Creating the Conditions for Success

Throughout this reading the focus emphasized how to not only lead in innovation, but how to set up the right conditions to have success in innovation. As we have read in other articles, the conditions for success are just as important, if not more important, than the actual change or innovation. The authors focus on how to create an environment for success, how to develop a cohesive team, and how to scan the environment to identify viable areas for innovation. One important point the authors emphasized was the role of the leader in having skills in the areas of creativity, forecasting, critical thinking, strategy formulation and technical skills.

As I was reading the article I noticed certain focuses that were similar to the writing by Kotter, “Leading Change.” The authors of “Creating the Conditions for Success,” emphasized the option of engaging people through focusing on a sense of urgency, which is a similar to “Error 1: Not Establishing Enough Sense of Urgency.” Both readings identify the use of urgency as a motivating factor in creating change or supporting efforts in innovation. There were other similarities such as “Error 2: Not Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition” and the focus on developing a leadership team.

After reading “Creating the Conditions for Success,” what types of leadership do you think would be most beneficial in leading innovation? The authors stated that shared leadership is essential for success, as expertise is a main factor, and one leader typically does not have all areas of expertise for a project, and therefore needs a team of diverse individuals with varying areas of expertise for a project.

How have you seen leaders in organizations encourage innovation? Were they successful? If so, what did they demonstrate in the process? If not, what could they have done differently to successful create a climate for innovation and change? After reading about all of the factors that are key to successful innovation, what are your thoughts on who can lead innovation?

I found the article very interesting, and informative. As the authors focused on each area necessary for success, it made me think of different situations where innovation was an option, and how these factors came into the effort, and how successful the organization was in innovation. What I felt really impacted me in the reading, was the key role of the leader in innovation, and how without a successful leader, it will be hard to have a successful climate for innovation. I found this was demonstrated in the arguments on creating a leadership team, managing, evaluating internal and external environmental factors, creating a climate for success, and getting the political buy-in and support for innovation and success. What parts of the process do you find most important in creating “conditions for success?”


I was interested by the team construction section of this article and particularly the "not invented here" syndrome. I've had experiences where I've built a strong team who is open to all kinds of innovative ideas and who share a common mental model. But at times the team becomes so invested in owning or protecting innovation as theirs that they reject another team's ideas outright because it didn't originate from within their own team. This makes it all the more important to create the condition of broader success by forming cross-functional alliances across the organization.

I, like Katherine, also found this article extremely interesting as well as familiar in some ways to things I have experienced in the past. It is amazing how innovation or change in an organization can largely depend on the person filling the leader role. To answer the first question, in my experience the type of leader essential in fostering or leading change is one who allows the people who are working for them do their job. The leader needs to be present and active in the process but they cannot allow their personal opinions/wants to get in the way of progress. Effective leaders will allow the change to come in almost a democratic manner, ineffective leaders will attempt to make change by being a dictator. I was recently in a situation where a new leader was brought into head an already successful organization. Within months, he had taken what was a cohesive and efficient group and turned it on its head. The sense of team and a positive work culture was replaced by apathy, confusion, and some bitterness. The relevance here resides in why he made the changes he did. The changes within the organization were not based on positive change but, in my opinion, on making it a comfortable situation for him regardless of his subordinates. He was trying to recreate the same environment he had when he was last in a similar organization over a decade prior. He used the idea of change for the better to make changes that were not supported by the staff and alienated them even more.

I have also seen leaders who have encouraged positive innovation and they were extremely successful. As I was reading the article I was able to see the steps laid out by Mumford et al in a process change I was involved in a few years ago. The leader who initiated this change understood that they didn’t have all the answers and that the multiple shareholders involved in the execution of the end product were an extremely valuable tool, not just in identifying the new process, but also on the ground when it came time to implement the changes. The changes were not dreamed up by the planners and then dropped on the doers to execute. Representatives of the doers were part of the process from the beginning to the end. This allowed the smooth transition to the new procedures when they were implemented. From beginning to end a team was involved and they were personally invested in the outcome. The person in charge who initiated the change understood that and was able to capitalize on the team process.

Katherine –The "Creating Conditions of Success" chapter of Conger and Riggio’s The Practice of Leadership reminded me of a similar model for leadership in innovation that I am currently using in Public Health called PDSA (Plan Do Study Act). I am participating in a Multi-State Learning Collaborative called the Community Engagement Collaborative (CEC) sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Local Public Health Association (LPHA), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Minnesota (U of M) School of Public Health. The purpose of the project is to assure quality improvement (QI) in 1) essential local public health activities, 2) performance measures, 3) assessment and improvement planning (capacity and health outcomes), and 4) accountability and review. The focus is on systems, environmental and policy change to improve access to affordable, healthy foods and physical activity.

Figure 6.1 in the reading (pg. 132) was remarkably close to the PDSA cycle. Here is the PDSA cycle in a nutshell. Plan: Define the objectives of the PDSA cycle, Identify questions that will be answered, Make predictions about the outcomes, Include all the details (who, what, when, where), Define the data to be collected. Do: Implement the action, Document problems, Record observations. Study: Analyze the data, Compare the data to your predictions, Summarize findings, Move to implementation or return to the planning phase, Act: Implement the process or change, Think about the next cycle. (source - MDH, Office of Public Health Practice, 2009).

The PDSA cycle roots began as a resource from the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHA), but is now filtering its way into local public health agencies. For more information, visit .

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs