What Is Your Speed Of Change?

Patrick Willer

Can you change? Of course you can. Everybody changes every day. But how versatile, agile, and quick can you adapt yourself and your organization to stay relevant in today’s society?

Organizations are always evolving. What’s different now is that we set new speed records of change on a daily basis. Technology gives us unprecedented possibilities. And this sea of opportunities is pushing the traditional bureaucratic, controlled, and hierarchical organization into an identity crisis.

These companies are not disrupted by other companies. They have disrupted themselves!

Overestimating your change

In these bureaucratic organizations, too many departments and employees became blind, inactive, and unpassionate about the purpose of their organization and with that their own purpose. Desire for control, useless management layers, and fear have disrupted them to a paralyzed state, leaving them inactive. They are about to become unfit for natural selection in the competitive environment of today’s marketplace.

So what happens? They try to adapt. But too many organizations spin the wheel before their own eyes, running big change campaigns without proper intrinsic change. Some examples:

1. The purpose of too many companies shifts to money, money, and money.

A great idea becomes a great startup company because it has a purpose to change something, to improve a way of life. Of course it needed money for that, but money was a means. Not a goal. Somewhere down the line, while growing up, the means (to have money) became the goal, clouding the organization’s original purpose. And the moment the organization celebrated its public offering it effectively toasted its purpose becoming a marketing slogan on its website.

2. Fear of losing is the biggest catch 22.

Employees that dig into their bureaucratic job description because they are afraid to lose their job are effectively building silos. Silos give a false sense of safety, because these employees can ultimately lose their job if the company becomes obsolete, if it cannot adapt to changing circumstances. It’s a no-win situation in which people can lose more than their job. They might lose something truly valuable: their passion.

3. The companies with complex 3D matrixes and structures can’t scale.

Some companies add a chief strategy officer and a chief innovation office on top of all the layers already in place and shout that they are innovative. That is just adding layers of complexity and in fact reducing the power to innovate. It’s a fake perspective on innovation that they spin towards their employees and customers. It’s the same way of thinking with a new marketing message.

4. Hierarchy, fear, and spreadsheet management are the enemies of an open mind.

These industrial instruments limit the potential of our brains in a destructive way. They effectively put people in boxes and then ask people to think outside the box. If you want people to think outside the box, then remove the boxes altogether! That will bring a completely different paradigm.

The question becomes not if you change, but how smart and fast you change.

So… what can you do?

It’s impossible to face today’s challenges with yesterday’s solutions. That’s insanity. Instead, think about your organization as an organism. The name already implies it. A company cannot be a concrete bureaucratic factory of the 20th century anymore. It should be able to connect and adopt with its environment. Be flexible. Be scalable. And modern technology allows this in amazing ways. Two ideas that can help:

1. Crowdsource more.

Crowdsourcing is a fantastic way to become more agile and natural. Trust the (your) crowd and embrace the power of social collaboration to do so. How? Investigate processes that can be crowdsourced and hand them over to the crowd. Simple right? Some inspiration:

  • Crowdsourcing a helpdesk is a great and proven example. A “traditional” helpdesk loses 10 out of 10 times to the crowdsourced helpdesk. Answers come faster and are better when delivered by crowd of experts.
  • Marketing departments all over the world generate crowdsourcing campaigns through platforms like Eyeka.
  • The development of cloud software is also a crowdsourcing mechanism. The crowd of users determines the needs and ideas. The developers create it. And developers don’t need to be from one organization. Software development has proven to be very crowdsource-able as well. Like Github.
  • Not everything can be crowdsourced (yet). So focus on the processes that can be crowdsourced and evolve from there. Uber and AirBnB are just the start. See Blockchain.

2. Play more.

Behave more like a kid. Because doing is the best kind of thinking. When we grow up we tend to lose our appetite for games. During meetings, I often ask “Who plays games here?” The response is astonishingly low in business meetings. Either nobody plays, which is a problem. Or they don’t dare to say it, which is a problem too. My arguments to play more:

  • A game has a clear set of rules. It can be refreshing to adopt these changing sets of different rules every time you play a different game. It makes life less complex for a short period of time, which can be rejuvenating, almost in a meditating kind of way, by focusing on a simple set of rules.
  • Nobody likes to lose a game, but most people prefer losing in a game over losing in real life. Losing in a game often means that you learn how to win next time. You’ll be better at it and reach the next level. This principle is the same in real life! But somehow we are too afraid to fail and thus limit ourselves to learn.
  • It’s fun!

The conclusion

Do not settle for an average transition model. If you are in a business transition program that is supported with a boring 112-slide PowerPoint deck, a five-year roadmap, and more steering committee members than people who actually create content, then think again! It’s the speed and direction of your change that matters.

Complexity is the enemy of productivity. Learn why – and how to simplify for the good of your organization – in our quick The Perils of Organizational Complexity and How to Tame It Infographic.


About Patrick Willer

Patrick Willer is a Workforce Innovation Consultant at SAP, responsible for helping organisations to maximize the effect of their workforce. In practice this comes down to discussing the clients strategy and evaluate together how technology can help the total workforce to execute the companies strategy.