World War II was devastating Europe. Bombs unleashed death
and destruction across London. The Allies could barely secure a beach head in
Normandy. Undaunted in those dark days, visionary leaders dreamed of a brighter
future when the world would emerge from the deadly carnage, and imagined the
structure of a post World War II world.
Businesses throughout the world now confront a different kind of mortal enemy, but equally deadly and disruptive in its own way. This microscopic virus is virtually invisible, knows no borders, and is agnostic to any demographic. It confines us all to our homes, burying loved ones dying senselessly for no cause and way too soon, and upending our work and home lives. Just as our forbearers prepared for a new world order once the terror of their present one surrendered, we now have some time to humbly roll up our sleeves and get ready for what awaits us on the other side once the pandemic is finally vanquished.
Many of the thoughts in this article are hardly novel, and really simply continue if not accelerate existing trends. Some ideas may seem like logical outgrowths of the pandemic provided they remain emblazed in our consciousness. Others may be dismissed as unrealistic or overly dramatic and alarmist.
No one, however, can doubt a few things. Our lives and approaches to work, our society and business will change, some for the better, others not. Like inventions, there are unintended consequences and manifestations, many of which we cannot now foresee. Finally, and most obvious as we emerge from this Act of God– man may make plans, but God just laughs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in ways that seemed
unimaginable just a short time ago. Within a matter of weeks schools have been
shuttered, sporting events and conferences have been canceled, air travel has
ground to a halt, over 16 million workers have been laid off, and those able to
work from home are now doing so almost exclusively.
Commentators are already proclaiming that coronavirus will
permanently change the world. Many of the expected shifts, however, are hardly
new. They were nascent prior to coronavirus and emerging stronger than ever due
to the pandemic-led paradigm shift.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the migration to remote
work and the technologies that enable it. In the United States almost a quarter
of employed individuals already were working remotely, and
while this trend has steadily increased over the past decade, with coronavirus
forcing millions to work remotely, we may have reached a tipping point.
If remote work is indeed the new normal, how can businesses embrace it? Alonso Vargas and Andrew Andrews-Ramirez provide digital transformation, helping organizations with everything from ERP implementation to outsourcing, to migrating to cloud technology, utilizing platforms including NetSuite, SAP, Salesforce, Hubstaff, and Office 365. They have seen a shift in how organizations are operating and have keen insights into how companies can get ahead in the digital curve.
Uncertainty is growing in the US with coronavirus cases
mounting. California, Illinois, Michigan, and other states have taken serious
actions with shelter-in-place orders, leaving many people wondering how this
will impact them personally as well as their companies and the economy as a
At the same time, we’re reflecting on how much there is to
be grateful for, including the strong relationships we’ve built over 10+ years
with inspiring leaders. These are women and men who focus their careers on running
into the burning building – the company in trouble – learning fast,
listening, assembling resources, providing fresh and objective insights,
developing new plans and actions for survival and ultimately blueprints for a
We recently convened a call with some RED Team execs who shared how they are adapting to new ways to work. Many executives shared experiences on the front lines figuring out how to help combat the virus and also help people work smarter and safer:
Technology is the most disruptive force in the business world today. It transforms everything that it touches, creating new opportunities while at the same time threatening incumbents and late-adopters.
Futurist Peter Diamandis describes the technology paradox in the following way: “Entrepreneurs will create more wealth in the next decade, than we have in the entire past century. We’ll also experience the reinvention of every industry. Understanding how to navigate accelerating technological change is essential for every leader. The problem with such dazzling change is that most people fear the future, rather than being excited by it. And fear is a terrible mindset from which to create and leverage the opportunities ahead.”
InterimExecs recently held a webinar with Chief Information Officers (CIOs) David Mitchelhill and Kevin Malover about how you should be thinking about technology and your business strategy as we enter 2020. Among the topics discussed were ways to navigate disruption to stay competitive, the value of outside viewpoints in technology, when to pursue new technology versus maximizing current assets, and balancing the fear of change with the fear of falling behind.
Our world, our universe is characterized by constant change. Stars are born and die, storms transform the landscape, nations rise and fall, people change over time. In the business world economies grow and collapse, business models evolve, industries transform and even the Top 100 list of leading companies completely changes in a matter of a few years.
But sometimes the speed and scope of change is extremely rapid, its consequences unforeseeable and unpredictable. This makes planning and decision making highly risky because it is so difficult to see what the future holds. “Everybody has a plan,” said championship boxer Mike Tyson, “until they get punched in the face.”
To help explain the often sudden, fluid, rapidly evolving and dynamic forces of change – that “punch in the face” — the U.S. Army War College created the term V.U.C.A. to describe and ultimately deal with highly dynamic, shifting and challenging situations.
“Write down a change you would like to make in an organization that you are currently with…or change in the marketplace. Any kind. It can be a big change, it could be a small change – strategic, tactical, something you want people to start doing, something you want people to stop doing,” says Jeff Leitner as he looks around a room filled with CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and other C-Suite executives at this year’s InterimExecs’ RED Team meeting. He continues “You’re change is absolutely, almost certainly going to fail. It’s not your fault. It has nothing to do with your particular genius – has nothing to do with your insights. Changes fail. They almost always fail.”
Jeff Leitner knows a thing or two about change and innovation. He spent the last 20 years improving organizations from the US State Department to NASA, Starbucks, Panera, and the Dalai Lama Center for Peace. In a world where innovation and disruption is key, the question is why does change rarely stick in organizations, markets, and society? Jeff has dedicated years to studying why change fails and in his most recent speaking circuit, is sharing what leaders can do to be more effective in leading change initiatives.
In the tsunami of digital transformation, it has dawned on boards that disruptive technologies pose not only a great opportunity, but also bring inherent risks. New technologies bring great promise to help businesses grow, improve efficiencies, and seize new markets. On the other hand, when an organization decides to embrace new technologies, they will come face-to-face with new business models and regulations that are unlike what they have ever seen before.
Boards may not be fully equipped to face the onslaught and speed at which new technologies are infiltrating the business sector. In fact, according to the 2018–2019 NACD Private Company Governance Survey, 80% of directors say that boards need to expand their knowledge of the challenges and risks of emerging technologies.
The great thing about playing the board game Monopoly as a kid was that you could buy up everything, collect rents all over the place (or get slaughtered if say your older sister was just a better player) but when the game ended, it was over.
We’re now living a real life monopoly game that’s crept up on even the strongest free markets.
In 2017, 75% of the beer market was cornered by three monopoly companies and one, Anheuser-Busch, held more than 40% alone. In the online search industry, one company monopolized the market and held 91% of market share and 98% of the cell phone market is concentrated among the four largest companies, with 70% being split between Verizon and AT&T alone. Even seemingly trivial things like peanut butter, coffins, and adult websites are all controlled by only a couple of firms.
Modern healthcare is as complex as physiology inside our own bodies. The healthcare industry is now waist deep in an era of extreme disruption. The breakneck pace of technological innovation coupled with the increasing aging population and chronic diseases is a recipe for historic changes in healthcare.
In the healthcare ecosystem, some organizations will sink, and some swim as disruption occurs. From hospitals to clinics, to patients to pharmaceutical companies, to insurers to medical technology businesses no entity will be unaffected.
Leaders in healthcare say legacy providers must respond swiftly to the changes. The abrupt exit of critical leadership, gaps in capacity and expertise, or old systems that no longer work can quickly become problems. Because these factors are interwoven, health care organizations can find themselves unraveling if they don’t act fast.
“How many businesses find their data to be a complete mess?” Christie Kelly, former CFO of JLL Real Estate questioned as she and a panel of high-profile CFOs discussed the changing landscape for financial leaders at an event held by the National Association of Corporate Directors.
In today’s world every business now seems to be in the game of being a technology business. That means that a new importance is placed on data, especially for CFOs.
“How do we transition to turn it (data) into insights, and how does that change finance to have more technology, process, and Six Sigma?” Kelly said.
The role of the CFO has evolved, due to the accelerated pace of the digital age. How? A strategic CFO drives transformational change. A CFO must not only understand a business from start to finish to provide financial excellence, but also must predict what is coming from a strategic standpoint and be ready to evolve.