Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation. It requires collaborative effort involving cross-functional teams who each bring a unique set of skills and perspectives to the table. The challenge is how to create an environment where collaboration occurs organically, and employees are encouraged to seek out other stakeholders to generate innovative solutions.
It’s an obstacle that many organizations face as they try to become more agile and adaptive to customer needs, says Andrew Webster, VP of transformation for ExperiencePoint. This challenge spurred Webster and ExperiencePoint facilitator Rick Menchaca, to host a recent webinar, entitled From Silos to Cross Functional Teams, exploring strategies for creating a collaborative culture that generates real business results.
“The status quo will not suffice for the future,” Menchaca declares in the presentation. The strategies that worked in the past may no longer be a formula for future success. Rapidly evolving markets, more competitors and fickle customers all demand a more agile and adaptable business model, he says. That requires a culture where employees have immediate access to knowledge, teammates, and customers to more rapidly generate ideas that will propel the organization forward.
“We are talking about transforming the behavior within an organization to enable faster and better decisions and outcomes,” Webster says. This is particularly important in big global companies, where size can become an impediment to fast decision-making, limiting their ability to adapt to customer needs. In these cases, the transformation to a more agile environment requires a visionary leader with measurable goals who is willing to abandon the status quo and harness internal catalysts or “early adopters” who will embrace a new way of doing things.
Design Thinking Saves Dell $120 Million
To prove the point, Menchaca shared a story in the webinar from his previous life at Dell, where he was responsible for generating $120 million in cost transformation savings for the enterprise business, and identifying and implementing over $520 million in procurement savings after Dell merged with EMC.
While in the role, Menchaca was part of an organizational transformation initiative that included adoption of new tools and processes, which required cross-functional coordination between business functions to generate more value from shared tasks.
One of the senior executives driving the change set an audacious (and measurable) goal to cut costs by $100 million — and to use design thinking to make it happen.
Investing in Design Thinking Capabilities at Scale
“We realized pretty early on that if you want to people to come up with net new ideas, you have to invest in capability,” Manchaca says. So he worked with ExperiencePoint to put hundreds of Dell leader from across engineering, sales services and marketing through the ExperienceInnovation workshop to teach them the fundamentals of design thinking.
Soon after, his team started to see the impact. “Managers began using design thinking strategies on their projects, and employees were generating lots of exciting, relevant and connected ideas to make Dell more innovative,” he said. He estimates those teams came up with thousands of ideas to cut costs, which led to a pipeline of roughly 40 vetted solutions that ultimately generated $120 million of actualized costs savings (exceeding the original goal).
Some of the ideas were big and complicated, while others were wonderfully simple, he says. For example, interviews with server techs showed that the security protocols to access servers, which required multiple card swipes, code entries, and keys, was time-consuming, frustrating, and overly redundant.
That led the team to eliminate the need for a lock and key to open each server case, which sped the access process, and saved $3 per server, which resulted in millions of dollars saved, without compromising server security. It was just one of many projects Dell implemented as a result of the design thinking process.
Menchaca notes that one of the best results of using design thinking for transformation was that it wasn’t led by consultants. “We weren’t waiting around for somebody else to solve our problems,” he said. “These were folks who were able to get together, build better qualitative and quantitative fact bases, and deliver value that was meaningfully to the business.”
That $120 million in savings was just the beginning. The early success of this transformation project generated significant interest from leaders across the organization, which gave it the momentum to scale design thinking methods globally.
Being able to share those stories of success that include demonstrable savings was critical to that scaling process. “After that my phone never stopped ringing,” he says. When leaders from across the organization heard what they had done, they all wanted to replicate it for their own teams.
Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.