Memo To The C-Suite: Ignore The Rate Of Change At Your Peril

Alicia Hatch

We talk a lot about how fast-paced everything is, and how much things are changing. If you focus on one thing, look at the rate of change itself. It’s clearly increasing, but what’s driving it?

The obvious candidates are the exponential increases in computing power, storage, and bandwidth. And the impact of this is that more products and services enter the market more quickly all the time. But what is often missed is that customers are using those products and services in unexpected ways—and if you’re not watching and you miss this, you don’t innovate.

This is often painted as “the incumbents versus the insurgents.” But the tension between these two comes down to behavior more than anything else. It puts me in mind of Jack Welch’s famous line: “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, then the end is near.” For an incumbent, if the rate of change on the inside exceeds the rate of change on the outside, then you win. You’ve got to outpace the market that you’re in and you can do that through increasing your own rate of change in three ways: up, down and sideways.

Navigate change in the digital landscape with insights from the CMO Review Report

“Up” is the C-Suite.

The original model was very hierarchical, classic command-and-control. C-Suite 2.0 was all about adding specialists, and everyone became super-siloed, but developing new capabilities was a big challenge. And now the winning C-Suite 3.0 is this living organism model where you’re all actually integrated and working together, enjoying the power of being on the same page. To outpace your market, you’ve got to redesign your decision-making completely and make that around both integration and agility across the entire organization.

What’s important will be an ability to understand technology, integration, and agility.

“Sideways” is making it work between CMO and CIO, because the growing importance of front office connectivity is drawing those two roles closer than ever as ownership of data is increasingly shared. Plus, of course, there’s the CFO too, wanting to put controls around all of it. So it’s this triad of roles—the sideways team—that need to work together. Agility and integration is just as important here.

The winning CMO who delivers on this potential will be the one who can connect customer engagement right across sales, service, and marketing. Of course, it’s not all going to be perfect and magical. Increasing your change requires a little more than that. So let’s look at the last one: “down.”

One thing that we have observed over recent years is that there’s a big difference between doing digital and being digital. We have, in fact, found more than 30 traits that illustrate the difference; we call them the DNA-level traits of actually being digital. And again, these apply right the way through an organization—top to bottom.

Part of it comes down to how you operate—being able to grow the capabilities of your business model, your operating model, and your customer model to a place where they can evolve rapidly and naturally. But also it’s who you are, and that’s woven into the DNA of your organization. As the role of the CMO evolves, what’s important will be an ability understand technology, integration, and agility as well as an understanding of your rate of change.

For more insight on keeping up with change, see Embrace Change, Or Risk Being Disrupted.