The world’s changed and we need to get with the program
At a time where brands, agencies and publishers are all talking about how to transform themselves for the future or whether “the model is right”, Professor Dave Ulrich seeks to identify the key ingredients of companies that are not only thriving through change but dictating the narrative. Take a deeper look into the changing world of organisational strategy and how companies like Google, Amazon and Tencent are re-shaping the way we think about doing business. (Harvard Business Review)
- We’re moving away from traditional “hierarchical organisations” (this army style “command and control”) to more “market orientated eco-systems” that focus on joining together “cells” to tackle new opportunities.
- Amazon and Tencent have build themselves to be superior at scale AND speed.
- We carry unconscious bias in terms of our expectations of what an organisation should look like and therefore hold ourselves back from new ways of doing business.
- The four key ingredients to success: information sharing, customer anticipation, innovation and agility. In addition, the ability to pivot, at speed is a critical success factor.
- The “context” in which we view our businesses is changing, across six key areas: social, technological, economic, political, environmental and demographic.
We’re obsessed with “the model”. Is it broken? Is it not broken? To tackle this question, I look at who’s winning and why. The professor poses the question (in his book), “how can companies deliver radically greater value in fast changing markets?” and I think it’s an apt one. His analysis is both fascinating and helpful in terms of identifying what’s going on around us and the ingredients that allow for some businesses to thrive.
I’m very fortunate to have lived both the big corporate leadership life and been the guy to walk up and down Silicon Valley with a suitcase begging for money. I fancy myself a pioneer or sorts and highly adaptable to change. But as I started to unpack some of the concepts raised in the conversation, I realised that we all bring a level of unconscious bias to how an organisation (and how it does business) should look.
As an example, we believe that start-ups can go faster, we believe that only big corporates can do things at scale. But corporations like Amazon and Tencent show us that this isn’t necessarily true. They show us that to succeed where the ground is shifting beneath you, it’s about creating “cells” within the company that are able to go after new opportunities, get to rapid MVP’s, then capitalise or shut down. They also show us that there needs to be a consistency at the centre of the business (e.g. culture, work ethic, etc.) that binds all the cells together.
In the context of the agency business and whether “the model is broken”, the way we are organised and deliver our services has looked very similar for some years. Our clients, the brands, are all operating in this uncertain, unstable contextual environment. This means that we need to find new ways to help them navigate those changes, help them pivot, build cells together, share in value creation and rethink how we disrupt ourselves.
Ulrich’s statement, “think BIG, test SMALL”, particularly resonates with me. We’re all guilty of designing product, strategy, services, organisation etc. with “over elegance”. The world’s changed and we need to get with the program.