Leadership in the Transformation Decade



In a column I wrote on 01-01-10 – interesting digital date- I called 2010-2020 the Transformation Decade.  Not only did that blog post blow up in the blogosphere and Twitter, the underlying concept of it has become a highly useful metaphor for leadership in the years since.  When leading corporate retreats or speaking to groups of CEOs, I find that transformation is a perfect metaphor for these times.

The dictionary definition of transformation is a “change in form, appearance, nature or character.”  This means that in the decade 2010-2020 most of humanity’s institutions and thought will change in form, appearance, nature or character.  So, if you are a CEO and you are not in the fully aware business of transforming your company, you may not have a company in 2020.  If the entire world, your market segment and your competitors are in full out change and you are not, you put yourself and your employees at high risk.

If you are a CEO and you are not in the fully aware business of transforming your company, you may not have a company in 2020.

We live in a time when the speed of change has accelerated so much that it has become environmental.  We live in an environment of change. To lead in this reality by definition one has to embrace forward thinking change.

In the Shift Age, and in the Transformation Decade, a company successfully brings about change by initiating collaborative, on-going reorganization.  The entire company must be involved in a collaborative way.  No longer can a CEO take suggestions, brainstorm with her board or strategy officer and then issue a dictate on a new direction; the entire company needs to be included as not only will full buy-in then occur, but there are always employees, particularly in product development and customer relations, who have insights that will prove invaluable to the entire enterprise.  Change must be collaborative.

It must also be on-going change.  A CEO or Managing Director cannot lead some major change initiatives and then smugly sit on those changes for a couple of years.  It is not essential to have reorganizational change going on each day, but if there is a three to nine month period where it does not occur, in that short period of time, complacency could settle in.  At the end of any year, leaders must now be able to look back on the prior twelve months and be able to see enterprise evolution and change.

A leader must, every day, think about how she is going to lead a change in form, appearance, nature or character.

Forget the three-year strategic plan!  Back in the 20th century when change was incremental year-to-year, a three-year plan might have been an acceptable road map with some chance for success. No longer.  Just think back to 2010 and think of all the changes that have occurred. 2G to 3G to 4G wireless connectivity, tablets and touch screen phones, massive debt reduction, on-going slow economic growth due to the Great Recession and Globalism.  How could a three-year plan possibly stay relevant?

So, in the Transformation Decade of 2010-2020 a leader must, every day, think about how she is going to lead a change in form, appearance, nature or character.  Both survival and success are dependent on doing so.

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David Houle

Houle has won a number of awards. He won two Emmys, the prestigious George Foster Peabody award and the Heartland award for “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream”. He was also nominated for an Academy Award. Houle is consistently ranked as one of the top futurists and futurist keynote speakers on the major search engines and in the world today. In the last three years he has delivered keynotes on six continents and twelve countries. He is often called “the CEOs’ Futurist” having spoken to or advised 2,000+ CEOs and business owners in the past four years. In February 2010 he also became a featured contributor to Oprah.com and his column can be found at www.oprah.com/davidhoule. His eight-year old blog http://davidhoule.com/evolutionshift-blog, with the tag line “A Future Look at Today” is one of the world’s most respected futurist blogs. In 2013 he launched www.futurewow.com a curated visual look into the future.

  • David Ivers

    David, a great piece. Many years ago I wrote a 40,000 word distertation in Sociology regarding the future of a particular group of organizations in Australian Education. The thesis drew on Role Theory and Trend Analysis. Alvin Toffler in the 1970’s book “Future Shock” said ” For education the lesson is clear…it must increase the student’s ‘cope ability’, the speed and economy with which they deal with change, not just their capability.” Fast forward to today, the students of the 70’s are the very leaders you are talking about today! This is a decade of transformational change, definately! Take that word literally: trans = prefix meaning across, formation = to prepare or shape or form for a particular task or duty. Transformation is literally to change across modes of preparation, perhaps across disciplines, to be better prepared than before. Here is the rub David, iteration occurs in so many situations, creating a feedback loop that almost prohibits any form of prediction of the problem and thus the solution. Thus, a “one shot” formation will not cut it anymore. Professional learning must be ongoing. As Edward De Bono often says “change the context to change the problem.” We live in and work in an environment where everything is provisional and the structures and processes of today are so “virtual” that if they don’t evaporate tomorrow, they will have done so by next week. For me, the transformation you speak of is a part of a long process that must lead to business transcending itself, the prevailing culture and how business actually gets done. It is not a bleak future but it is a challenging one! Thank you for bringing it to the consciousness of all. David Ivers | @edu_ivers

  • It used to be said that change was the only constant in business. Your insightful commentary highlights the fact that change is no longer constant, it is accelerating at an exponential rate. Companies will soon fall into one of two categories, the fast or the forgotten.

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