Is Your Organization Changing As Quickly As The World Outside?
“The hallmark of the future is rapid ongoing change” – Mark Scott
“Is your organisation changing as quickly as the world outside is changing?” This was the question posed by NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott at the recent launch of Transforming Organizations.
In his speech Mr Scott, who also spent a decade leading the Australian Broadcasting Corporation through a period of immense change, cut straight to the heart of the issue. ”The hallmark of the future is rapid ongoing change,” he said. “So what your organization needs to do is to have the muscle and to be nimble, and to be flexible and dynamic enough to be able to change and evolve and emerge through a process of change to keep being as strong and as good as it can be.”
The idea that the world is dealing with ongoing and rapid change is hardly news. In under 20 years, major tech companies including Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google have become integral parts of the lives of billions of people. They’ve driven massive disruption in century-old industries including the press, music, film, advertising, retail and more. What’s more, even seemingly disruptive tech companies are vulnerable to failure if they fail to keep pace with the change around them. Nokia being a case in point, and one we delve into in our book.
So how do we as leaders of organizations plan for the future, when the only certainty is further change? Here, Mr Scott had some further insights:
“If I had tried to lock-in a 5-year strategy in 2006 when I started (as Managing Director of the ABC), I would have missed a couple of things which weren’t really on the radar when I started,” he said. “The iphone, the ipad, Facebook, Twitter, the internet of things.
“When I started Netflix was mailing out CDs, that was their business model. And this was me tapping into the great experts I could deal with – we would have missed all of those things.
“So if in fact your business strategy was to try and pull out a crystal ball and predict the future, it would have been very difficult then, it’s even more difficult now given the rate of change and given the complexity.
“What our strategy at the ABC was, was to get a sense broadly of the direction of travel the change was taking us, and then be the kind of organization that would be nimble and responsive enough to take advantage of the opportunities as they emerge.”
This is a key point. To survive in rapidly changing world, leaders of organizations must ensure their people are not resistant to change, but resilient amid change. Defining, harnessing and nurturing the 4Cs of Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical reflection allows organizations to build that resilience. The 4Cs give organizations the best chance to spot opportunities, and be agile enough to take advantage of those opportunities – all while staying true to their mission and values.
The 4Cs are human skills. As we become ever more reliant on technology in our organizations, being more human is what will allow us to succeed. However, just because the 4Cs are innate human capacities, doesn’t mean they are always expressed, respected or developed within organizations.
Deep professional learning is needed to embed these attributes within teams and the organization as a whole. Professional learning should no longer be limited to once-off training to carry out a particular task. It’s cultural. Organizations must embed continuous learning and reflection into their business as usual, in order to survive the challenges of the 21st Century.
“When you look at organizations, the key competitive advantage you have, and often the only competitive advantage you have are the people you have,” Mr Scott said.
“History is littered with once great organizations that had once great reputations that could not be nimble enough to deal with the changes that were being thrust upon them.”