What does it mean to be a change agent in business today? When I spoke to the audience at IBM Vision 2016 in May 2016, the theme was from the title of my book, Kill the Company. Yes, it’s a provocative title—and it’s intended to be. Too many companies today suffer from what I call “the twin evils of complexity and complacency.” I believe that the leaders of companies, and indeed, people up and down the organization chart, need to be change agents. They need to kill the company—metaphorically speaking—to challenge the status quo and help their organizations break free of rules, structures and ways of working that have outlived their usefulness.
Of course, it’s not really the companies themselves that we should kill. Instead, what I think people need to do is to kill the things that hold our companies back. We need to eliminate complexity and complacency in the form of organizational inertia and the endless, enervating processes and procedures that can sap an organization’s energy and stifle innovation.
Keeping things simple
In the past 15 years, the number of procedures, vertical layers, coordination bodies and decision approvals have increased dramatically. One study in the Harvard Business Review found that, on average, senior executives devote more than two days of every week to meetings, mainly for information sharing rather than brainstorming or input for decision making. And that percentage is increasing every year. Eventually, if this trend persists, key decision makers will find they do not have the time they need to make informed decisions their organizations depend on.
So these companies need nothing less than a change revolution. They need to look at their organizations objectively and eliminate those things that add little value, using simplification as a guiding principle. Simplification can help us identify unproductive activities, eradicate waste and reduce unnecessary steps in our processes. As a result, employees will be free to focus their energies on asking the right questions, and reignite critical aptitudes such as curiosity, inquiry and creative problem solving.
Driving change with analytics
All this need for change ties rather neatly into the topic of analytics and the theme of IBM Vision 2016: “Outthink. Outperform.” When IBMers talk about the power of analytics, they often say that analytics helps people ask questions they hadn’t even thought of before. And that observation is precisely the kind of questioning that I believe drives positive change.
Advanced analytics, powered by cognitive technology, can empower change agents in modern business. As IBM Watson Analytics and Planning Analytics demonstrate, today analytics are no longer the province of data scientists or IT departments. Modern analytics solutions and simplified access to data are enabling people throughout the business to develop and share insights that drive smarter decision making. We’re seeing that pervasive access to analytics leads to more innovation from all corners of the enterprise.
Look within your own organization for ways to challenge complexity and complacency, and start a change revolution of your own. Learn more about additional ways to challenge the status quo, and see analytics innovation in action.