Kinetic leaders envision, enable, and deliver growth and help their organizations navigate through change. The 2020 Global Technology Leadership Study from Deloitte describes the attributes, objectives, and practices of organizations that are ahead of their peers and, explores the critical dimensions of change for technology leaders. Does this describe you and your business?
Three months ago, business leaders were continuing with the transformation of their companies as dictated by their defined technology roadmaps. Then the COVID-19 crisis began throwing those plans into disarray. How were technology leaders tasked by the C-Suite going to steer their enterprises during the crisis and beyond? Does your business have kinetic leaders?
For the past five years, Deloitte has compiled its Global Technology Leadership Study. One striking conclusion was that: “Organizations need kinetic leaders to drive innovation and manage change. The perspectives of C-Suite executives and corporate board members on the role of the future technology leader are converging: Business and technology leaders agree that their organizations need dynamic, change-oriented technology leaders—kinetic leaders—to help envision the technology-driven future, lead complex transformations, and be the chief architect of innovation and change for the business.”
The report also defined how kinetic leaders are also at the technology vanguard of their companies. The core characteristics of leaders shaping the technology vanguard of their organizations include:
- Agility: 42% of tech vanguards use an agile approach to business and technology, compared to 14% of baseline organizations. These leaders are better prepared to respond appropriately to changing business circumstances while investing in future solutions.
- Customer-orientation: More tech vanguards view customers (60%) and innovation (66%) as their top priorities than baseline organizations (53% and 44% respectively).
- Growth mindset: More than half of tech vanguards (52%) centre their transformation efforts around implementing new business models, compared to the majority of baseline organizations (52%) whose aims are more likely to focus on revamping existing operating models.
- Tech-led: Tech vanguards appreciate the value of technology across the C-Suite and at the board level, and this is reflected in higher investments on technology initiatives.
“The COVID-19 pandemic may have paused many in-person business operations, but it has sparked an accelerated adoption of digital technologies and capabilities that have helped organizations remain agile and resilient,” said Khalid Kark, U.S. CIO Program research director at Deloitte LLP. “When we started surveying leaders in the summer of 2019, we had no way to know that organizational agility and resilience would be tested in the way it is today. The role and importance of technology leaders have been elevated significantly during the current context.”
Kinetic Technology Leaders
To gain an insight into how kinetic leadership will shape how technology is applied in a post-COVID-19 business environment, Silicon UK spoke with several leaders who are shaping how their enterprises approach the technology vanguard.
Caroline Sands, Partner and Head of the CIO and Technology Officers Practice, Odgers Berndtson. [CS]
Roger Philby, Founder and CEO, The Chemistry Group. [RP]
Michael Waters, author of ‘The Power of Surge’ and pioneer of Surge Studies for business. [MW]
David Poole, CEO, Emergence Partners. [DP]
Chris Underwood, MD, Adastrum Consulting. [CU]
Prof. Laurent Muzellec, Professor of Marketing and Co-Director, The Trinity Centre for Digital Business. [LM]
Prof. Na Fu, Associate Professor in Human Resources and Co-Director, The Trinity Centre for Digital Business. [NF]
How are CTOs and CIOs becoming dynamic, change-oriented technology leaders?
[CS] “Good CIOs and CTOs have always been dynamic, change-oriented technology leaders. It’s these traits that distinguish them from a typical enterprise IT manager. What’s different now, however, is the position that the CIO and CTO have found themselves in. They are finally having their day because the value of technology to business continuity has been brought into sharp relief as a result of the pandemic. Because of technology’s role in helping organizations navigate and stay ahead of the current disruption, leaders and fellow C-Suite members are more open to, and embracing change, which in turn is providing the best CIOs and CTOs with the freedom to be dynamic and change-oriented.”
[CU] “McKinsey reports that consumers and businesses have leapt five years in digital technology adoption in a mere eight weeks. Some traditional, risk-averse and conservative technology leaders have failed to manage the disruption COVID-19 has caused their companies, with a lack of digital infrastructure their businesses struggled to shift to remote-working and have suffered as a result.
“In contrast, change-oriented leaders were already leading their organizations to digital maturity and were embracing new technology and a customer-centric approach. Their organizations are equipped to manage disruption, their businesses have thrived despite COVID-19, and their star is high. Kinetic leaders see how the rapid adoption of change during the lockdown has redefined what is possible for future transformation and are accelerating their plans. While their budgets may have been reviewed, they are continuing to prioritize investment in innovation and projects which will generate the biggest positive impact on customers and the organization.”
[RP] “Change-oriented leaders understand the fundamental difference between knowledge and behaviour. We can know the principles we should follow but actively changing our behaviour in line with them is not easy. If it were, we wouldn’t speed, smoke or fail to keep a 2m social distance from each other. Digital disruption is, in fact, behavioural disruption, the catalyst just happens to be a need for technology.”
[NF] “Some departments, e.g. technology, can lead changes. However, to ensure the successful transformation, people should be taken into consideration in every stage of the change. Consultation with people at the beginning to understand their needs as well as frequent and transparent communication during the process to explain the why and how is the key. This is especially important for technical change when the internal people are the end-users.”
How are kinetic leaders also influencing organizational and cultural change across their businesses?
[RF] “Viewing technical change as only technology disruption, and ignoring the impact of your people, is institutional stupidity. Kinetic leaders know this. 88% of transformations fail not due to technology but due to organizations systematically undervaluing the behavioural change required by their people. Most transformations, primarily digital technology transformations, focus on the technology, not the people—big mistake, huge. Introducing and adopting technical change and digital disruption must necessarily incorporate and influence organizational cultural change by embracing behavioural change.
“The most revolutionary technology in the world can’t force an organization’s transformation if it doesn’t understand its people and how they will respond to change and adapt to transformation. As a case in point, I worked with one organization which was nearly two years behind in its digital transformation strategy.
“An analysis of the workforce showed us that it was as a whole low on a desire for change, with a high need for structure. This was a highly regulated business, so these results should have come as no surprise. Once they redesigned the transformation strategy with a core understanding of how their people received and shifted in change, they managed to redress the two-year gap in just six months. Ignoring the impact of your people’s personality and motivation upon any transformation strategy is almost wilfully short-sighted and, will cost you.”
[MW] “If kinetic leaders are themselves ensuring that their organizations are surge-compliant, including through conducive systems and culture, then they are having the direct impact. What they need especially to do is model the kinetic leadership qualities they want from all staff members – for example, by asking questions such as: “What’s the surge option here?”
“How can we get this done in half the time we’d normally take but with no significant fall-out?” and “Do we have set-up arrangements for responding fast to (say) events X or Y?”
“The Deloitte model of Kinetic Leadership highlights agility, navigation through change and adapting easily and quickly to continuous change. All these are surge aligned. But here’s the thing: the external context makes all the difference. The Deloitte model was predicated on the notion of disruption as a choice and potentially winning strategy. Its implicit company model was clearly a disruptive start-up or unicorn.
“But the COVID-19 world is one of external and imposed disruption. In this world, the zebra model works better than the unicorn or its equivalents. Zebras adapt to their environment rather than try to disrupt it. And zebra companies have a public service, as well as commercial orientation. The kinetic leaders in these organizations have the agility and adaptive capacities but, tend to use them to repair disruptions rather than cause them, and “turn” pragmatically instead transform completely.”
[DP] “When it comes to digital and technical transformation across a business, change has to come from the top. Successful digital transformation requires the whole business to evolve together, with all technical skills and new technologies integrated across the entire organization.
“This success will be affected by how technically competent leaders are. Less than 10% of employees are confident that their corporate bosses have the requisite skills for the emerging digital economy; without confidence in their leader’s, employees may not feel motivated by attempts at digital transformation.
“By taking the lead and ensuring their knowledge is up-to-date, executives and business leaders can become kinetic leaders, and inspire a cultural change across their business by motivating their staff. Crucially, with an ever-expanding and commoditized market of new technologies, business leaders need the expertise to select solutions tailored to their long-term strategic goals.”
[LM] “My definition of Kinetic Leaders is leaders that through their vision and dynamism can generate transformational changes that then have their own dynamic. In my view, labelling them as experts in technological change is too narrow. So, for me, by definition, those visionary leaders help to transform the culture and process within their organization.”
How has the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital change, which needs to be managed by more dynamic leaders?
[RP] “Right now we’re all preoccupied with what the future holds, and for business leaders, this question comes with the added element of what the future holds for their organizational structure. The pandemic has forced organizations to embrace technological change in many ways. In fact, overhauling working practices on this scale is starting to feel a bit like Digital Transformation 2.0.
“We are, however, not in a Digital Transformation, but amid a humanitarian crisis. The transformation is, at its very core, a human one. Ignoring the impact of your people’s personality and motivation upon any transformation strategy is almost wilfully short-sighted and, will cost you. As such, dynamic leaders must work to develop a true understanding of how their people receive and respond to change, to ensure success as employees adapt to life post-pandemic.”
[MW] “The evidence can be seen and celebrated in what I’ve termed the pivotal surges that have been one of the most positive and inspirational features of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many seem to have been the result of altruistic impulses and may only have limited lifespans, but they offer plenty for kinetic leaders to think about—alchemy for one. Clothes makers and car manufacturers that pivoted to make face masks, drinks manufacturers that pivoted to make sanitizers, Formula 1 teams and vacuum cleaner specialists who pivoted to make ventilators – these have been the kinetic leaders of the pandemic. They’ve been alchemists more than transformers. Some of them have literally changed their agents rather than been change agents.
“The same applies on an even more spectacular scale to events centres turned into hospitals in a matter of days and to hospitals completely re-figured at lightning speed. Technology specialists played significant parts in all this.
“What this suggests is that kinetic leadership has itself to be adaptable to quite different conditions. When massive disruption comes from without – as it does in a pandemic and will do so many times again in future high-impact disaster situations – then kinetic leaders have got to have the capacity to respond in a surge-like way to here-and-now requirements rather than to future possibilities. Put another way; kinetic leaders have got to prime their organizations for full-spectrum situations, some of which might involve small but sudden surge-like shifts rather than full-blown transformational change.”
[CS] “Because of COVID-19, the spotlight is on culture, and this will only increase as the world emerges into the new normal. How do you maintain a culture when your entire workforce no longer interacts in person? How do you recreate the ‘watercooler’ moments, the lunch-time chit chats or the impromptu socials after work when your workforce is going to be, at the very least, mixed between remote and on-site working? It’s the job of the chief people officer to figure this out, but it’s the job of the CIO and the CTO to implement it. However, culture is built in the new world, technology will underpin it, and technology leaders will, therefore, play a critical role in influencing its creation.
“Similarly, the next generation of employees will have higher expectations of workplace technology. Younger talent will expect an organization to accommodate the ability to move seamlessly from on-site to remote working. Kinetic leaders are highly aware of this and will ensure the right enterprise technology is in place to meet the expectations and needs of the future workforce.”
[DP] “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important technology adoption is to businesses – an ability to transition to a ‘new normal’ will be the key to help businesses survive the current crisis unscathed. With employees relying on technology to work from home, it’s no wonder that 41% of companies accelerated automation ahead of the lockdown. To survive the pandemic businesses must undergo a paradigm shift in their processes. This must be headed by leaders with the necessary technical skills and the drive to make the changes necessary.”
[LM] “Just like any other functions, it is the reluctant CTOs and CIOs who have been forced to embrace change thanks to confinement. Technology is and always will be an enabler. So, what we have witnessed in many organizations is the fact that something that normally would have taken one year to implement with a very uncertain outcome, was implemented without beta testing and out of necessity. We have evidence of this from our corporate partners, but closer from home, all teachers across the globe had to adapt and embrace online teaching when previously less than 10% had ever attempted to do so. COVID-19 is the real kinetic leader.”
Are kinetic leaders essential if businesses are to leverage the burgeoning DARQ technologies?
[NF] “They are absolutely essential. Leveraging the DARQ technologies in business will need people’s support, i.e. employees and clients. Kinetic leaders are transformational. They share their vision and lead by examples. Initiating and implementing changes will need such leaders to take his/her people fully on board. The pace and timing of changes are critical for kinetic leaders. They need to understand that not all people could understand or develop a shared vision in one day. Pressurizing people to accept and implement the changes does not work. It is essential for kinetic leaders to lead people patiently and strategically to help organizations transform and move into a new phase.”
[CS] “Before the pandemic, implementing new technologies would go through a lengthy process of testing and several rounds of due diligence. Depending on the scale and scope, a ‘digital transformation programme’ could take months or years to complete. As the pandemic hit, however, organizations found that they could successfully implement organization-wide digital platforms within the space of weeks, without the need for lengthy evidence and risk-based tests. What’s more, implementing them at pace has proven to be instrumental as a workforce enabler – and will be viewed as such in the future. I’d expect the boardroom to become less risk-averse to digital change, to recognize technology’s role in navigating disruption and to start to view it as an enabler and not merely a ‘cost’ to the business.”
[DP] “There’s a huge range of emerging technology available to businesses now, including DARQ technologies. To ensure successful technological change, business leaders must first understand why they need change and diagnose the problems they want to solve, both in the short- and long-term. Kinetic leaders are therefore essential to burgeoning DARQ technologies, then, as they are instrumental for identifying their aims, and in turn, identifying the technology that will most useful for achieving these goals.
[CU] “The technology team touches every function in the organization, it is uniquely positioned to assess different operating processes and customer experiences to identify areas for improvement. Able to use data to define customers and breakdown the customer journey throughout the organization, kinetic leaders understand customers’ needs and the best channels to engage them. Wielding this data enables improvement of touchpoints and the creation of opportunities to deliver more.
“Drawing on their understanding of the business, kinetic leaders can understand the value of new technologies and innovation. Rather than being distracted by “shiny new toys” such as AI and automation, they analyze the opportunities and risks new technologies pose. They understand that unless processes are fit for purpose, merely implementing new technology to automate could be a source of future ‘technical debt.’”
If kinetic leaders are the vanguards of technological change within their enterprises, how does this translate into new customer experiences?
[CS] “COVID-19 has upended the accepted views about customer experience. Human interaction in the customer experience equation has decreased, e-commerce has been accelerated by years, and the traditional physical B2C offerings such as gyms and restaurants now require a much more significant digital footprint. This is unlikely to revert to how it was before coronavirus, especially if a vaccine is not found. Kinetic leaders look beyond their own markets and understand how broader socioeconomic developments affect the way their organization needs to go to market. It means that as we emerge into the new world, these types of leaders will be at the proverbial vanguard of enabling and defining this new era of customer experience for their organization.”
[DP] “By helping to lead their business into digital transformation, kinetic leaders can help improve their business not just internally, but also for the consumer. The adoption of new technologies is not just about improving your business, though, but also about identifying market opportunity, with the potential to reach new customers.”
[CU] “Organizations can be resistant to change, but good leaders know constant reinvention is essential for survival. Where kinetic leaders have successfully prepared for and navigated the challenges presented by COVID-19, their value is high and, their worth is widely recognized. Businesses must build on this momentum to instill a change-culture – when giving CIOs and CTOs a change mandate, communicating this role throughout the company and sharing successful business outcomes will help to embed it into the culture. Those technology leaders that have successfully defined and delivered the transformation that allowed the business to operate near normally in lockdown will be in extremely high demand!”
[LM] “Companies that will be able to use the DARQ technologies to improve customer experience will be the real winner. A deep understanding of the key motivations and consumer decision making the journey is essential to select the appropriate technology. Kinetic marketing leaders must start by mapping the customer journey in the post-COVID-19 crisis.
“Anecdotal evidence already shows that the number and intensity of touchpoints between the consumers and the service provider will need to be greatly reduced. Some experts talk for example of a contact-less retail experience: Can DARQ technology or other technologies help to achieve this most efficiently? Identifying the technologies that can transform customer experience in the direction that the customers were leaning towards will be the key to success.”
What is abundantly clear for all business leaders bringing their businesses back to an even keel, is that technology must be championed, but today, also applied to evolve their goods and services to support a changed customer marketplace.