First, the bad news: relentless and rapid disruption is the new normal.
As we transition from an industrial economy to a digital one, every sector is in a state of unprecedented upheaval. Your customers are changing; your competitors are evolving; your technology is exploding. From service via Snapchat to a sudden shift in regulations, every week seems to bring a new behaviour or tool that demands an organisation-wide overhaul. And this is the slowest it’s ever going to get.
Next, the worse news: simply ‘going digital’ isn’t going to save you.
Of course, you’re investing heavily in new tech and automation; you’d be mad not to. But you’re probably struggling to achieve the ROI promised by your much-hyped digital transformation. After all, you can put the latest AI into your call centre, but unless your people are adapting what they do around it, it’s only so much expensive code.
Now, the agonising news: you still need to put the customer first.
Because although you’re under serious pressure to recoup that digital investment, fast, you still need to get everybody in your organisation prioritising the customer in everything they do. You know it’s the only way to ultimately cut costs, boost profits and secure your future. But although your product teams might be pretty good at thinking customer at all times, it’s likely you still have a whole lot of people (HR, marketing, finance) who aren’t. And it’s even harder to achieve when your new speech analytics system has come down with another bug.
Ready for the silver lining? You’ve already got exactly the technology you need, not just to survive but to blossom in this unpredictable landscape.
And what is that technology? Human brains. You see, homo sapiens are really good at change, much better than computers (isn’t your smartphone already looking a little out of date?) An ability to evolve is programmed deep into our DNA; it’s how we adapted our way to pole position on the planet. Unfortunately, many leaders focus solely on the agility of their software when they should be asking: ‘how agile are our people’?
How can we create small, empowered, persistent teams that get stuff done quickly? Teams that work on what matters most right now? Teams that work in the right way to deliver instant value for your customers? Teams that deliver quickly and regularly, improving as they go? Teams that remain aligned with the overall direction of our organisation – even as it evolves?
These are essential questions for any business looking to successfully ride our new pace of change. But unfortunately, rather than being answered by a quick-fix, out-of-the-box solution, they challenge some of the deepest assumptions about how an organisation operates. They demand that control-and-command hierarchies get swapped for distributed, networked micro-communities. They demand that decision making gets transferred to those closest to the work. They demand that leaders give permission on a daily basis. They demand new mindsets and behaviours that embrace technology while still putting the customer first.
Ultimately, they herald the emergence of a new type of business: one that thrives on change, rather than being threatened by it. And one that makes the most of all the exciting new digital developments available, without sacrificing or undermining those tools that make the biggest difference to the customer: human insight, intuition and expertise.
So: how agile are your people?