• Teri Christian

Digital Operations - Leadership Sneak Peak

Survive and Thrive in an Industry 4.0 Economy - Excerpt

If leaders and people in an organization are not clear and agree on the desired results they are trying to achieve, the results will not meet expectations. The time and monetary investment must be made to explore the vision, understand the outcomes needed to achieve it, measure the outcomes and change course as required to achieve the desired results.

Let’s look at the habits of some leaders in the corporate world who use a future leader approach. Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, is one of many corporate CEO’s that incorporate this approach into his daily life and leadership journey.

“…Bezos keeps an incredible work-life balance that only exists in every employee’s dream. He gets eight hours of sleep every day, eats breakfast at home with his kids, starts work around 10am and checks out by 5pm.”  

“I go to bed early, I get up early, I like to putter in the morning and read the newspaper while drinking a cup of coffee,” he told an audience of about 1,400 at an event hosted by the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, DC.

As such,I think better, I have more energy, my mood is better,” Bezos continued. His point? It’s not the amount of work a CEO gets done that matters, but the quality of the work. “If I have three good decisions a day, that’s enough,” he explained. “They should just be as high quality as I can make them.1

Another great future leader is Richard Branson. His LinkedIn posts are most often of when he is having fun, smiling and enjoying life with others. He is also not afraid of posting about failures and mistakes, such as the image below about Virgin Cola.

In an attempt to compete with Coca-Cola Amatil, Sir Branson in one sentence and a photo shared important key messages regarding leadership;

1. We eventually failed.

Not they failed. We. This show the strong collaborative spirit and recognition of the team. Likewise, when there is a success, Branson shares this as well. He provides a clear vision so that everyone knows where they are heading and how to get there. He is in the jungle.

2. Exciting challenge. Not let’s repeat what our competitors are doing, or let’s just rebrand what we already do differently. Instead, the focus was on trying something new and being prepared to fail together.

3. Learned a lot along the way. Branson and his people are enabled to experiment and are allowed to fail. Together they can make, learn from and measure their mistakes, and the results from those mistakes are valuable. Sometimes learning is about the process, not the result.

4. He smiles. A lot! What a great morale booster. What kind of culture does this create? It’s also important to note that his employees smile a lot too!

So for an entrepreneur with excellent leadership skills, why did Virgin Coke fail? The short answer is that there was no need from the market. At the end of the day, it was just another fizzy drink. The ‘Why’ behind the experiment was only about Business Results, and Virgin failed to plan for people, customer and societal results. This turned the competition into a money war about low-cost pricing. And in this market, Coca-Cola-Amatil had much more power.

“If you are taking on a business far larger than yours, you have to be so much better than them. But with two cans of red cola, there wasn’t that much difference in the product. Virgin is all about our people and customer experience – there wasn’t much personal interaction with buying a fizzy drink.” Richard Branson 2 

Gone are the days when the people at the top of a company need to work ridiculous hours to produce all the right answers and widgets on time. And truth be told, this was only a perception and those days never really existed.

Currently, boards decide on initiatives to keep pace or out-pace competitors. These initiatives are usually a result of recommendations from consultants. The consultancy’s job is to understand the correlation between trending initiatives and increased stock values and to raise the market value by implementing initiatives that create the right image.

Although this may not be true for all organizations, it is for many large companies. The issue here is that beyond the surface image perceptions, there is little to no clarity about specific desired results. There is no leadership throughout the organization.

This often happens with Agile Transformations. These sometimes occur because someone did a course somewhere, or another competitor is doing it, but most leaders do not understand what an Agile Transformation even means.

How can individuals communicate what the results need to be when they do not understand? The decree to be Agile is usually handed down to those in the jungle, and the troops do the best they can with no understanding of what they are trying to achieve. The consequences are often a disillusioned organization with a very broken operating model. They may be currently competing in the jungle, but when disruption truly comes their people will be so exhausted, beaten and broken from repeated uncoordinated change that they may not have the energy to explore anymore.

To truly survive and thrive in an Industry 4.0 economic jungle, there needs to be a change in the way leaders think about business from vision to execution. Leaders need to be aligned and willing to be part of a team of teams with a desire to achieve results.

Leaders need to move away from the board room and into learning and clearing the way. This requires an investment in their time to sense, analyze and respond. It is essential to establish desired results, develop a clear vision, align leaders and innovate based on measured outcomes and in response to emergent needs.


1 https://observer.com/2018/09/jeff-bezos-amazon-work-life-balance-eight-hours-sleep/

2 https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/what-we-learned-virgin-cola

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