How to Make your Big Business more Agile
by Arnaud Henneville, Nov 10 2015
This statement of former CEO and Chairman of General Electric, Jack Welch, has never been more meaningful: “if the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
And if somehow you are still questioning whether you should accelerate your game, here are two cases (out of the many popping up daily), which crystallize the answer – Netflix and Über.
But let me set the record straight: this is not an article about how ‘small is beautiful,’ nor is it about how young players are out-innovating old ones. It’s more intricate than that – it’s about how one can be agile and big at the same time. Or rather, it’s about how does one become agile when one is already (too) big?
It’s about how one can be agile and big at the same time
Interestingly, this is hardly a new topic. In fact, this and related subjects have always been the focus of academics, gurus and practitioners, alike. Your bulb will probably light up with words or acronyms like TQM (W. Deming), Business Process Reengineering (M. Hammer), the Learning Organization (P. Senge), etc.
And perhaps, surprisingly for some, GE – one of the oldest and biggest companies in the world – has always embraced new/unconventional ways of working. Keeping with tradition, GE is doing it again under Jeffrey R. Immelt. And by seeking the council of Eric Ries, entrepreneur and author of The Lean Start-up, the company hopes to turn the crankshaft of its 120 year-old machinery fast enough to let it run for at least another century.
This is amazing and should be celebrated. But is it enough? Clearly training is needed and building capabilities is a must. But there is only one Eric Ries. Even if the secret sauce was to be magically packaged, it would probably take forever to squeeze it through the tubes of the organization, one workshop at a time – whether at GE or somewhere else.
As a tech-entrepreneur, passionate with Strategy Execution, the question in which I am particularly interested is; how do we shorten iteration-cycles? How do we then replicate success fast? Or in my parlance: how do we execute at scale?
Social is the answer.
After so many years of ‘social’ here and ‘social’ there, social has been stigmatized – and for good reason. Consider that according to Ernst &Young; only 7% of the market Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) ever reach 75% of the target population, most hovering at 10-30% adoption after years of pushing from the top and many dollars invested.
Social for the enterprise, I argue, has been used with the wrong purpose in mind. Until recently it has, thanks to Yammer, been branded as a ‘communication’ device. But while communication in an enterprise is essential, too much of it (especially when unfocused and disconnected to the business purpose) rapidly becomes counter-productive – a distraction.
Quickly after, as employees fail to extract personal business value from such tools, initial euphoria is followed by what we call ‘negative traction.’ In other words, as less pertinent content gets created, one eventually reaches inertia and the whole thing typically gets dismantled as heads roll. But things are changing, and changing fast, as corporate officers across the board are being asked to derive true business value from everything they bring inside.
internalDesk.com has chosen, from the outset, to be a platform focused on business and business issues by leveraging the network (read ‘social.’) After all, shouldn’t that be the sole purpose of the digital enterprise – to accelerate business results?
Clearly, if you can fit your entire organization in a room, you may not need a digital tool to help cascading important messages. But what happens when you have a distributed workforce? How do you get people to execute on the important and the urgent? How do you get accurate and timely feedback from your spread-out front-liners so you may iterate faster to capture market shares? ‘Social Business’ is the answer and the only way to execute efficiently.
Now, like never before, we should take Jack Welch’s quote to heart and change internally as fast as change happens in the environment – by executing at scale™.