Driving Transformation in the Changing Global Business Landscape

Hedley Lawson | Board Member & Advisor

Leading organizations and teams to success in times of exponentially accelerating change is an incredible challenge.

Most CEOs and senior executives today feel a profound sense of urgency to transform everything about their organizations—strategy, culture, leadership, innovation—to ensure they are able to avoid disruption and harness technology in order to achieve sustainable growth and thrive in the future.

Companies across the globe have some type of “digital transformation” initiative underway. It has been reported in numerous business publications that many of these initiatives are not progressing as fast as expected, not achieving the anticipated impact, or simply failing.

There are many reasons why transformation initiatives fail, and the challenge to succeed is often more difficult and complex in larger organizations. With that in mind, what follows are some ways to drive successful transformation initiatives in large organizations.

Start by shifting your mindset

Nothing changes without people. While enterprise solutions largely focus on evolving and fortifying strategy, leadership, and innovation functions, the foundation for sustained success begins and ends with people.

In redesigning their organizations for the future, leaders often tend to focus on what they should do. Should we teach design thinking? Run ideation challenges? Launch an accelerator? Experiment with AI?

However, the first step must be to learn how to think, not what to do. Albert Einstein famously said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”Today’s leaders must learn how to shift their mindsets from linear to exponential. That means learning new mental models, a new common language, and metrics that better measure and incentivize exponential results.

Create a strategy for 10x growth

To many executives, “Strategy” calls to mind traditional management consulting frameworks such as Porter’s Five Forces. But the way we strategize now has changed drastically and continues to evolve. Traditional models and approaches are no longer sufficient.

Given the increasing pace of change, companies now need to toggle their focus frequently between the next six to 12 months and the next 5 to 10 years to ensure they are investing at the right time and iterating quickly and incrementally as new information emerges. Deloitte’s Center for the Edge calls this process “Zoom Out, Zoom In.”

Develop leaders who can navigate uncertainty and lead change

To transition their business in ways that today’s business climate requires, leaders must first unlearn outdated approaches and legacy behaviors that impede progress. They must become exponential leaders—people who can adapt to any situation and drive 10x results for themselves and their organizations. Exponential leaders are futurists, innovators, technologists, and humanitarians…not necessarily by title or official function, but by the skills and behaviors they value and promote in their organizations.

Many organizations are realizing that their existing leadership development programs are ill-equipped to prepare current and future leaders to meet rapidly evolving business needs.

Traditional programs often use outdated methods, set an inadequate context, offer insufficient coaching, and are too slow to keep up with the rapid pace of change.

It is critical for today’s leaders to:

  • Learn about exponential technologies and thinking, and create 10x projects to allow on-the-job experimentation and learning.
  • Conduct ongoing coaching to lock in new concepts and methods.
  • Leverage diverse peer and expert networks for on-demand support.

With the right mindset, tools, and training, these exponential leaders are better prepared to champion and lead the organization’s transformation agenda through uncertain times.

Create an aligned innovation strategy and resource it appropriately

Building the future of your organization requires the ability to innovate incredibly fast, and to ideate far beyond business-as-usual. You must:

  • Dedicate funding to early-stage “out of the box” ideas and learn through rapid experimentation and failure. 
  • Move projects through development stage gates, using the right metrics at the right time.
  • Determine the best organizational, financial and operational structures for new ventures, and design optimal relationships for them within the core business or spin them out.
  • Mobilize your internal organization and external ecosystem to support these new future business initiatives, which often reflect a new vision and narrative.

Future-focused methodologies are designed to help innovation, technology, and new product development teams ideate, prototype, and validate potentially breakthrough ideas, then prepare to bring them to market.

Make the leap from 10% to 10x

For teams that are recognized and rewarded for quarterly results, a 10% improvement seems like solid performance. But just as traditional business models are insufficient in exponential times, so are incremental outcomes.

If you’re leading change in a small or large organization, there is no option other than to be bold and think big—to shift your mindset from incremental to exponential. We believe every organization has the capacity to achieve what it now considers improbable or impossible—or has yet to imagine.

Hedley Lawson
Board Member & Advisor | former Global Managing Partner
Aligned Growth Partners, LLC

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