Viewpoints on Innovation

Chronic Problem #5: Unclear Accountability

Governance Process Improvement Organizational Effectiveness Consumer Goods High Technology Industrial Manufacturing Medical Device Pharmaceutical Chief Innovation Officer

In most companies it is difficult to identify an executive with accountability for delivering business results from innovation. Accountability gets parsed into functional roles in a sum of the parts approach to ensuring success. Given the large sums of money we spend on R&D and product development, it is almost criminally negligent that we can’t point to someone responsible for results. What would you think of a mutual fund with lots of functional leaders that did not track or report financial results?

In functionally structured companies, the business unit president or CEO would ideally have one single person accountable for results from innovation. Typically, however, these individuals are far too busy to really manage the innovation process and make day-to-day decisions. The inherently cross-functional nature of innovation that makes execution difficult is the same problem with clarifying accountability. We are just not structured that way.

The role of the Chief Innovation Officer is to bridge the gap between the technical and commercial functions within an organization. With end-to-end responsibility from idea to commercialization we have a role with the management scope to accept accountability for results. Without this accountability, innovation, and the investment we make in it, remains largely unmeasured and under-managed. 

Originally published on  

More In This Series

Seven Chronic Problems

Chronic Problem #1: Lack of a Strategy

Chronic Problem #2: Lack of Alignment

Chronic Problem #3: Overloaded Pipeline

Chronic Problem #4: Rampant Incrementalism

Chronic Problem #5: Unclear Accountability

Chronic Problem #6: Short-term Orientation

Chronic Problem #7: Lack of Skills

Originally published on July 11th, 2014

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Topics: Accountability, Business Results, Chief Innovation Officer, Cross Functional Alignment, Innovation, Innovation Investment, Innovation Roles, Product Development

About the Author

Bill Poston

Bill Poston

For the past 30 years, Bill has helped executives in technology-driven industries transform their competencies to deliver results. He is a highly regarded consultant, speaker, and writer on the topics of innovation strategy, product development, portfolio management, technology commercialization, and the software systems that enable innovation. Keep up with Bill's latest research and thoughts on innovation and the rising role of the Chief Innovation Officer at
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