Functional Advocacy: A Sense of Foreboding in Strategy and Innovation

Part 2 of 4 in a series

Something has to change. There it is, out in the open. Of course, it’s a reality that wrings anxiety from the stoutest heart. Pushing expectations forward seems troubling, but what’s the alternative? More failures and half successes lead to the same troublesome results.

As we set the stage for this new role in collaborative success, let’s face some unpleasant conditions that suck the momentum out of attempts to change how functional organizations structure themselves. The chart below identifies three major reinforcing influences on the traditional role and responsibilities structure.


Organizations exhibit characteristics and behaviors we can speak of as “culture” to set the baseline of accepted interactions among functional areas and between management striations. Among the functional departments exist a narrower scope of traditions either established with the organization over time or by strong transformational leaders. Personal history and track records are the final reinforcer and accompany every person who joins an organization.

But the story doesn’t stop there. The interaction between pairs of these powerful reinforcers brings additional deterrents into play. Both organizational culture and career experiences feed status quo bias.  Departments and individuals drive each other toward group acceptance. Departments and organizations push and pull each other as strategic direction is established. All of these interactions provide justifications for apathy, noncompliance, and open refusal to consider using accessible resources in ways that will benefit the organization.

Beneath all of this contention lies a single deficiency.  The scarcity of a a single interpersonal dimension: trust. It’s really easy to understand how innovation efforts get derailed when they are mandated without considering trust and whether it is strong enough. Modern knowledge workers who feel that they are pawns in someone’s alternate agenda perform below their potential and rarely produce expected results. Understanding is the key takeaway here. Through understanding of goals and how they relate to organizational success, a healthy level of trust can thrive.

Which brings us to the whole point of this series. The time is right for a new role within every department of a functional organization. A role that can be established within an existing work group or even hired for in the absence of suitable candidates. I submit the functional advocate as essential to cross-function understanding and establishing trust across the functional organization. But what does this mean?

Next in the series: Functional Advocacy: A Sense of Resolve in Strategy and Innovation

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Posted in Innovation Management
One comment on “Functional Advocacy: A Sense of Foreboding in Strategy and Innovation
  1. […] ← Model Behavior for Authentic Customer Relationship A Sense of Foreboding in Strategy and Innovation → […]

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