Owning the digital vortex: leading in times of change

  • Posted on August 25, 2017
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
leading through change

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Toni Handler.

This article first published in HR Tech Outlook.

Change for the sake of change is often a fruitless, and frustrating, exercise. But strategic change in business is an entirely different matter and critical to sustaining a dominant leadership position in the global marketplace. And that fact is borne out even more so by the ongoing degrees of digital disruption that are presenting companies across industries with an existential choice: Adapt and evolve, or resist and perish. That’s far more than just alarmist rhetoric, a growing body of industry knowledge bears that out. 

For example, in an exhaustive global study in 2015 by the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, respondents said that 4 out of 10 market leaders in various industries would lose considerable market share resulting in market displacement by 2020. 

Still, some companies are intent on remaining safely within their comfort zones and refusing to embrace digital transformation despite the warning signs flashing all around them, with nearly a third of companies opting for a “wait and see” approach. Only a quarter (25%) of the study’s respondents said they were proactively addressing the disruption and prepared to capitalize from it. 

Similarly, a related study, of 7,500 executives in 107 countries conducted by Korn Ferry in 2015, concluded that leadership development programs were key to driving strategic change initiatives. While that seems evident, the study also found that a scant 17 percent of those surveyed had full confidence that their organizations had the “right leadership capabilities” necessary to implement strategic change; and 27 percent expressed significant doubts about their organizations leadership capabilities as related to leading strategic change initiatives. 

And that’s where the rubber meets the road for businesses that are trying to re-invent themselves, and evolve, in an era of rapid technological transformation. When Avanade devised its transformation strategy and roadmap we took several critical factors into consideration to help successfully drive that change. 

One of the pillars of Avanade’s transformational strategy, i2020, is the “power of our people.” And while there’s little doubt that we have some of the best talent and minds out there; attracting and retaining that elite talent is where we have a very a high bar to overcome. And that’s why our investment in organizational and leadership development is critical to our success as a digital disruptor reinventing the way we work and serve our clients. 

Building upon past and current success in establishing Avanade as a truly “disruptive” market leader, we’re committed to establishing an even more agile and nimble company to address the challenges ahead resulting from the wild and new digital frontier. To that end, we’ve embraced a number of strategies and priorities that are already paying off significant dividends. 

First, we must continue to invest in the development of Avanade’s leadership pipeline. We pride ourselves on the power of our people ecosystem. Leadership development is more than a quaint, or antiquated, notion. It requires real investment in terms of the digital technology we adopt; the resources we expend, and the full and unwavering commitment of our current leadership team globally. 

Secondly, it’s important to provide our people with the tools and resources required to expand on their current skills sets. That means providing robust learning programs that can be easily accessed and customized to individuals and teams based on the needs of our clients, realities of increased digitalization, and the continuous introduction of new technologies, applications and platforms. The challenge for the O&LD is to develop these programs and learning platforms in a way that appeals to our time-stretched, client-focused, people who are trying to balance their learning needs with their day-to-day job responsibilities. 

Thirdly, we must be willing to rotate skill sets much quicker. By challenging employees to take on new responsibilities and assignments, including working abroad or in another discipline, we establish cross-functional teams that can address any client scenario with confidence and innovative problem solving specific to their unique situations. At Avanade, we encourage our high potential and top performing people to “go for it.” We’re in the business of innovation and fostering innovation means being willing to greater risks sometimes. We no longer have the luxury of staying in our respective lanes if we’re going to remain competitive. 

And finally, we need to instill these values and priorities throughout our people ecosystem. And that can only be achieved by effective internal communications that include feedback loops that allow our people to openly express their needs without any concerns about reprisal from leadership. We do this at Avanade through our company-wide ALLI Survey program which is designed to make it easier for employees to give feedback on their experiences. And that means more than just encouraging employee feedback, it means sharing and acting on that feedback in the most responsive ways possible. 

While certainly not intended to suggest that these strategies are all inclusive of Avanade’s approach, we believe that we’re on the right path for realizing our potential as a leading driver of global digital transformation. And, by continuing to work collaboratively together, and with our business partners and clients, we will certainly be better positioned to survive the digital vortex and come out on top.

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