Are you ready to innovate? Probably not. Here's why.

Being a successful leader of any business relies on three things: being clear on what you want to achieve, ensuring your people are working well together, and having effective business processes in place. It seems so simple. Yet for some aged care providers, this is difficult to accomplish.

One the biggest obstacles to innovation, transformation, strategy execution and major digital projects is that your people are just not working well together.

Imagine your aged care business is an aeroplane. Innovation would be like upgrading one of the engines while the plane is in flight. I have seen CEOs hire an exceptional team of agile millennials to drive company-wide innovation; to change the flight path of the jumbo jet. A difficult thing to do while your long-standing management team is trying to navigate the plane, watching the millennials fly beside in a zippy Cessna doing a loop-the-loop.

Innovation is a word for doing something new, or something different, compared with something already established. There are many examples of aged care organisations trying to do something different: develop new models of service, implement new information systems, transition to individualised funding models, or establish continuous improvement teams. The trouble is most innovation initiatives are not successful. In the last five years, I have witnessed many organisations spend lots of money and disrupt their teams for little benefit and lost opportunities.

So what is the meaningful ‘something different’ you can do? How can you succeed where others have failed? I believe there are two fundamentals shifts that are needed in aged care.

1. Develop your purpose and strategy around your customer

Coming back to your aeroplane, the problem is innovation efforts are focused in the wrong place. People like to refresh the carpet, change the seat configuration, spice up with a new menu or even retrain the Flight Attendants to be friendlier. These are good but not enough in a competitive market. The environment has changed. If this is all you do, your aeroplane will look very lovely sitting empty on the tarmac.

Today you need to entirely and unequivocally redefine your purpose and your strategy around your customer. The goal here is comprised of two things: the products and services that satisfy your customer needs; and delivering those in a way that provides a sensible profit margin. Without them, you do not have a business. Everything you design and build is driven from this starting point—people, culture, processes, systems, measures, structure, facilities, and so on. Everything.

2. Understand your customer flow

Customer flow enables you to visualise the purchasing and delivery of your intangible services. Customer flow is usually divided into several progressive stages, reflecting the movement of a customer through the buying process. Your goal is to progress the customer through each stage. Without it, how else do you fill the seats on your aeroplane? Ask yourself, what does the customer need at each stage? Answering this question means your team can understand their services from the customer perspective, and identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for innovation becomes clearer.

From there you can develop an action plan that can usually be implemented with minimal investment or disruption. When you use the right lens—the customer viewpoint—effective changes become a reality.

Where to from here

By aligning your purpose and strategy around your customer, you can be clearer on what you are trying to achieve. By understanding customer flow, your people can be working well together and with the customer in mind at every touch point. Your business processes will be much more effective and aligned to your goals. You will be ready to innovate. That innovation might be how your customers view your organisation, a new service design or even a more effective operating model.

There is no magic potion. The key to meaningful change is about being more business-like to stay true to your purpose. The fruit of your labour will be in the implementation of your innovation opportunities to keep your aeroplane in the air—at full capacity. You may be travelling to destinations you might never have imagined!

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