Don't Stick with the Status Quo
Written by John W. Myrna
“It can’t be done,” proclaimed the director of operations at a client company.
We were discussing how our client could increase capacity in anticipation of a projected surge in demand in the next year.
“Employees will never accept a fourth shift,” he said. “They won’t be willing to change their schedules. I asked them and they told me so.”
What this executive failed to recognize is that strategic goals (like increasing capacity to meet demand) are strategic precisely because they change the status quo.
Why is it so hard in practice to actually implement truly strategic goals?
Any time you try to change things in your company, there’s a risk involved and a potential for loss. Loss carries two to five times as much impact as a gain. When there is fear of the unknown, people have a tendency to hunker down and hold their ground. That’s one reason why changing the status quo can’t be accomplished with the heroic effort of just one person. It takes the sustained effort of the whole team.
Hawaiians use the term “crab-pot mentality.” When Hawaiian fishermen go crabbing, they simply throw the crabs they catch into a bucket, with no worries about the crabs escaping. That’s because the Hawaiians learned long ago that there was no danger of that. Whenever one crab reaches the lip of the bucket and starts to crawl out, the other crabs grab it, seeking their own escape, and pull the lead crab back into the pot.
You’ve likely seen examples of this in your own company. One person gets a bright idea for making things better, and right away everyone else chimes in with reasons it will never work. And there everyone stays…hopelessly stuck in the status quo like crabs in a bucket. Think how much more effectively the crabs could change their status quo by allowing one crab to make it over the top and pull the rest of his cheering team with him.
In the end, the executive team at our client company identified the many concerns about implementing a fourth shift. The action plan for implementation fully engaged the employees who would be affected by the change. The company dealt honestly with employees’ real and perceived negatives. Once the changes in operating schedules were made, employees fell in love with the new status quo. (Heaven help the company if they were to suggest returning to the old schedule!)
Remember that changing the status quo doesn’t generally happen with the isolated effort of one heroic individual or department. It usually requires sustained effort across the entire company. The members of your company’s executive team must be on the same page, communicate their vision for the future, and be able to sustain implementation.
About the Author: John W. Myrna is a pragmatic management coach and co-founder of Myrna Associates, specializing in helping companies with $2 million to $100 million in revenue create targeted and actionable strategic plans. With extensive experience in C-level and senior management positions before starting his own firm in 1991, John is an expert on the development and application of strategic planning. John is a frequent speaker and an author. Reach him at [email protected] or www.myrna.com.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.