Step 5: Be resilient to create a cost-conscious culture in your innovation agenda

If you are introducing cost-cutting in your innovation agenda, your ultimate drive is to create a cost culture that sustains itself over time and is not forgotten three months after being announced by the leadership.

Your final goal is that your workforce feels that the organisation’s investments are personal investments, which can benefit all.

Still, organisations are living creatures in changing contexts. So, strategic cost-reduction priorities should be regularly reviewed and updated in the same way as business opportunities are.

And so we find ourselves where we started: needing to map out intervention areas at micro and macro level, both good and bad costs, and clearly define and (re)align everyone with your cost strategy over time. Ensure that you have the best methods in place to address each area in an efficient way, using top-down yet privileging bottom-up approaches in your innovation agenda.

For bottom-up approaches, also review the communication plan at hand to help your employees understand the tweaks and turns. Let them have an active role in the process of building the company’s future together.

It will take time and some effort, since resistance is normal under less favourable circumstances. It will take people’s commitment.

Yet, with strong leadership, a clear and well-defined strategic cost-cutting programme and the awareness of shared responsibilities, an organisation can reinvent itself and learn how to do so continuously, as models are challenged and new opportunities arise.

This continuous engagement of your workforce will also make your employees more cost-conscious, imposing a more effective cost and spending culture.

 

Andreia Agostinho Dias, Sales Executive
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

Access the Five-step Guide to make cost-cutting work within your innovation initiative here

Step 4: Overcoming fears over cost-cutting within your innovation agenda

Typically, cost-cutting is an expression that frightens employees. It often suggests salary reductions, job cuts and increased individual workload. When introduced in your innovation agenda, you should thus ensure that both real needs and strategy are understood across the organisation, consistently framing any cost-cutting goals.

It is important that the community clearly understands that a strategic cost-cutting and improvement strategy can assume an innovative role in the company.

It should also be understood that it doesn’t strictly relate to cost reduction for specific areas but it can, instead, help you collectively find and assess new and more effective ways of developing a process or product at a lower cost, cutting redundancies and waste.

The Communication and Marketing departments should be involved in the programme from the beginning to present a comprehensive plan capable of reaching the entire workforce. Your goal is to inform employees, help them understand what is being done and why, and create empathy with the common challenge faced.

Aligning employees with the companies’ goals will contribute to aligning costs with strategy. Remember that everyone in a company can play an essential role in identifying ‘bad’ and ‘good’ company costs, mostly at the micro level. Besides the innovation management platform, brainstorming sessions with employees and among teams can also be very useful to categorise the existing costs and to collect insights on future good costs and potential investments needed.

This continuous engagement of your workforce will also make your employees more cost-conscious, imposing a more effective cost and spending culture.

Andreia Agostinho Dias, Sales Executive
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

Access the Five-step Guide to make cost-cutting work within your innovation initiative here

 

And the Exago 2017 Innovation Gurus are…

Whether it is for their considered, value-oriented innovation approach, for the creative ways found to bring everyone aboard their innovation challenge, or for their sustained corporate culture of innovation, we are proud to announce the champions of the second edition of the Exago Innovation Guru Awards.

 

Our 2017 Innovation Guru winners who truly stood out for their performances in the past year are:

The Innovation Bookkeeper: Via Varejo

Few companies weigh up the deciding factors of every idea as carefully as Brazilian retail leader Via Varejo – with an informed, balanced approach to innovation, an eye for detail and a clear concern for the numbers.

With an impressive 2,000 ideas shared in just two months, mostly in best practices and finding the right product for the customer, the Via Varejo team is results-focused, invites participants to understand their ideas from different angles, seeks to balance the tangible and intangible benefits, and looks at the cost advantage of each and every suggestion.

The Innovation Hunter: Ageas

Leading international insurance group Ageas picks up our Innovation Hunter prize for its creative and highly original approaches to encouraging participation and innovation within the company.

From staging the kidnappings of the CEOs with bright ideas as the currency, to offering cakes in return for ideas at a pre-launch phase, Ageas is forever on the hunt for a stronger and more engaging innovation programme: in the 13 challenges launched in the first 9 months, the company engaged almost all business units in the innovation process, with a 42% participation rate and gathering 397 ideas with solid implementation potential.

The Innovation Farmer: CTT

With almost half of Exago platform visitors already participating in the platform throughout 2017, close to 1.5 ideas per active user and thousands of comments shared, the Portuguese national postal service CTT has been sowing the seeds of its innovation programme, strengthened with the use of the Exago innovation software since early 2016.

Along with a dedicated Innovation Day, effective communication initiatives and a solid incentives package comprising excellent prizes, including gadgets, vouchers, festival tickets and experiences, CTT also encourages a global culture of innovation by tying in special events and workshops with participation on the Exago platform.

Congratulations to all Innovation Guru Award winners and to all those who inspire our work at Exago every day!

For step 2 in cost-cutting within your innovation agenda, you will need this

Having defined the strategic cost-cutting goals within your innovation agenda, it needs to be run with the same board sponsorship, direction and accountability as any other critical initiative. It is important to ensure central governance, senior management agreement and employee engagement.

The centralisation of a cost-cutting initiative is vital to avoid project duplications, to benefit from synergies and to focus on clear areas of improvement.

However, the initiative should also have branches and an army dispersed across the company, mobilising directors and managers of the different areas around this innovation movement and opening minds to collect insights from every contributor. Right from the point of planning, make sure you identify the sponsors from each business area of the strategic cost-cutting and improvement programme.

People with the capacity to make decisions based on employee insights must be mobilised and should have defined timeframes to gather specific insights and execute changes aligned with your innovation agenda. In other words, the cost strategy should be promoted by the company’s leadership, sponsored by the management team and be engaging enough to capture employees’ participation.

STEP 2 is therefore about delivering cost optimisation with the support of the CEO and top managers, helping you clearly define areas of innovation and improvement from the beginning, as well as how to address each of these areas.

Andreia Agostinho Dias, Sales Executive
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

You can access the full paper here

 

What are the good and the bad costs in your innovation agenda?

When introducing a cost-cutting strategy in your innovation agenda, you should first have a clear view of your company’s strategy and map out good and bad costs for programme intervention, at macro and micro levels. Both macro- and micro-level-oriented strategies have value and they often make more sense combined.

At a more tactical level, and in line with your strategy, you need to look at your whole organisation and differentiate between the critical ‘good costs’ and the non-essential ‘bad costs’:

  • Bad costs are those not aligned with the overall growth strategy of the company;
  • Good costs support the business capabilities needed to achieve the overall growth goals.

In an online article in Forbes, PWC’s strategist Rodger Howell says that ‘once a company’s costs are classified, strategic cost-cutting and improvement become a process of minimising exposure to bad costs and maximising investment in the best ones’. He adds that this practice helps to ‘create a more resilient growth model’, which is ‘particularly important during times of uncertainty’.

These bad and good costs can happen at both micro and macro level, as the figure below shows. It is key that you keep this matrix is mind when defining your strategic cost-cutting and its goals, and how to address each quadrant.

Strategic cost-cutting matrix

Overall, the bad costs are waste and an outcome of inefficiencies, which can and should be reduced. Do not underestimate them. Even micro-level bad cost-cutting, such as reducing power and resources use, can have tremendous impact on your balance account. Not only are these costs easily identifiable by your employees, but they can also be incorporated into your incremental innovation agenda in ongoing challenges, so that you are always capturing and addressing new and existing inefficiencies.

Measures to cut bad costs at a macro level (such as closing units or laying off people) may, however, have a stronger, higher and more immediate impact on your financial balance. But is it the way for your growth? We are not saying it isn’t part of it, but there are other ways you should always consider as well. These costs are better leveraged by external teams carrying out a strategic analysis to understand which costs are no longer aligned with the organisation’s strategy and can therefore be eliminated without negatively impacting core business.

On the other hand, good costs are those that support business capabilities to achieve growth goals. They may be, in consequence, worthy of more investment, so that in the mid to long term you end up saving more or increasing return.

At a more macro level, they will likely imply some investment and a more disruptive transformation, but can also have a larger financial impact. For instance, if you decide to redesign a profitable business area, you can open doors to new clients and markets and to higher returns.

At a more micro level, for example, by changing a product material or a method of doing things, you can also pave the way for an unexpected internal revolution. Here again your internal workforce can provide useful insights to redefine current products, services and processes. There is always space for improvement, and including this quest in your innovation agenda will help you structure and centralise the process, thus reducing investment in external advisory services and bringing interesting and relevant inputs for your business aligned with your needs.

There is no magic formula and no equation to tell you how and where to cut exactly.

The main message is: remember to look at the bigger picture and understand which methods are more efficient in which situation, so as to develop an effective strategic cost-cutting and improvement strategy.

This process of employee engagement and empowerment will also make your organisation more future-fit and will create a cost-conscious culture, essential to creating a sustainable cost-cutting and improvement strategy.

Andreia Agostinho Dias, Sales Executive
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

You can access the full paper here