Business Case Studies, Executive Interviews, Michael Treacy on Innovation

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Executive Interviews: Interview with Michael Treacy on Innovation
November 2006 - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary


Michael Treacy
Co-founded GEN3 Partners


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  • Do you still see the relevance for operational innovation in the heightened commoditization across the industries?
    The more commoditization in an industry, the greater the need for operational innovation it is one of the few ways for a company to establish some true differentiation.

  • Is there a relationship between the national culture of an organization (where its roots are; the headquarters is) and its organizational efforts?
    Yes there is. Different countries have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to succeeding with operational

    innovation. For instance, some are morecomfortable than others with making deep change; on the other hand, some of these may be better at the teamwork needed for operational innovation.

  • Why do you think some change agents are successful while many are not? For instance, Howard Stinger at Sony. Even those who are successful once (initially) are not consistently successful. Why is it so? For instance, Ed Zander at Motorola and Carlos Ghosn at Nissan Motors.
    I cannot comment on these specific examples, but in general, executives who are successful at leading major change are passionate about it, are willing to invest their personal prestige in it, maintain commitment rather than just treat it as a short-term project, and are willing to do whatever it takes including dismissing members of the executive team to make it succeed.

  • It might be relatively easy to identify the need for a change initiative / intervention in the case of a company, i.e., there are sufficient warning signals alerting the company. However, change management is required at an individual level too (in different capacities; at the highest level one becomes the initiator; at all the other levels, one becomes the follower). What are the signals for an individual to look at change management initiatives before he / she is forced upon to embrace the change?
    I am not sure I understand this question, and in any event, I think it is outside my area of expertise.

  • If you look at companies like Nike, Southwest Airlines, Bloomberg, etc., how difficult is to manage change (including the transition) when the founder-CEO is not around?
    In some cases, it is more difficult to make deep change when the founder CEO is still around, since it is often difficult for that individual to let go of the principles and techniques that led to the company's original success. Deep change is often best led by someone other than the one who created the system that is being changed.

  • How do you think companies can make "Change Management" a part of their "catastrophe culture" (as Samsung Electronics CEO Jong Yong Yun has done) so that the fire is on at all the times, both good and bad?
    The most successful companies always believe that their success is only temporary and that they must always change or decline. This is a characteristic of Wal Mart, Intel and Progressive Insurance. Creating a culture like this is the responsibility of the CEO, who must instill it through personal behavior, expectations of other managers, the reward and promotion systems, as well as through relentless communications.

1. ICMR Innovation Case Studies
2. ICMR Case Collection
3. Case Study Volumes


The Interview was conducted by Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary, Consulting Editor, Effective Executive and Dean, IBSCDC, Hyderabad.

This Interview was originally published in Effective Executive, IUP, November 2006 .

Copyright © November 2006 , IBSCDC No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced or distributed, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or medium electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the permission of IBSCDC.

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