Factor 20: Staff vs. Line Involvement

This factor deals with staff versus line involvement in the decision process.

Factor extremes as measured in survey:

There is minimal staff (as opposed to line) involvement in the decision process


There is extensive staff (as opposed to line) involvement in the decision process

Overview to restructuring initiatives

Keeping small is one approach which minimizes staff involvement in the creation and development of new ideas since there are no, or limited, staff to interfere in the process. Effective staff involvement is, however, essential if the line organization lacks the complete skill set to innovate successfully. Without staff involvement it may be that the proper market research is incomplete, that the financial numbers are not given proper scrutiny, or that environmental impact (all of these being typical staff functions) of new ideas are not properly addressed. In this case, staff involvement, as an assist to the process, can go a long way. As in most soft issues, a balance must be reached. Learning to work with staff and line functions is an art and so much depends on the people and personalities involved. Sensitivity on all sides is required.

Possible Initiatives to Modify and Improve the Culture for Innovation

Make staff functions responsive to the needs of line management

Ideally, staff functions should be asked to participate in innovations from the outset. Often this does not happen and at the last minute staffers are assigned to the innovation and provided with what might be perceived as a role of vetting the innovation or often blocking such initiatives rather than working with the idea as a member of the team. A clear business model, deployed for just such initiatives and known before hand, is the best approach as the ground rules are clear from the outset.

Contract-out staff-type activities

Where a corporation does not have the internal staff to handle new initiatives it is a clear case for hiring someone on a contract basis to play the staff role. Often reporting to another part of the corporation; i.e. financial, environmental, yet assigned to the team and part of the budget, the contractor can help make an effective team. In some cases this outside contractor is better accepted onto the project than an internally-sourced staffer, as he/she is seen as less encumbered with the rules of the corporation.

Set clear financial, environmental, market, criteria ahead of time to limit the need for staff review

It is important that there is a broad understanding of the corporate criteria to be met by an initiative and which forms the basis of a staff review. It is not good enough to invent or bring to one’s attention such hurdles after the project is underway as this only results in frustration for all concerned. It is important to set the financial and other criteria at the outset. Potential deviations from the criteria could bring in a staffer to review and advise on the project; something that most managers would rather avoid.

Set up the provision of internal staff services on a cash basis similar to making use of outside consultants

Providing staff services on a cash basis puts an interesting dimension on their retention on innovative projects and can make for a very business like and effective arrangement. Secure a budget for the use of staff services and build the cost into the budget for the project.