Strategies on Adapting to Rapid Developments in Technology

The forces of disruptive change are redefining conventional assumptions, bringing new problems to solve for Business and industry, Healthcare, Higher Education, Investors, Government Agencies, and Individuals. Creating new disruptive business models, new customer/patient/employee value propositions.

Digital transformation is a categorical imperative for long-term success and survival. The constant stream of new technologies is blurring industry boundaries and redefining markets, overrunning the ability of organizations to keep up. Technology will continue to get smaller, smarter, faster, more networked, and integrated into everything.

As the demographics, customer requirements, tastes, and behaviors continue to change, so must the value propositions organizations offer. Some business models have become victims of digital disruption.

Facing disruptive change and new innovative business models, organizations, and entire industries are at risk of digital disruption.

Digital transformation demands leadership's attention, understanding, and action.

It Cannot Be Delegated; It Must Be Led

It may be an uncomfortable subject for many executives but an unavoidable obligation. With an investment of time and some coaching, the terminology, concepts, and principles are understandable.

The Status Quo Is an Illusion - Not Sustainable

Today’s environment has more disruptive change than at any time in history. Organizations fail when the leadership’s focus is on the status quo, the current operational effectiveness and efficiencies, the shareholders’ reaction to quarterly earnings, and the traditional top-down strategic planning, control, and decision-making processes. 

Technology will continue to get smaller, faster, more intelligent, networked, and integrated into everything. As the demographics and the customer requirements, tastes, and behaviors continue to change, so must the products and services that businesses offer. 

Research shows that consumer behavior is changing. Many are moving to online retail, not getting married, not having as many children, downsizing their living space, cutting back on purchases, aggressively seeking deals, and preferring fresh and healthier food choices.

For example, for the millennial generation, seventy-three million strong, their primary source of news and information is the internet. They are highly educated and technologically connected and expect businesses to adjust to their needs. They communicate much differently than the earlier generations. The millennials will change the world more than any other generation.

Some businesses have become victims of disruptive change, while the fortunes of others have waxed and waned. Growth markets come and go. Everything has a shelf life.

In today’s uncertain business environment, both the threats and the opportunities are accelerating. Albert Einstein said, “Our world is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

However, humans have been remarkably adaptive to change. We have learned to survive and prosper no matter what life, the environment, or technology throws at us. In our paradoxical world, organizations resist change with a powerful bias for the status quo. Many of us prefer consistency, keeping everything the same, a preference for the current and sticking with decisions made previously. The status quo is frequently used as a reference point for decision-making.

Behavioral science research has found that when faced with complicated issues, we have a mental shortcut that allows us to decide quickly and efficiently, where our current emotions of fear, pleasure, and surprise influence our decisions. In other words, emotions play a leading role when we face multifaceted judgments.

Our emotions rate more involved decisions on a bipolar scale that is good or bad, suggesting that we base many of our judgments not only on what we think about the decision but how we feel about it.

Understanding the heuristic effect, the mental shortcut that allows people to make judgments when dealing with complex problems is central to creating an adaptive organization.

The executive leadership must thoughtfully frame the communications based on how people think and instinctively decide. Clearly articulating the reality of the situation and the choices that influenced the organization's decisions. Employees need to hear an exciting vision of growth and opportunity—a unique, genuine, compelling, and believable story. A story about innovative products and services created by cross-functional project teams. A strategic vision where employees can learn, develop, contribute and bring value to the organization.

Disruptive change from developments in technology and changing demographics will create new challenges and new opportunities at every turn. The impact of disruptive change will require an organization to think differently and rethink everything. 

 Adaptive leadership is a style where the CEO encourages sharing, the expression of ideas, and an active participatory role in decision-making. The management team should have unfettered discussions, ask questions, listen, have open dialogues and vigorous debates, challenge assumptions, and think long-term. 

The team should avoid underestimating the threats or missed opportunities by narrowly framing the discussions. They should rethink the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, and competitive positions. They should be innovative and consider a wide variety of options, then apply their collective wisdom to the risks and opportunities of the choices. 

The CEO should consider introducing diverse ways of thinking and different reference points about the choices by adding a chief talent officer, a chief customer officer, and a chief artificial intelligence officer to the leadership team.

With collective wisdom decision-making, the leadership team’s combined cognitive differences can create unique permutations and produce new innovative solutions. However, the most important advantage is the management team’s shared understanding and a shared commitment to implement the decisions. 

How you communicate both the problems of disruptive change and your solutions to the organization matters. The words that you use matter. Framing the decision as an opportunity will create more divergent thinking, more openness to the choices, more creativity, and more adaptive responses.

Today, talent management and employee engagement are essential activities. Introducing a newsletter about “The Adaptive Journey” can help employees better understand the decision-making process, the options considered, the choices, and the future opportunities they offer. A new strategic vision statement will then guide the enterprise’s future technologies, innovations, team-based structures, and talent management programs.

Disruptive change is forcing organizations to rethink longstanding business concepts. Historically, strategic planning was a senior management function that involved the identification of corporate goals and objectives. The planning process defined the business model and organizational structures, formulated strategies and actions, and was the basis for resource allocation and budgeting.

In the past, the strategic planning assumptions were based on the management’s experience, knowledge, and judgment along with the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, and the competitive position in the marketplace. In today’s environment of disruptive change, an assumption based on multiyear strategic planning is no longer a useful tool to direct and guide the organization’s growth and long-term survival. In fact, strategic planning is dead; organizations cannot plan for an unknowable future.

Framed by a complex mixture of new, innovative technologies, changing demographics, and increasing consumer options, the question is how to design a new business model, one that can adapt to disruptive change. Moreover, one that meets the changing demands of today’s customers and workforces. With a goal of adaptability and guided by the shared strategic vision, the new business model should organize as a team-based business structure designed for speed, agility, and innovation.

The old bureaucratic hierarchically structures that were designed to ensure predictability, conformity, and budget control are being replaced by a horizontal network of business units, functional workgroups, and cross-functional project teams collaborating through culture.

When freed from top-down, command and control decision-making, empowered employee teams can offer new forms of innovative thinking, problem-solving, products, services, and customer engagement strategies.

This hybrid flat and team-based structure can offer many significant advantages: both a horizontal and a vertical organizational structure; both functional and project-based; fewer traditional managers; more project managers; fluid boundaries and collaboration.

Cross-functional planning teams work together to experiment, prototype, and discover new innovative customer solutions.

A Great Place to Work

Creating an Adaptive Corporate Culture

The CEO and the management team are responsible for the analysis of problematic situations that could challenge the organization’s long-term growth and survival.

Disruptive change requires rethinking the organizational emphasis on the short-term competitive advantage, market share, and quarterly earnings. It is ideal to focus instead on long-term sustainability by fully embracing strategies of adaptability, technology, and talent management. 

The CEO and the leadership team should create a strategic vision of core beliefs and shared values that describe the corporate culture and guide the enterprise’s future decisions. 

The process should begin by asking and answering a series of questions: 

  • What are we good at? 
  • What do we want to become? 
  • What do we believe in? 
  • What do we intend to achieve? 
  • What talents do we need?
  • Why work for us?

As an internal communications document, the strategic vision statement gives the organization a perspective on the path forward and offers a sense of purpose beyond profit maximization. 

As part of an employer-branding campaign, the strategic vision statement describes how the organization’s culture is different from other competitive employers and why prospective candidates would want to work there. A shared strategic vision with high standards of excellence and a theme of creativity, innovation, learning, and opportunity would engage and inspire both current employees and future candidates. 

The new vision statement should describe the organization’s strategic goals, such as becoming an adaptive enterprise by winning the talent war.

  • We are building the means to adapt to an ever-changing world. 
  • We are transparent and share information openly.
  • We tolerate ambiguity.
  • We are not afraid to change. 
  • We are willing to test new ideas. 
  • We embrace and celebrate the diversity of minds.
  • We actively support our community. 
  • We look for, hire, and help develop talented people.
  • We build leaders from within.
  • We thoroughly debate strategy and trust others to execute the tactics.
  • We are committed to continual improvement.
  • Together, our business partners and talented employee teams collaborate, solve problems, and satisfy customer requirements. 
  • We will win by exploring avenues of learning, innovation, flexibility, technology, and talent. 

An optimistic and positive strategic vision will set a new and exciting organizational direction. It will take away much of the ambivalence and uncertainty that is associate with today’s environment. It will differentiate the organization by creating the ability to adjust to constantly changing circumstances and conditions. It will build an architectural symmetry of leadership, vision, technology, and talent in a culture that is prepared for whatever the future brings 

 

Diversity of Minds over Ability

Business is increasingly becoming an environment where teams work collaboratively. Teams with diverse perspectives, personality traits, talents, backgrounds, and interests are better at innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making than capable individuals alone or teams with a cognitive bias. 

With greater diversity will come collective wisdom, task-relevant information, and an array of borrowed perceptions.

Teams do the following:

  • view the problem from different angles
  • perceive adjacent possibilities
  • offer ideas in the neighborhood
  • introduce information, knowledge, and wisdom
  • propose fresh new solutions 

By thinking differently, the whole becomes more significant than the sum of its parts, and outcomes are enhanced. 

Assembling Unconventional Teams

Building a project team is about both diversity and ability. Actively seek generalists and specialists as well as people with different experiences, educational and functional backgrounds, cognitive depth, age, and personality traits.

Without a diversity of minds and backgrounds, the project team can become lopsided with cognitive bias. It will be less creative and have fewer innovative ideas. 

Assembling an effective project team is not about assigning human resources; it is about the autonomy of thought.

Until recently, strategic planning activities drove strategic business objectives, and in turn directed functional department action plans. These first principles of management, along with the associated skills and abilities, are changing.

Today, organizations have flatter structures and are more team based. Functional departments have started to become less well defined. Team dynamics tend to become multi-directional rather than hierarchical.

The growth of cross-functional teams has influenced both decision-making processes and organizational structures. 

Cross-Functional Teams 

With technology, talent, and innovation, cross-functional teams will create tomorrow’s competitive advantage. 

Cross-functional teams represent all levels of an organization from different functional areas, including IT and often including business partners, suppliers, consultants, and customers—all working together toward a common goal. 

Cross-functional team leadership can be challenging. Project managers are responsible for overseeing team members with various ideas, opinions, and perspectives and then transforming those different variations of thought into a cohesive proposal. 

Projects

Projects are unique, temporary, team-based endeavors with a series of initiatives designed to achieve

a specific outcome. Projects may involve a single functional business unit, a cross-functional team, or joint venture with a business partner. They are frequently disbanded when the project is complete. 

Developing a software application, creating a new product or service, affecting an organizational change, constructing a new building, prototyping a new idea, are all examples of projects.

Adaptive versus Predictive Projects

Agile or adaptive project methodologies are designed to be creative, with flexible goals that may change throughout the process. As the project team, along with its customer, plan, test, and learn, the requirements and specifications may change, which may alter the final deliverable. Continuous collaboration between the team’s customer and the project team is the key to making fully informed decisions.

Waterfall or predictive project methodologies involve extensive planning, clearly defined goals, and a set timeline. The team works through specific steps in sequence, completing each level before moving on to the next one in the process. It is difficult to adapt to project changes or modifications or correct earlier steps. Given the incremental nature of adaptive planning, the result may differ from the original intent.

When evaluating which of the two approaches to take, consider whether the project has a predictable path or is a new frontier with an uncertain outcome.

Project Management

Successful project managers are skilled communicators with a proven ability to plan, organize, lead, and successfully complete the work of a project team to achieve the project goals, on time and within budget. 

As you might expect, proven project managers are in high demand. Look for candidates with a tolerance for ambiguity who work well under pressure and are comfortable with change and complexity. 

Good project managers can find the vital few out of the trivial many and run the latter of extraction between the big picture and the small but crucial details, have a calm temperament and a can-do, problem-solving attitude. 

 The Business Roundtable has updated its decades-old description of the purpose of a Corporation, from Shareholder interests must be placed above all else, to a fundamental commitment to all stakeholders, customers, employees, suppliers, and local communities.

Generating long-term value for shareholders, we commit to deliver value to all stakeholders, for the future success of our companies, our communities, and our country.

In the constant battle to overcome disruptive change, high potential organizations are rethinking quarterly earnings, increasing their investments in intangible or conceptual assets. Intangible assets are strategic expenditures designed to respond to changing customer requirements. Creating value over many years, such as talent acquisition and development, artificial intelligence, digital transformation, cloud computing, innovation, and creativity team-based structures.