Here in Barcelona, still, for a Gartner event. Can’t get enough of a beach town, right?
Another small chunk from my book in progress.
I was talking with a person from a large European retailer recently who as suffering from one of the first business bottlenecks leaders encounter: the company’s senior leadership, even owners, see no real need to change. They’re not sufficiently freaked out to expend the time and money to transform the monolithic organization. This is very counter-intuitive to you, no doubt, who’s reading this book to figure out how to transform your organization. No doubt you recognize the need to sustain and get better at innovating to compete and fend off competitors. Too often, as with the case of the European retailer, the C-suite and even the board is, well, asleep at the wheel.
This executive slumber comes up frequently in surveys about digital transformation at the corporate level. One global survey asked people to self-evaluate their transformation efforts: only 20% said they were trying to be “disruptive and fundamentally new.” The rest were either doing nothing (just 8%, thankfully) or performing modestly (73%).
For all the table pounding about “existential” threats from “tech companies,” in this survey, organizations don’t have high ambitions to dramatically respond and change. When asked why they wanted to transform, their motivations were equally tepid. Accessing new markets comes in at 8%, operating model change at 9%, and business transformation at 8%. Driving revenue growth is the highest at 21%, followed by increasing agility and speed to market at 14%. I read this as saying that organizations want to improve their existing businesses and capabilities, which is certainly needed when most organizations take a year or more to deliver applications to production. But, as it shows, transforming the business isn’t currently a major focus of digital transformation. Leaders are focused on incremental changes, not the dramatic changes needed to take advantage of new software techniques and fend of skilled knife-fighters like Amazon.
Leaders, then, have their work cut out for them when it comes to instilling a sense of urgency, not only “down” to staff, but too frequently “up” to their management chain and the board. The sensing and Casandra-listening techniques discussed in the strategy bottleneck can provide the raw data and analysis needed to instill this urgency.
A leader, however, needs to institutionalize this urgency, or, as it was famously described by Intel’s Andy Grove put it in the 1980s, paranoia. Making urgency part of the organizations culture usually requires a crisis, an almost near death experience.
Discussing how they’d institutionalized urgency, an executive at a large communications manufacturer said that until very recently (relative the company’s 150+ years age) they had ver little sense of urgency. History had proven again and again that they were one of the top companies in their field and as their age showed, they would survive. They were smug! While they new about an emergent competitor in their industry, this hubris left them feeling comfortable. Needless to say, this old company all but lost in this key market to the new competitor. To their credit, however, the company learned their lesson and has since deeply enshrined market paranoia. They no longer think they’re safe.
As with this example, in most cases, you’ll need a crisis to institutionalize urgency. For most companies this crisis is easily at hand. Still, you’ll need to rely on your new found strategy tools to create freak-out charts to intensity market this need both up and down in your organization. Never pass on the chance to tell people that competitors are commoning and you need to act quickly and decisively.
Sustaining this urgency relies on more rhetorical tricks. “Always run in yellow,” one as one CEO put it at a gathering of executives recently. You don’t want to run in the red, they said. But it’s equally, perhaps even worse, bad to run in the green. Once the company feels that things are going well - running in the green - that hubris and complacency. If all you have is a minor crisis, this CEO said, perhaps amplify that crisis into the red. Or, occasionally, you might even need to manufacture a crisis.
Every new Hitchcock picture was an event. To be in a packed house in one of the old theaters watching _ Rear Window_ was an extraordinary experience: It was an event created by the chemistry between the audience and the picture itself, and it was electrifying. (From here.)
That movie is amazing. It’s just a murder mystery of course, but everything else in that film is a sort of perfection. It looks so good and the world, tiny as it is, is one of the best, most comforting ever built. Jeff’s apartment is this tiny space, more of a waiting room for the adventure he goes on as a photographer.
The tension between him and Lisa creates another world in its one, a constant struggle between his boyhood desires and life, and her’s as well: you can see them both sorting out the compromises that become opportunities that is a long term relationship.
E.g., as wikipedia puts it:
Lisa reclines on the daybed in Jeff’s apartment, wearing jeans and apparently reading a book titled Beyond the High Himalayas. As soon as Jeff falls asleep, Lisa puts the book down and happily opens a fashion magazine.
All the characters in the windows, even the little dog, and that slim view of another world through the alleyway.
I’ll have to watch it again soon.
Two quick notes from book-land:
English is, really, a native langue in most of the Netherlands. Theme song for organization change kick-off meeting. If you’re in Barcelona, check at Restaurant 2254 - someone told me that a place called (I’m shitting you negatory) My Fucking Restaurant is good as well.