In the latter part of his recent interview with the New York Times, New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sums up perfectly why every business has to take a long look at itself and decide what needs to change to survive:
Any organizational structure you have today is irrelevant because no competition or innovation is going to respect those boundaries. Everything now is going to have to be much more compressed in terms of both cycle times and response times.
With those two sentences, Nadella explains why the structure of today’s businesses needs to be rethought and reestablished in a way that allows for continual transition to newer and better ways to do business. Everything else you hear, whether about Big Data, mobile and apps, cloud, Internet of Things or any other hot trend, is just a piece of today’s overarching trend: disrupted business models, forced by digitization of everything, changing organizational structures to force down cycle times and response times.
This change is hitting every major industry and especially the Global 2000, where competition is fierce and international. It is coming to every neighborhood soon.
Planning for disruption
So what can organizations do? They need to plan for disruption and this is easier said that done. Changing structure while continuing to operate a profitable business is an exercise in delicate balances. But there are ways to overcome that problem, and one is to ‘translate’ your business processes and structure from where they are today to where they need to be tomorrow. One of our own editors, APQC Executive Director Ron Webb, is a process and organizational guru, and he gives the following advice:
Organizations can’t live in rigid structures any longer. Work gets executed using processes, and a well-developed process framework gives organizations the structure and focus they need along with the flexibility to adjust how they execute work to meet customer demands.
What Ron describes is the use of a framework that can be the ‘higher’ view to maintain consistency and not let any balls drop during disruptive change. For those who aren’t familiar with process and process frameworks, this may be a difficult concept to follow, but it essentially means that every business has a set of things they do — they design products, develop products, market and sell products and service their products (keep in mind that services are products, too). Beyond that, organizations hire people, maintain facilities, legal contracts, etc. A framework allows an organization to track those needs at a high level to “translate” their business from one structure and way of operating to another in a way that uses a well-proven abstraction of how a model business operates.
The APQC Process Classification Framework
Take some time to look at the APQC Process Classification (PCF) website, which includes both cross-industry and industry-specific versions. There are those who might think process is for Lean and Six Sigma geeks, but that’s simply not true. The disruption happening with the digitization of business has more than ever made process the only thing that ties an organization’s plans and output together.
If you’re in a business that’s going through or about to go through disruption, you’d be well-served to take a look at the PCF to get a better understanding of where and how change needs to be guided to make disruption your friend. Without a north star like the PCF, change is much more painful and there are more gotchas than you realize.
If your head is starting to hurt, don’t worry about it. There are great people at the APQC organization that can help.