Long standing research shows that corporate change initiatives fail 70% of the time. All of the time. Have always done. And are likely to continue to do so unless something fundamental changes. Why is this? My personal view is that change is rarely led by leaders and organisation’s. Real, permanent and impactful change is, instead driven by individuals.
The chart below (Taken from a presentation by an SVP of Kimberly Clark some years ago) shows how technology change and the role of digital has shifted from the “organisational advantage” to the “individual advantage”. In other words, the individual consumer became to driving force in the role of technology and digital strategy. This shift has been significant and has, over the last 10 years, redefined the technology and digital landscape.
The important thing here is that this change was driven by the individual user – you and me – and not by the technology companies themselves. As connected individuals we shared our frustration with existing technology and collaborated to drive change. The smart organisation’s tapped into this conversation and the digital agenda was shaped accordingly.
Why is this relevant? Well I believe this “individual advantage” is coming to an employee near you sometime very soon. In the same way that we challenged the way organisation’s delivered products and services as customers, I believe we will challenge those orgaisation’s on the way we are led and managed as employees. To illustrate the point I made a few subtle changes to the chart – see below:
As individuals we will drive the corporate agenda, not the leaders. And as with technology, this agenda will become mainstream, not limited to a select few who “get it”. The only material difference between the two charts is the timing of the tipping point. We are not there quite yet with the role of people, but we are very close.
So what are the implications for todays organisation’s and the CXO’s that lead them? Will the FTSE 250 become the epicenter of modern industrial democracy? Will the CXO role be dispersed throughout the organisation?
Well, no. I doubt it. And whilst I don’t expect that within 20 years “They” (The collective leadership noun for all employees that don’t hold CXO status) will be running the corporate asylum, change is definitely coming, and it’s one that you, as a ‘leader’, are unlikely to drive.
The recent outing of Brendan Eich from the CEO role at Mozilla is a real example of “individual advantage” in action, the implications of which are captured nicely in this post from the Harvard blog.
The “individual advantage” will demand a fundamental shift in the way existing stakeholder groups within an organisation communicate with each other and, more importantly, hold each other to account.