Moving technology from the planning room to the board room to accelerate change

11 Oct 2023


Business leaders will have returned from their summer breaks to read countless articles screaming: “The world is changing faster than ever.” It’s been the same story since 2020.

Many CEOs acknowledge the rapid shifts in their business environments. But upon closer inspection, their core operational methods haven’t altered in years. I regularly see a kind of paralysis to make bold decisions at the top of organizations, partly due to unsuitable processes, but more often because of a collective nervousness to move away from what we did in the past. The crazy thing of course is that these same old ways are often criticized for their ineffectiveness.

As a perfect example – so many businesses we see complain endlessly about a time-consuming, over-focused budget cycle, that adds little value, creates impossible plans, and then drives ineffective management as leaders spend their time explaining numbers that were never realistic in the first place. Yet every year those same leaders will simply not allow any distraction from this very process, or any meaningful change in how it runs.

Maybe, then, it’s less about changing processes than evolving leaders’ mindsets.

The amount of business disruption from various angles often distracts leaders from seeing or putting off what needs to be done for long-term success.

The modern landscape demands agility and dynamism, yet intrinsic inertia anchors traditional management practices, rendering organizations almost static in their executive habits. This results in a self-inflicted predicament: being too preoccupied with an ever-changing world to invest time in essential internal changes.

And the tragedy is that change happens in the wrong place – restructure, refocus, re-align – but never changing the way we prepare, present, and focus decisions that deliver our future. Or how we interact with stakeholders, shareholders, and employees.

Beware the ‘no-time’ mantra

This “no-time” mantra can be likened to an individual who, too busy to shop for a new laptop, persists with an obsolete computer that performs sluggishly and nowhere near as well as the latest models. Scaled up, this kind of leadership inertia is crippling organizations. If you span out and consider matters from a broader perspective, there is needless complexity of information in the modern business caused by old infrastructure and outdated ways of leading.

For example, if we venture into a leading supermarket, we’ll see state-of-the-art automation, from scanners to RFI indicators. Yet, juxtapose this with a boardroom scenario where last-minute PowerPoint presentations and long-winded Word documents steer discussions. There is a glaring disconnection between the sophisticated technology powering businesses and the rudimentary tools guiding their top-tier decisions.

Such traditionalism is inconsistent with the business world’s pace and, unsurprisingly, leaders lament their inability to keep up. 

They’re metaphorically racing from London to Edinburgh in a horse and carriage, while competitors use driverless supercars. They then blame the traffic when they inevitably lose. It sounds absurd, but this reflects the realities faced by many enterprises.

Similarly, numerous organizations boast about their democratic work culture, emphasizing empowerment. In reality, thanks to the way the decision-making process works for most, there’s a caveat that halts progress. When faced with a suggestion of change, leaders nod in agreement but defer its implementation to a noncommittal, indefinite “when we have time”. Ironically, they demand the exact opposite from their workforce.

Making time for change

But is this reluctance to act on innovative ideas purely logistical? Or does it stem from an apprehension of what an optimized information system might disclose about the organization’s inefficiencies or risk of delivery?

Modern systems are honest systems when implemented and managed well. Integrated information flows direct from business to c-suite, without filtering the message and presentation. And dynamic organizations require different investments, with ROI calculations that might not meet traditional capex logic.

It’s high time leaders confront these questions. It’s true that change in today’s world isn’t just inevitable but necessary. This isn’t about reinventing the wheel but adapting to the terrain. We need leaders willing to challenge the status quo, embrace the new, and ensure businesses don’t just survive but thrive.

Corporates may be leading the charge regarding driving technology change on the work floor, but if leaders don’t break free from their own inertia, they risk becoming relics in a dynamic world. It’s time to be bold, innovative, and open to change where we need it most – at the table where the big decisions about business future is taken.

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