Calling all leaders, do you have time for change?

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Honestly, who has time for change?

Let’s face it, most senior leaders quietly boil when their “higher ups” vaguely say we  ”need to be more innovative” whilst at the same time are feverishly obsessed that you nail this quarter’s targets. What they mean is, don’t let us get left behind our competitors. For instance, Amazon was mentioned in 10 percent of other companies’ earnings calls in 2017, staying with the ”status quo’ simply isn’t an option anymore.

KPMG’s Global CEO Outlook 2016 study found that “75% of the CEOs surveyed were concerned about whether their organization is keeping pace with new technologies.”

Frankly, leaders have enough on their plates delivering their business-as-usual than to also have to fluff around with innovation especially when bottom line targets are yet to be met and there is so much to be done. Leaders are the ones whose jobs are on the line here, and it’s common to “focus on what we can do this year” and ”work on innovation next year,” hey there’s always next year right? But everyone and everything is changing. And it is changing now, today. As leaders we must adapt or die.

I totally get the burden and toil of the modern leader: “do more with less and get better results” is a mantra I hear all the time from business leaders, but if you invest in innovation, and especially through digital transformation in your customer service, you will be able to get much better results, with far less effort. Transformation and innovation may take some time to set up in the first month, but if implemented properly, will end up paying for itself by the end of the quarter. Happy customers translates to higher retention, and customer service is the big killer in the market at the moment. Don’t wait until it’s too late, it’s far easier to keep a happy customer, than to win back a dissatisfied one.

In a recent Forrester report, 54% of directors interviewed stated that “Fostering a culture of digital innovation in your organization is the most critical component to consider for digital enablement ”

Good leaders engender a culture of change where to challenge ”the way we do things around here” is normal. But how much change should we actually take on? When is the right time to act? Is it next year when we (hopefully) get some budget for innovation? When we have more time? When the economy is doing better?

In my experience I have seen a vast range of organizations with varying capacity to innovate.  Every organization needs to consider how much innovation they can ingest without having to run for wholesale-sized tubs of antacid. But as leaders we must all act now. We must act urgently to lead change at pace.

You need to be the one to take control and lead the innovation change in your business. The longer you put off change the further behind your competitors you will fall, and you will start spending more of your budget on win-back campaigns rather than campaigns to attract new customers. We certainly must not stick our fingers in our ears and sing ’la la la la la” while we wait for all factors to be perfect before we can create a culture of change inside our own organizations. You need to start investing in innovation now.

In a recent study by Gartner, “Forty-seven percent of CEOs surveyed are being challenged by the board of directors to make progress in digital business, and 56 percent said that their digital improvements have already improved profits”

So, for leaders who need to change and to get it right the first time, it’s about being clear about the appetite for change. Your people must all be on board and your culture aligned.

It’s up to you to prioritize the agenda of what needs to get done and when; how to manage business as usual (because in the real world that matters); how to finesse and drive quality, uptake and impact; and how to measure and maximize success.

All. Done. Quickly.

Here are my top ten tips where I have seen change leadership work really well in the digital transformation world:

  1. Focus on the humans and use technology as a powerful enabler
  2. The business should take the lead and build strong partnerships with IT
  3. Don’t delay and start now. Stage projects by breaking them down into manageable chunks with strict delivery deadlines, don’t “boil the ocean” by trying to do so much that nothing will be executed.
  4. Call for a range of change agents and empower them
  5. Communicate clearly and often about what is changing, why it is changing and when it is changing
  6. Look for, and be ready for, triggers that open up the opportunity to deliver bold projects
  7. Perfection is not a thing, learn what a good minimum viable product looks like and kick it out into the world quickly
  8. Create a culture of curiosity, innovation and adaptability: ideate, learn and experiment together
  9. Carve out a new normal, be fearless in battling the fiefdom and undoing the existing
  10. Don’t get lost in complexity

It’s time to change. Do it now.