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The last decade has shown that global, social, and marketplace shifts triggered by advances in technology and digital data — are rapidly transforming the nature of work and how existing organizations in both the private and public sector can best adapt to global change.
This explains the popularity of startups, which unlike existing organizations, lack legacy processes or technologies. Startup founders can reimagine a new way of doing business without the burden of how things “used to work” in their organization. Yet even startups today will accumulate similar legacy burdens. In the next three to four years how they previously worked when they started will no longer fit with the latest disruptive technology landscape, changing marketplace, and public demand.
So how can both established and relatively new organizations find new ways to be nimble and adaptive? How can organizations avoid the trap of becoming saddled with legacy processes, legacy technologies, or legacy ways of thinking?
Three Adaptations to Avoid
There are three quick — yet ultimately superficial — adaptations that organizations confronting rapid change often find tempting, but should avoid. These apply to organizational change in general, and more specifically to organizations attempting digital transformations.
- Avoid creating a transformation office unconnected to the rest of the organization: Transformation is everyone’s responsibility. Creating a disconnected office that does not include staff drawn or rotated in from the rest of the organization risks creating a culture of “cool kids” isolated from the rest of the workforce. This also risks dismissing those individuals already doing valuable transformation work elsewhere in the organization.
- Avoid digitizing processes without rethinking the organization’s business model: Focusing solely on IT misses the primary point that a rapidly changing world requires new business models. Just digitizing existing manual processes overlooks massive opportunities to improve how the organization works — and meaningful improvement must include transforming how the organization operates.
- Avoid just hiring a lone “chief officer”: This pins the entire hopes of the organization on one individual, when in fact helping the organization adapt to the shifting future of work is everyone’s responsibility. Expertise only comes from experiments, and thus all C-suite leaders must recognize the need to deliver results that matter by using existing business models while also experimenting with new and better ones in parallel.