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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Ctrl-Alt-Del

We all know what happens when we press ’Ctrl-Alt-Del’ on our keyboards – well, at least I hope you do, otherwise you may find this article rather uninteresting (now, I know a few of you just checked by doing it, so welcome back to the story). When we perform this ‘three button miracle’, we get to see the task manager, i.e all of the active applications we see on our laptop. Imagine for a moment, that you have closed all of those active applications and you are left with a desktop with no activity. Would you continue your work by simply reopening what you closed, or would you think about how you would do things differently?

In today’s “digital world”, we are increasingly comfortable to evolve our collaboration choices, social media, applications for our phone (yes, both for fun and the more serious activities). This is often because there is a better tool for us to use, or the tools we have aren’t working in the right way, or we simply want a change. Interestingly though, most of us don’t do this in our business environments. Think for a minute and ask yourselves, “Why do we do the ‘Ctrl-Alt’Del’ magic combination”? Perhaps our application isn’t working, or our PC or tablet is running slow? Are we worried that our device is stuck within a loop and can’t move forward from? Now, consider the business environments we work in. These reasons can seem very similar, yet our response tends to be a shrug of the shoulders and we continue to push through.

As you read this, consider for a moment that you could ‘Ctrl-Alt Del’ your business. Take a moment to pause and reflect on what is working, and think about whether your processes, systems and tools are doing what you need them to do? Which ones are consuming too much time or resource? As you reflect, you may also sense a glimmer of hope – that idea that pops into your head of the “What if?.
However. then the reality of how complicated or hard it can be leaps to the front again and the hope is gone. I encourage you to force that “What if” concept back to the front just for a moment – let it breathe and consider a minor application or toolset in your business that could be changed with minimal effort and would help your business start to realise the impact a pause and change could have on your organisation.

Of course, many of you will say, “But Nathan, we are already doing this we, are going through significant change as the market evolves”, or “We have tried it before and ended up in the same place”. I tip my hat to those who have not only achieved a rethink, but equally to those who are continuing to try. Without this commitment to change, then businesses will continue to plod through using what they have.

In essence, businesses can’t simply pause and then create a change. It needs to be embraced by the leaders of organisations. Congratulating one another for doing something new, without understanding how to create the right environment for it to be continually successful will simply doom it to failure. One such example was for a start-up business unit which was a business’s efforts to pause and use a fresh approach to change direction for an area of their business where they were being challenged by competitors.

I was fortunate enough to have a discussion with the start-up business unit, working under a large parent company the other day (no, not mine!), where they were being given conflicting direction – “Go forth and conquer this market as a disruptive player!”. Sounds great, right? However, this was followed by the second part of the conversation – “You must of course remain within the architecture and capabilities of the parent business so as we maximise our assets”. Now, after being ready to jump for joy, I was left staring into my coffee cup hoping that my disappointment for their predicament didn’t show. Unfortunately, this is very common for many incumbent businesses seeking to jump on the start-up bandwagon, without truly understanding the changes they need to make in their own thinking when considering what they set out to achieve.

In the case of this business unit start-up, that change from the parent company needs to be in giving them the opportunity to be disruptive or accepting that the goal in establishing the business unit is to disrupt the broader organisation. The latter would require some serious commitment, and a jump off a sizable cliff given the risks it may be perceived to have within the business, particularly as in many large established businesses, the employees are the culture, and they represent the way of working – hence changing this overnight can be challenging.

In this case, providing that new business unit the flexibility to define its market approach, its IT architecture and ultimately its culture will help to define its success. Of course, we can say “But what if it fails?” At least, if it stays within the way of working of the parent company then the assets and people can be reintegrated into the business”. If this is your thinking, then I’m afraid you will never know what success could look like. We don’t see business start-ups wondering about how they might mitigate failure, but how can then create the best chance for success.

“Hackathons” are a great example of how businesses can create the best chance for success, and to date have always been synonymous with technology led businesses, and in particular start-up environments. The idea of throwing a problem into a room with some really bright people to design and develop with a new widget or code to address a bug in a platform is increasingly common. I would however propose that hackathons become the tool of choice for our ‘Ctrl-Alt-Del’ moment.

Once we pause our business, what are we going to do? How do we ensure we don’t go back to our old ways of working? How do ensure our staff embrace this change with us? In any organisation, there are lots of bright people in their field who are keen to get more involved and with the right tools, they can have  a phenomenal impact on helping to improve the way a business achieves its objectives. The people that make up an organisation want their business to be successful; it’s what makes it a great place to work, so leveraging their commitment and channeling that willingness to succeed through these types of tools can create a great environment for change.

This for me is why leaders really need to ‘Ctrl-Alt-Del’ their businesses and have a serious think about the way they are running their organisations. Can it be done differently? Yes, I hear some of you saying –  it is simply impossible to change your business given how long you have been working in that way, but I say give your teams a chance to embrace change, a change made of their own interest, engagement and outcome. It might start small – from how a team collaborates, or how you engage with your customers, but ultimately if it gets the business thinking about the “possible”, then that can only be a good thing … right?

1 comment:

Ewan Belsey said...

Another great read Nathan and a very interesting concept. I think the common mistake large organisations make with the ctrl-alt-del scenario is restructure without thought – what was not working, why was it not working, where do you want the business to go, what would you do differently and how do you avoid the same situation reoccurring? Like the Task Manager, sometimes a reset button is good, but why was it needed, is the question? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing... but then how much do we factor user error into this equation as well?