Are you ready for the new world order of continual transformation?

People working like gearsI recently participated in a Harvard Business webinar with Rita McGrath on her new book: The End of Competitive Advantage. The premise is that business leaders need to take on a more agile and fast acting strategy approach.  The thinking is competitive advantage today is very short lived – more transient in nature.

Your use of strategic initiative management practices and delivery will need to reflect this major shift.  If not there is a very high chance you may get left behind as a player in the demanding and high expectant customer environment.

Here is a rundown of what she had to say:

In a global and fast shifting environment we are seeing industries and businesses die or become disengaged from the economy sooner and more often than ever before.  Look around at which businesses still exist and what industries are no longer relevant.  Using the experience of businesses that have won and failed in the past few years we can quickly see not only why but what they acted on or missed by a long shot. 

Businesses need to work from a foundation of transient (continuous) transformations that be built quickly to see if they work and abandoned just as fast if necessary.  Instead of using traditional business tools and approaches she advises us to contemplate a different playbook to keep strategies moving as fast as the world around us. Executives can make the shift through six key departures in how to run their strategy and its execution.  These include analysis, tools, experimentation and a refocused leadership mindset.

If you are like most executives you well know that issues such as the digital revolution, big data and analytics weren’t even on anyone’s strategy radar until just recently.  In fact, how many businesses and careers did not exist even as little as two years ago?

And when it comes to executing key initiatives businesses continue to fail, linger way too long on challenged projects or even resist stopping projects that will never properly deliver on business benefits.  This may all be taking way too long and meanwhile other businesses are moving at the speed of light and lapping their competitors.

Here are three ways you can start to take charge in making a shift to utilizing a transient advantage strategy.

1. Continuous Transformation.

We need to move away from periods of innovation and change interspersed with stabilization to a continuous transformation state.

  • Develop a proactive strategy approach that eliminates the rigour of the ‘annual’ strategic retreat and formality of idea generation.
  • Create a culture where failure is okay and change resilience is understood and supported
  • Balance the need for stability as well as energy and drive to move quickly.
  • Stability can be found in strong leadership, networks, and building out talent and customer relationships.  We urge our clients to include customers on your transformation teams, for example.
  • Energy and drive will come from the way resources are assigned and managed, individual job assignments (shake it up) and decision making practices (like pushing it down the organization).

2. Shed Initiatives Fast.

Don’t be afraid to stop projects that aren’t working or no longer make sense. In encouraging a sense of urgency and continuous change you can’t be afraid to let go just as quickly.  Holding on is not the way to go anymore.  Having a strong portfolio management process with an equally strong governance process will allow senior leadership to stop initiatives that won’t deliver expected results in a changed marketplace or shift in the competitive landscape.

For example, you were planning the introduction of major new service that will drive more customers to you than your competitors.  Suddenly the competitor acquires a business that leap frogs your service.  Are you still determined to implement the new service or shift to where the market will now move in the coming months? Don’t get eclipsed!  Roll with the punches and have other strategies in your back pocket.

3. Deploy High Value Resources Effectively.

The need to be much more precise in how we use often limited resources is essential in a transient advantage environment.  Knowing who are the high value resources (today and in the near term future) is critical to assign them to your most high value/new business direction work.  We naturally want to hoard resources on what we individually see as important rather than what may be best for the organization as a whole.

  • Have a committed resource management and capacity planning mechanism – typically part of an effective portfolio management system.
  • Encourage visibility and transparency into what initiatives are underway and what resources are available.
  • Have a good understanding of skills, capacity (to do the work) and how/when to use outside resources.  Create a skills matrix that shows more than just the standard competencies and skills.  What will you need in terms of capability in a continuous transformation world.
  • Conduct regular ‘what if’ scenarios to know how to deploy best and skilled resources.

The webinar (Rita McGrath on her new book: The End of Competitive Advantage) concludes that executives who recognize that competitive advantage is no longer long lived and adopt a new playbook with different practices will be those who thrive in an uncertain environment.  Adaptive decision making will be what makes the difference.  While it won’t always be exact or ‘right’ it will create agility and a better chance to capture those fast moving, transient opportunities.

Make sure you are ready for the new world order of continuous transformation.




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