Most companies wait until a crisis strikes to truly transform themselves. Why? Because most leaders are not inherently transformative. Using the word transformation sounds and feels good. Alas, in most companies, it’s not reality. These organizations are not visionary because that means breaking a few rules and protecting the rules is partly how some leaders achieve their status. Transformative leaders learn the rules and then they break them. To be fair, business leaders are often evaluated based on the short-term needs of the quarter. The transformation message is lost on most companies since the next 90-days become the siren call of many leaders, especially in public companies.
Alternatively, I challenge leaders and their board of directors to look at a five-year horizon. Sure, you’ll know in less than three years if something is working, but in five years, you’ll likely be looking at another major transformation. Word of warning: if you cannot get good at transformation, you may want to find something else to do. The economy is going through its own transformation and is not interested in waiting for you.
The Track View
You know you’ll have to “stay in your lane”, “keep pace”, and “be smart” about your transformation race. If you ran track when you were younger or even watched a track event, you know how important these principles are. Competitive running is about being fast and smart. The start, the settling in, and the finish all must be perfected to be a champion. A good race involves strategy and ability.
The Competitive View
If we’re in an interesting race, don’t we have competitors that we are racing? Yes, we do. But oddly enough, the race has changed. It’s less about your competition and more about your ability to get the job done for your prospects and customers. This is more difficult than it sounds and why the person you look at in the mirror is your most direct competition. Your entire company and Customer Experience must change because your buyer has changed. Look at the way you buy complex products and services today versus 10 years ago. Notice how your research abilities have grown? All buyers are experiencing the same thing. We should pay attention to our competition, but we need to run our race as it relates to our audience.
The Transformation View
The problem with an on-the-ground view of the business world is you can lose perspective on what’s truly happening. You only see what’s in front of you. You need a new perspective. Know that you are always in a race with the future. The degree in which you keep pace, go faster, or fall behind will have a lot to say about your fortunes. From a higher vantage point, the transformation race perspective looks like Figure 1:
Figure 1: The Transformation View of The Race
Now, imagine your company is the blue dot racing toward the future and the future is chasing you in Figure 2. Think about this from a market perspective. The companies that are right behind the future are defining the future with a powerful story. If you’re right behind the future, you are the future! Congratulations.
Figure 2: Catching and Shaping the Future
The companies that protect status quo and allow the future to overtake them are consumed by the very thing they were supposed to be catching (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Fall Behind and Be Consumed by the Future
We’ve all seen enough business stories to know who is busy designing the future (Google, Apple, Amazon, Tesla) and the many case studies of those who have already been consumed by it. Considering the Transformation Race is where your board can truly add value. If your board of directors isn’t thinking at least five years out, it’s failing in its value as your board.
Of course, your company leadership must be concerned about the next 90 days, but that’s operational and management can’t just stare out the window and daydream about the future. Quarterly execution is a different goal than transformation. Transformation involves changing your culture from the inside out and folding time into your quest to catch the future.
The questions your company’s board and leadership must ask itself are:
Where are we on the transformational track?
Are we running down the future or is the future about to overtake us?
What are we doing to ensure a smart position in the race?
If you want your company to flourish, you’ll need to understand this critical race and get key stakeholders involved.
If you found this post interesting, consider sharing it. I would also value any comments you have about the transformative race and how you view it or have experienced it.