The ‘D’ word, or disruption, is on every CEO or OMP’s lips, it’s what’s keeping them awake at night. With competition from both traditional and novel quarters intensifying at a frightening pace, the digital revolution, shifts in clients’ buying behaviour, and globalisation of supply chains, how do leaders recognise what is real, what is fiction, what is a threat, and what is an opportunity?
Having a strategy is fine. But having a strategy implies you have time to calmly set a new course after fully considering the facts and analysis. Disruption is pervasive. It isn’t announced. And it is a tough dynamic to plan ahead for.
Just look at the dictionary definition, go on-line and at zero cost you will see this:
tr.v. dis·rupt·ed, dis·rupt·ing, dis·rupts
To throw into confusion or disorder.
To interrupt or impede the progress of.
To break apart or alter so as to prevent normal or expected functioning.
[Latin disrumpere, disrupt-, to break apart : dis-, dis- + rumpere, to break apart; see reup- in Indo-European roots.]
Change management is now a permanent imperative. Over the last two decades and more, organisations professionalised the way they managed change, reorganisation and restructuring. Change management became an art and science to maintain operational efficiency and effectiveness; it was largely responsive and rarely used as a competitive differentiator. So ‘change’ – defined by our online dictionary as “to cause to be different” – should not be confused with disruption.
Change ≠ Disruption
Disruption is both a threat and an opportunity. And given its ubiquity and pace it cannot be left (using the analogy of a boat) in the engine room of an organisation – it must be represented on the bridge.
Disruption should not be delegated to the CTO, it is far more than technology or digital. Nor to the CFO, it is far more than analytics. Nor the CMO, it is far more than globalisation of markets. The point is that disruption slices across conventional functional responsibility and re-shapes how organisations must examine their markets, clients, competition, and production resources.
You would normally argue that this is the role of the CEO, true, but disruption starts over the horizon, in that segment of the strategy pie chart that often says “other 1%” – where a CEO will not be focused. The current era is not ‘normal’. It’s like has not been seen before, by anyone.
Organisations have to invest in understanding what is out there, and recognise what is a threat and what is an opportunity. It then comes down to the core attribute of leadership to chart an appropriate course – namely judgement.
A Beaton service to help leaders understand disruption
Starting on 11 March in conjunction with futurist Ross Dawson, Beaton Capital is launching a world-class information and insights service to help leaders of professional services firms understand what disruption means to their firms. Click here for details and to secure up to five places for your firm at the Clients and Firms of the Future: How to Compete forum being held in Sydney on 11 March 2015.