The Paradox of Enterprise Transformation

Enterprise transformation is a hot topic these days. Thanks to the catalysts of climate change, energy prices, and disruptive start-ups like Tesla, the worldwide automotive industry is being forced to re-imagine its collective future. Virtually every business, company or organization is either evaluating the best course of action for their respective transformation or is about to embark on their journey.

What is the Paradox of Enterprise Transformation?

All enterprise transformation is, conceptually, the same. To implement an effective and sustainable transformation, every enterprise, business, or organization must specifically address the degree of collaboration between “the business” and IT. To be effective and sustainable, any transformation will fundamentally alter the entire organization’s relationships with its key constituencies (internal and external) and will challenge the validity of all internal dogma.

Paradoxically, despite the fact that every enterprise transformation is the essentially the same, in practice, the journey each enterprise follows, like a snowflake, will be entirely unique.

A paradox is “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.”

Merriam-Webster generically defines transformation as “an act, process, or instance of change in composition or structure, a change to the outward form or appearance, or a to change in character or condition.” This elemental definition establishes the fact that “transformation” is a synonym for “change.”

To make this more applicable to business, I offer the following definition from William B. Rouse (Tennenbaum Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology):

“Enterprise transformation concerns change, not just routine change but fundamental change that substantially alters an organization’s relationships with one or more key constituencies, e.g., customers, employees, suppliers, and investors. Transformation can involve new value propositions regarding products and services, how these offerings are delivered and supported, and how the enterprise is organized to provide these offerings. Transformation can also involve old value propositions provided in fundamentally new ways.” (A Theory of Enterprise Transformation)

Why it’s important to understand the paradox?

No matter the industry or enterprise, effective and sustainable transformation (a.k.a. change) is extremely challenging to achieve. I have listened to dozens of “C-level” executives as they struggle to articulate both the “What?” and “How?” when it comes to the transformations they know their organizations must accomplish.

In 1604, Christopher Marlowe published “Doctor Faustus.” In the play, Mephistopheles tells us “to the unhappy it is a comfort to have had company in misery.” In other words: “Misery loves company.”

While understanding the “Paradox of Enterprise Transformation” does not fix the problem on its own, it does serve to provide some much-needed perspective. If you are an enlightened executive who has been asked to lead an enterprise transformation, you are in good company. Not only are your peers on the journey, but each is also finding the journey challenging and fraught with pitfalls.

During my conversations, I am inevitably asked the question: “When is the best time for us to get started?” My response: “If you are asking the question today, you should have started 12 months ago.” To suggest that “time is of the essence” is a major understatement.

The 2nd half of this decade will be clearly marked by those businesses who recognized and embraced the requirement for sustainable enterprise transformation from those who did not. I can say, without hesitation, the winners (a.k.a. the survivors) will be the businesses for whom adaptability to sustained transformation becomes embedded into its culture and perceived as a key competitive advantage.

I will also offer one approach to preparing for meaningful and sustainable change. As I outline in this white paper, starting from the beginning — defining a desired outcome, no matter how bold or provocative — will help those who chose to break free from old habits. It used to be cliché to say: “The only thing constant is change.” Moving forward, the only businesses that will thrive are those willing to embrace the fact that adaptability to constant change defines what it means to be in business.

About the author:

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

Top 10 Things I Learned Today About Innovation

In the words of the great philosopher Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

If you are at all like me, it is difficult to find the time to follow Steven R. Covey’s advice to “Sharpen the Saw” (Habit #7, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”).

Covey, like Bueller, reminds us that our greatest asset is the individuality that makes each of us unique. It is our responsibility to keep our engines tuned through balance and self-renewal.

A key component of my approach to balance and self-renewal is to prioritize time to consume materials recommend to me by people whom I respect. Last week a friend and mentor sent me a copy of Scott D. Anthony’s latest book, “The Little Black Book of Innovation.” If you have not read this book and you are interested in staying ahead of the “innovation curve,” I highly recommend you drop what you are doing and read this book now.

Here are the top 10 things I learned about innovation from my read of “The Little Black Book of Innovation”:

  1. “Innovation: Something different that has impact.” -Scott D. Anthony
  2. “In today’s world, innovation is not a choice. If you do not innovate you are sowing the seeds of your own destruction.” -Scott D. Anthony
  3. “Your 1st idea is wrong. The key to success is more about learning fast than it is about being fast.” -Tal Golan (synthesized from TLBBOI).
  4. “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” -Mike Tyson
  5. “Opportunity is missed by most people, because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” -Thomas Edison
  6. “The empathy that comes from taking another’s perspectives can help you see things you might otherwise have missed.” -Scott D. Anthony
  7. “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks they are selling.” -Peter Drucker
  8. “Customers don’t want 3/4″ drills. They want 3/4″ holes.” -Ted Levitt
  9. “To do something different, you have to do something different.” -Dave Goulet
  10. “Good artists copy; Great artists steal.” -Pablo Picasso

About the author:

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

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.