Appearing in In The Black magazine, March 2020.
Digital is Everyone’s Business: a Guide to Transition
By David Banger
Many senior executives understand the necessity of going digital but making the transition from a hierarchy to an organisation where information flows around easily seems like a very daunting challenge. Banger, a CIO turned academic, offers practical advice, starting with the development of a learning-based mindset. For leaders, this can mean admitting their weaknesses in certain areas, which can be a painful step. Finding the most suitable digital platform is important but having the right people in place to make it work is essential.
In many companies there will be long-serving employees who are wary of digitisation, so the leadership group has to be able to present the advantages of the new way of working. The transition also provides the opportunity to reveal activities which are not adding value, a crucial issue in large organisations. There has to be a clear message that innovation and experimentation are critical components of the digitisation journey. Keep the information pathways simple, walk through the changes in plain language, and get up to speed on the technology side, advises Banger.
He explains this concisely and systematically, with helpful tools and relevant analogies. The move to digitisation is not easy but this book offers a useful roadmap.
Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices That Will Make or Break Your Business
By Tiffani Bova
Working out how to grow the business is the fundamental, and most difficult, task for leaders. Bova is a specialist in the area and draws upon her consulting experience to set out ten paths, ranging from product diversification to partnerships to extended customer base penetration. She carefully unpacks each of these but she emphasises that in nearly all cases sustained growth requires a combination of ideas. The search for a single magic bullet, in fact, usually ends in failure. Understanding each path means that a leader can develop a coherent suite of strategies to provide synergy and flexibility. There is, however, a common thread: a continued focus on the customer, which is the origin of the “growth IQ” concept.
Along the way she looks at companies that have implemented multi-faceted growth strategies, such as Netflix, McDonalds and Apple. She also examines some failures, such as Blockbuster, which provide useful lessons as well.
Don’t think it will be easy, says Bova, and neither will it be quick. She believes that sustainable growth builds up slowly. This willingness to eschew the quick fix is a refreshing aspect of the book, and Bova also has a good eye for practical solutions and solid metrics.
The Outward Mindset: How to Change Lives and Transform Organizations (2nd ed.)
By The Arbinger Institute
This volume updates a 2016 edition, with an expanded set of case studies and new research material. The Arbinger Institute is a training and coaching group, and many of the stories discussed in the book come from its programs. The authors believe that many companies have become inward-looking, having drawn the wrong lessons from management theories that emphasise internal operations. This isolates a company from its clients and the broader environment. Addressing this problem begins with people changing their personal outlook into one based on collaborative listening and positive interactions.
Employee training is useful but the key is the organisation’s leaders demonstrating the value of an outward-looking mindset, and an important chapter provides a game plan for communicating it. Getting there may take several years but the rewards are significant, with the benefits eventually flowing through the company. In particular, teams become more productive and connected to the firm’s objectives.
Some readers might find a few of the numerous stories difficult to follow but there is always follow-up analysis. The website of the Arbinger Institute has many of the stories available as videos, and there is also an online audit tool to assess progress towards an outward-focused mode of thinking.