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Coping With Disruptive Influences and Radical New Directions

By Simon Mitchell

Simon Mitchell

I’m not really a betting man, despite my love of sport. But sometimes I do like to play our national lottery. Not for a second do I believe I am going to win, but it’s exciting to contemplate what I’d do if my numbers came up. A new bike, business-class flights to Orlando, seeing the Lions play in New Zealand...the list goes on.

Coping With Disruptive Influences and Radical New DirectionsLikewise, although it may not feel like it sometimes, I genuinely believe right now is an exciting time to be in business. What I mean is while the environment remains challenging, we are in the midst of a raft of changes that we only expect to come along once in a lifetime. Some of the biggest names in industry are undertaking incredible transformations, either in response to a difficult market or to open up their businesses to innovative new ideas.

For example, the UK telecoms giant (BT) has in recent years become a TV broadcaster. This is a radical move no one would have confidently predicted, but to date it has proved successful. And one of our previously dominant retailers, Tesco, has prompted yards of column inches as it reworks its strategy to survive in a competitively disrupted market.

However, it also feels like some organisations are playing a lottery with parts of their future.

Whether these organisations will succeed, will win, will be determined not by inanimate numbers drawn by chance, but whether their people have what it takes to deliver on the changing strategy of their business (and whether they will change as rapidly as their organisation needs).

Here’s a fact of change that people don’t always pay enough heed to; change does not happen in a vacuum. A business cannot simply embark on a new strategy and expect that everything else will somehow magically fall into place. Effective change needs preparation and planning, and it’s incredibly important that organisations ensure their leaders are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and experience to deal with change in this increasingly unpredictable world. Providing leaders with the tools necessary should be high on the list of any good HR and talent function—especially as DDI’s latest Global Leadership Forecast highlights just how few managers and leaders are ready to cope with a volatile and complex world (by their own admission).

Going further, the best HR and talent functions equip their boards with critical, data-driven insight on whether its people have the skills and capability needed for a new direction or change of context. If the business has been focused on building the skills needed for a particular strategy, when times change it should urgently ask itself if it has the capability to deliver the readjusted plan. Yet too few do. We created our new Leader3 Ready® assessment to do just this and to help organisations see the ability of their people to deliver a particular strategy now, but also contextualise assessment data for a different strategy.

Coping with change may not be straightforward, but the companies that can cope with a radical change in direction are the ones who are likely to survive and thrive. Those that try and attempt a change in direction without the people to deliver? Well, you can calculate the odds for success yourself.

I remember years ago having a conversation with some friends in the pub; four of us were describing what we’d do if we won the lottery. Two of the four said they would continue to work for the same company in the same role. That is the kind of engagement, driven by an alignment between strategy and people, that organisations should be striving for. I’m lucky enough to be in that situation, but I’d still like a new bike, business-class flights to Orlando, and to see the Lions play in New Zealand!

Simon Mitchell is DDI's United Kingdom General Manager, European and Multinational Segment Marketing Director.

Posted: 02 Apr, 2015,
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