A New Wave of Change

I believe 2015 will mark a new inflection point in the acceleration of business change and will be the kickoff to another stage in the evolution of work.  The next five years will be like the downslope of the roller coaster ride of change – feeling the blast of speed distorting our faces and taking our breath away … so strap yourself in because the ride will not be optional.  The slope between 2015 and 2020 will be steeper and faster than ever before.  All aboard!

We have now reached a saturation point of fact based evidence about the AGILE IMPERATIVE (aka the need for corporate nimbleness and adaptability) from so many credible sources (McKinsey, i4cp, Accenture, Boston Consulting Group, PwC, Conference Board, Center for Creative Leadership, Center for Excellence in Organizations, etc.) and it is so thick now that even the most reluctant decision-makers must see the tipping point of congruence is in the works.  It has now gone beyond the need for building the case for WHY organizations must become nimble and adaptable to the point where the reality of the disruptive nature of some of these forces of change (i.e. digitization, mobility, boomer knowledge exits and globalization to name just a few) is getting clearer and beginning to sink in for many if not most senior executives today.  

DID YOU KNOW? … that the McKinsey Global Institute recently declared “Accelerating Technological Change” as one of the four major forces of disruptive change that lies ahead for businesses in their May 2015 report.  We think the nature of work has changed dramatically during the past twenty years but what lies ahead will be exponential and not incremental to the past.The operative question has shifted from WHY to HOW do we become more agile and HOW do we become better prepared for the ‘change monster’ that lies just ahead.  Here is a worthwhile TED talk that will give you snapshot on some of this thinking.  Patrick Forth BCG TED TALK – When Disruption Meets the Change Monster.

Many organizations are beginning to organize their strategic off-site sessions over the next couple of months with leadership teams as they approach the mid-year time out reflection.  What are the questions they are asking themselves?  Are they just dusting off last year’s agenda and only updating the dates?  I sure hope not.  Doing the same old same just doesn’t work any longer (if it ever did).    It is so clear that we are entering another speed zone where there will be a competitive shakeout over the next five years and not everyone survives.  Yale Professor Richard Foster talks about the “accelerated obsolescence” in the marketplace and how by the year 2020 only 25% of last year’s S&P 500 will be still intact then.  Wow … that is a slippery slope of radical transformation ahead.

Let’s include some of these questions:

  • How will acceleration in technology impact your industry and your competitiveness?
  • How can you become proactive in building scenario planning around technology transformation?
  • What impact will this have on your current and future workforce capabilities and talent acquisition?
  • What segment of your businesses can you challenge to accelerate and experience the disruptive change first?
  • What mindset shifts or awareness building is needed within your leadership (or you) to acknowledge reality?

The paradigm that continuous change is the new normal … is no longer new and it isn’t just about disruptive technology.  It is about building total nimbleness and adaptability which certainly has implications and influences from technology but ultimately comes down to the people equation and how we communicate, engage, reward, encourage, nurture and develop an ecosystem for success in our enterprises.

I don’t think we have to look at just the grandiose levels of business to find meaningful examples.  I see it with clients and colleagues every day and I am sure you do also.  The pace of change is rampant and not everyone will survive.  Sadly, there will also be many casualties along the way as some organizations who are not fit to survive flay away on their way to becoming obsolete.  I have a close personal friend who experienced this last week as a private equity group bought the company he worked for thirty years and came swooping in and abruptly dismissed him without regard for the high levels of profitability, customer satisfaction, team engagement and trust built over the past decade and half.  The realities of change are absolute.  The survivors in the new age of change will be those organizations that are built for agility which begins with a core belief system grounded in the respect for people and wired with a distinctive culture and set of operating principles designed to build collaboration, commitment and passion.

 Our new book (Focused, Fast and Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World) is a traveler’s guide for those interested in making the journey to becoming a more AGILE enterprise.  Like any safari or high adventure excursion, this journey is wrought with danger, significant challenges and high stakes risk.  The bigger risk for CEO’s, leadership teams and their boards is not taking the journey.  There is no stopping the tsunami of disruptive change that will continue to pound the future of doing business and there are incredible accelerants of progress (aka change) flooding the hallways and board rooms with possibilities.  We invite you to participate in sharing your experiences and insights so we can create the SMART journey together.

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Tom O'Shea, CMC

Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) - these are the times we live in and exactly why Tom O’Shea is considered a trusted advisor helping leaders, teams and organizations adapt and thrive to navigate VUCA and deliver future success.

Tom brings a unique blend of strategic, operational and organizational expertise that is rare and valuable.  With perceptive insight, proven strategies and impactful coaching skills, he helps clients at the enterprise, team and individual leader levels exceed even their own expectations.

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