Continual disruption. The new normal?

Week of October 8, 2018

What a great first week. My company launched last Monday. And we had four strong prospects in the pipeline by Thursday. From my standpoint, this short-term success is proof that, in a world of pervasive disruption, companies and their leaders are reaching out for expertise. Many organizations don’t possess the capabilities to fully absorb, much less thrive in, a state of constant change. That’s certainly not a criticism by any means. How many of us know what we don’t know? But change is not going away. AI, virtual reality, and the growing power of the tidal wave about ready to hit—called Gen Z—make the ability to live in constant change today’s table-stakes for business performance and success.

I was fortunate to be in a meeting two weeks ago at which the recently retired chairman and CEO of a Fortune 50 company spoke at length. He asked the question—and I’m slightly paraphrasing—“How many of you are ready for the total disruption that digital technology brings to your business?” He didn’t ask the question in the future tense, he asked about NOW. About half the participants raised their hands. The business legend looked around the room and stated simply, “Those that didn’t raise their hands, check in with your HR department to request early retirement.”

Change is not just here. It is now the very foundation upon which companies must continually be built, adapted, improved. Think about it. How confident would you be in building a house on a stretch of rocks and sand? This might be a question to incorporate into your leadership hiring process. To say you would be confident because of this reason or that is nothing but false bravado. Even what we think we know today may be completely different or irrelevant tomorrow.

This really hit home for me because my company deals in digital transformation as one of our richest competencies. But let me be clear, we don’t pretend to offer every capability required to build and thrive in a state of continual disruption. However, we deeply understand, from many, many first-hand experiences, the scope of digital transformation and the sweeping and dramatic effect it will have on an organization, its workforce, and its market.

So, as great companies do, we focus on the area(s) of digital transformation for which we are the best at delivering in the mid-tier market. When asked by CEO’s how we can help their companies and their leaders who are struggling with the concept of digital transformation, I ask one question: Can you describe how you have designed, built, and led the bedrock of your company—your culture—to make the enormity of enterprise-wide transformation possible? A well-informed answer—peppered with high doses of humility, introspection, and personal commitment—makes what my company delivers an amazing fit. An answer that lacks vision, humility, and insights into what it truly takes for the organization and its employees to continually change and grow in this age of digital disruption is simply a non-starter for us—because what we do best starts with an ability to align our competencies and value to the firm’s cultural platform.

Transformation Infographic_Gartner_Week2Blog

The myth that digital disruption is about rolling out social media programs, mastering AdWords, or establishing an AI exploratory committee must be broken and it must be broken now. Disruption and transformation are, instead, about the ability of your collective enterprise to “think” critically, creatively, and collaboratively. Without a culture that allows and actually empowers every member of the organization to think this way about how they serve their markets; how their team, department, company defines and delivers value; and the way in which they—down to the individual performer—are given the permission to continually stretch, innovate, and transform themselves, the concept of digital transformation is dead in the water. Leaders in organizations like this should possibly consider the sage advice offered by the former CEO mentioned earlier.

I know I’m not the first person to suggest that this topic is big . . . huge . . . a black-hole-level of unknown in the business space. I’m merely one guy joining the increasingly-louder drumbeat. Most every leader I’ve met cares deeply and passionately about the futures of all those she or he serves. So face the challenge now. Stress-test your culture to ensure its solidity and stability. And develop every person in your enterprise to see disruption and transformation for what they are, so that each person—from the CEO to the most junior-level employee—is ready and capable of meeting this new business frontier head-on.

Thanks for reading. Until next week.

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