Firms that need a roadmap for building strong, enduring innovation capabilities will find the CIMS Innovation Management Maturity Assessment (IMMA) diagnostic tool invaluable, CIMS executive director Paul C. Mugge wrote in the Spring 2012 IMR. BASF is one of the firms already using this tool, which allows managers to plan and measure their innovation initiatives.
In the article below, BASF technical director Kenneth M. Perry explains how his company is using the IMMA to drive continuous improvement and change in its innovation culture. As you read it, consider how IMMA might be useful in your own organization.
BASF piloted the use of the IMMA in 2011 to help our business units measure the innovation culture and identify changes that would let it adapt to the business environment we expect to face in 2020. We chose five of our 14 North American business units as a representative cross section for assessing the potential of using the IMMA to benchmark our systems and track our improvement.
In my Spring 2012 IMR review of the results of those initial assessments (pp. 8-10) I explained how we found the tool valuable in setting a baseline for our performance, establishing a common language and understanding, developing a framework for discussions, and providing a clear path for improvement. This helped us to select areas for improvement and sharing of best practices by using demographics to highlight strengths, weaknesses and inconsistencies.
We shared the results of the five pilot business units with all of the business units and with corporate leadership. As a result, it was decided to roll out the IMMA in 2012 to three additional business units that were going through various stages of reorganization.
These results identified many of the same areas for improvement as the previous year’s pilot but also highlighted wider disparity across business unit functions and locations. This was attributed to the reorganizations and highlighted the need for ever-increasing communications and improved onboarding processes.
Again the results were shared and in 2013 four additional units were assessed. Based on the usefulness of the collective results to date it was decided that all remaining business units would run the assessment in 2014. It was also decided that the first five business units from 2011 would re-run the assessment to gauge their progress.
What We Learned
There have been many changes in BASF’s business climate and the strength of our competition over the past three years. We have raised awareness of our need for improvement and, at the same time, raised the bar for our future performance. There is some apprehension, however, that while the assessment will demonstrate the improvements we have made, the results might not live up to the expectations of those who were reluctant to use the IMMA in the first place.
Nevertheless, as a result of running the IMMA and reviewing the results and corresponding action plans, all business units are now required to have an active action plan for continuous improvement of the BASF innovation processes. Probably our single most useful finding is that virtually no one understood how involved all functions need to be in order to make the IMMA exercise work and that most people lacked the total competencies necessary to do their part.
In the near future, the early-adopting groups will re-run the assessment to measure their progress. As we look further into the future, we want to have a measurement system integrated into our business and a process for continuous learning and improvement.
“The IMMA allows us to measure our progress and to sustain our programs,” observes Michael Pcolinski, vice president of innovation and technology North America. “We believe that continuous improvement in our innovation maturity will accelerate our growth plans.”
If you’re still wondering how useful the IMMA would be for your organization, I only say this: If not the IMMA, then you had better have something to measure your progress; there is very little expense other than the time invested, and that time will be gained back in efficiency and effectiveness.
Kenneth M. Perry;
Technical Director, BASF Corp.