Transform Now or Get “Uberized” Later

It has been almost 5-years since industry luminary and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen told us that “…software is eating the world.” Aside from being catchy — and perhaps a little scary — I believe Mr. Andreessen was putting individuals, industries, and enterprises on notice to be prepared for our current age of transformation. The meteoric rise of ride hailing company Uber perfectly illustrates how an entire industry can be transformed, almost overnight, by a combination of smart people, brilliant technology and good timing. While Uber may be a transformative company, its existence has cause the entire taxicab industry to face the stark reality that it must transform or perish. Is your enterprise ready to be a “player” in this age of transformation, or will you be left behind?

What is Enterprise Transformation?

In the context of an industry or enterprise, transformation is a process of profound reorientation for the purpose of dramatically improving overall effectiveness. Transformation requires changes to core characteristics, including vision, values and actions with a willingness to break from past configurations and structures. While not every part of your enterprise will necessarily need to change to accomplish transformation, no part can be put outside the boundaries of consideration.

Transformation is challenging for two principle reasons.

1. When a transformation begins, the future state is unknown and is revealed primarily through trial, error and iteration. New information must be gathered and analyzed through a deliberate feedback loop. Traditional management techniques, employing linear, time-boxed project plans tend not to yield transformative results. Enlightened leaders will always “begin with the end in mind,” but an effective change motion must be permitted to reveal itself as a component of the transformation exercise. Leaders, managers, and the entire team must be prepared to embrace uncertainty and unpredictability.

2. Due to the enterprise’s potentially radically different future state, versus the status quo, a cultural change will likely be necessary to achieve a successful transformation. At all levels, new thinking, discipline, and behaviors will be required to challenge existing orthodoxies. The degree to which change is required can be especially challenging for current leaders. It has been said that “Today’s generals are often fighting yesterday’s wars.” Experience can be a difficult and double-edged sword and, when combined with past success, can significantly limit otherwise highly skilled leaders ability to “think out of the box” and to see beyond conscious and unconscious bias.

Without an enterprise’s willingness to embrace uncertainty and to make the substantive cultural shifts required to challenge the entrenched orthodoxies, to implement new systems, new processes, and new internal structures, the desired transformation, and its ROI, will be illusive.

About the author:

Tal Golan (@TalGolan) is the Chief Strategy Officer at VERB.