for customers.
  • Inspire every Day in Every Way: Promote the proud history of your organization. Go beyond advertising taglines and define the real value or benefit you provide to people, the community, the environment, the world. What is behind what you do? Frame it as something that can inspire, rally and will sum up the tone and premise of your brand. UPS calls itself United Problem Solvers. FedEx used to say Overnight; now they say We Understand. India Post says Giving wings to your dreams. Postal employees don’t just sort, transport or deliver mail. They Facilitate Commerce and Grow the Economy.
  • Communicate Extensively: Develop alignment by articulating a written, formal case for change. Ensure that department leaders take ownership for completing aspects of the change plan and that they are able to communicate the change plan and the end-state goal. Who you are and what you stand for should also be articulated to your customers in your store design.

Sustained business growth and wealth comes from building a culture of innovation, essentially creating a new business ecosystem, where every employee in every department works cooperatively and competitively to develop and support new products that will satisfy customers and create the next round of innovation in existing and new markets.

How do you measure if your organization is on track to creating a true innovation culture?

Most innovation effectiveness metrics are traditionally tied to return on investment in Research and Development such as:

  • Amount spent on product / project approval process;
  • Number of approved and ongoing projects;
  • Number of new products launched;
  • Sales from new product introduction vs cost of sales;
  • Patents filed;
  • R&D budget as a percentage of sales;
  • Percentage of employee unstructured time for skunk works; or
  • Cost of total innovation efforts vs revenue.

However, if you agree that it is strategic innovation that creates growth and that you want your organization to transition to an experiment-driven, innovation culture where decisions are made on results, where customer benefit is the driving force of your innovation, where strategic innovation is pushed down the hierarchy and becomes a daily task that is everybody’s responsibility, where disruptive change that will dramatically propel the organization forward is actually encouraged; then a few key new measurement metrics of success are required.

These metrics must support the new innovation culture and focus on at least 3 areas:

  • The infrastructure to properly sustain continuous improvement – amount of unstructured time to pursue ideas (10%-15%), innovation awards for new products that achieve revenue threshold, ongoing idea discussion groups (jams, panels, councils, workshops, etc.), uncomplicated process to present new ideas for approval, celebrating successes, opportunity to test ideas, number of product extensions vs new to company products or new subsidiaries, etc.
  • Department leadership has a responsibility and target for continuous improvement and innovation. Strategic innovation is everybody’s business. Measurement should include the percentage of time spent on strategic innovation vs the day-to-day, number of ongoing projects, number of projects launched, ROI success, number of new categories, etc.
  • Measure ROI impact to the bottom line, incorporating all costs (including the cost of capital tied-up) and all revenues and benefits to the organization including what John Elkington coined as the Triple Bottom Line (TBL or 3BL), also known as people, planet, profit. “People” pertains to fair practices toward employees and the community and region in which a corporation operates. “Planet” addresses sustainable environmental practices. Profit should address the profit to the company but also to society.

Triple Bottom Line, innovation infrastructure and the pushed-down responsibility for strategic innovation are the cornerstones to measuring your success.

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