Aligning leadership, learning, technology, and R2O
Though R2O activities are complicated by their cross-organizational span, they should not exist in isolation. The vision and strategy from senior leadership of primary participants should establish top-level priorities for R2O tasks in concert with learning and technology evolution plans, including, in the case of the meteorological community, observing system enhancements. Technology should provide a framework or impetus for R2O transitions, and some transitions may require updates to software or hardware independently. In addition, R2O must also take cues from the learning community, and vice versa, to assure that user organizations that sponsor the R2O process, and train practitioners, are meeting their purpose.
Today, many organizations have Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Chief Learning Officers (CLOs), and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), but the concept of a “Chief R2O Officer” in the front office does not yet exist, in part because the R2O era is young and the risks and benefits of R2O oversight within the organization are not completely understood or appreciated. The need for a front office position depends on the theoretical maximum value that R2O can provide. This value should be measurable in terms of meeting a specific objective, and should consider the ratio of the transitioned research cost to the total research and development cost.
Without a group of executives providing the necessary agreement and budget to conduct R2O actions that ultimately add value to the organization(s), there is a significant risk of indirectly funded activities that do not align with strategy, and unfunded activities that parish despite the pertinence to the organizational mission or community need. Those activities that do not align may come from within the organization, at the practitioner level, or worse, from partner organizations with separate priorities. Large organizations are must likely to suffer consequences from “unsanctioned” R2O activities because different units can recognize and seek to solve similar problems without cross-organizational coordination. This is a particularly serious risk when units are only different in terms of their service area instead of their charter. For example, there may be units providing the same services, but to different geographical areas, or a different subset of customers.
Without an adequate leadership structure at the highest levels, partners in R2O projects can actually start to drift apart as they work to achieve their own goals and secure their own funding lines. This can also happen within an organization if various branches or divisions have their own budgets. Worse yet, unaligned activities that start to flourish, compounded with endorsement from mid-level managers, can place unfunded mandates on learning and technology branches at higher levels in the organization. For example, a new product coming out of the R2O pipeline may require the development of new training modules to complete the initial transition. If this is uncoordinated, funds for training may have to wait for the next budget cycle, prolonging the R2O process.
This is not to say that all successful R2O processes, innovation, and collaboration are organized from the top-down. Grassroots ideas and projects can often be a source of successful R2O practices. But in order for these projects to scale, they need “corporate” endorsement, and hopefully, senior leadership is in tune with the daily operations of the organization, or a mechanism is in place to provide feedback of operational concerns back to the leadership. Governance structures should be mindful of maintaining methods to captivate innovation and collaboration while funneling meaningful activities into funding lines to assure technology and learning requirements are met in a timely fashion, and new observing systems are leveraged as soon as they are available.