Gaining Internal Buy-in to Change
In Part 1 of this article, the challenges of making changes to a firm’s business model were discussed, emphasizing the fact that in almost all instances, changes that take a firm into unchartered waters pose substantial difficulty. The research done on this topic identified fourteen key dimensions of changes to business models. While there were differences among them, a basic finding was that all posed a substantial degree of difficulty in implementation, with every one of the fourteen scored above the midpoint on a scale that ranged from “Not Very Demanding” to “Extremely Demanding”. Looking at the rankings is best done while listening to <u>The Ballad of John and Yoko</u>: “You know it ain’t easy. You know how hard it can <span data-scayt_word="be."" data-scaytid="1">be.”</span> Any change to a firm’s business model is going to be taxing – and, as will later be discussed, has a great potential for going badly.</p>
The changes that were ranked as most demanding were ones associated with newly targeted markets. Ranked most difficult was “Shifts from a domestic business to a global business”, followed closely by “Shifts between a business market and a consumer market”. Requirements for such business model changes are included in the growth plans of most businesses today, especially those associated with new global market opportunities. It’s rare to find a firm not looking at opportunities in emerging markets like China, India, or Brazil. They should be forewarned that, according to this research, such plans involve the most demanding of all possible changes to the business model. One executive commented on an element of his firm’s globalization plan by saying <em>“It took us five years to learn what we didn’t know that we didn’t <span data-scayt_word="know."" data-scaytid="2">know.”</span></em> Another reflected that <em>“The list of things we did wrong out of habit is far longer than the list of things that transferred <span data-scayt_word="correctly."" data-scaytid="3">correctly.”</span></em></p>
Not too far behind in assessed degree of difficulty were “Shifts in the focus between small customers and large customers”, “Shifts between a product business and a service business”, and “Shifts from a bricks-and-mortar business to an ‘e’ business”. What comes across from this survey and the comments of the executives who participated is that each of these changes requires competencies that might be in scarce supply within the firm. Several observations illustrate the demands associated with business model changes. A senior executive in a major distributor that had implemented a new ‘e’ business platform provided this retrospective: <em>“I gained a whole new appreciation for our sales force in this process. It took us months just to catalog our product line – no one actually knew what all we sold. And that was just a start. I couldn’t imagine how much information we had to assemble to offer a credible ‘e’ business platform to our customers. Take my worst imagination on how demanding this change would be, multiply it up a couple of dozen times, and you’re still short of the <span data-scayt_word="mark."" data-scaytid="4">mark.”</span></em></p>
One instrument manufacturer implemented a change that required a production to order business model, whereas their firm has previously only produced to stock. An executive in this firm commented that <em>“I had no idea we could have been doing so many things wrong, at least for our new custom offerings. We had pride in having optimized our operations, and I guess we had done so for our traditional stock products, but we had to go back to square zero and rethink how we did everything from order taking to quality <span data-scayt_word="control."" data-scaytid="5">control.”</span> </em></p>
A firm in the telecommunications industry had a strong track record of managing the short life cycles of its products. When it did an acquisition of a firm in an adjacent space that managed products with long life cycles, it learned, according to a senior executive, that <em>“Even our compensation systems were wrong, as we had bonuses tied to sales of new products. That was one of the easier changes to recognize and address. Some of the others, to be honest, we’re still working two years after the acquisition to understand and <span data-scayt_word="resolve."" data-scaytid="6">resolve.”</span></em></p>
Changes to a firm’s business model are thus frequent, typically motivated by sound strategic thinking, and in essentially all cases, a challenge to implement. That reality underscores the importance of the following finding from our research: “Internal resistance to change” was cited as the factor most frequently associated with situations in which changes to the business model failed to produce the hoped-for results. This source of challenge reflects Pogo’s famous saying that “We have met the enemy and he is us”. </p>
“Leadership Buy-in and Involvement” was at the top of the list of the frequent recommendations to overcome internal resistance. There was no lack of clarity about the importance given to this by the executives who contributed insights on this topic. The message was that approval wasn’t adequate, that what was needed was meaningful involvement. Some of the observations of executives on this factor included: <em>“C-Level commitment is critical. Senior executives have to understand the plan, be able to explain it, and even pass the test of being able to sell it to employees and <span data-scayt_word="customers."" data-scaytid="7">customers.”</span> “Problem solving has to come from the most senior levels of the corporation. That’s the only place where roadblocks can be overcome, where options can be <span data-scayt_word="approved."" data-scaytid="8">approved.”</span> “When internal resistance occurs, it will become the undoing of a project unless the corporate executives take prompt action, perhaps getting rid of those who can’t agree with the new <span data-scayt_word="directions."" data-scaytid="9">directions.”</span> </em></p>
“Communication”, the second most frequently cited priority, goes hand in hand with leadership involvement. As one of the quotes above suggested, communications is one of the responsibilities that executives must assume. But the recommendations go far beyond that. One of the points frequently made involved selling the changes to external audiences – not just customers, but also distributors, suppliers, and others. This requires the ability to translate the changes from the firm’s own perspective to those relevant to the external audiences. <em>“Make sure your customer agrees to what you are doing, or you will never be successful”</em> was the advice provided by one executive.<img alt="communication workplace.jpg" class="mt-image-none" height="335" src="http://www.businesschief.com/business_leaders/communication%20workplace…; width="610" /></p>
George F. Brown, <span data-scayt_word="Jr" data-scaytid="21">Jr</span>. is the CEO and <span data-scayt_word="cofounder" data-scaytid="22">cofounder</span> of Blue Canyon Partners, Inc., a strategy consulting firm working with leading business suppliers on growth strategy. Along with Atlee Valentine Pope, he is also the author of <em><span data-scayt_word="CoDestiny" data-scaytid="23">CoDestiny</span>: Overcome Your Growth Challenges by Helping Your Customers Overcome Theirs</em>, published by <span data-scayt_word="Greenleaf" data-scaytid="24">Greenleaf</span> Book Group Press of Austin, TX. See <a href="http://www.codestinybook.com/"><span data-scayt_word="//www.CoDestinyBook.com" data-scaytid="10">www.CoDestinyBook.com</span></a> for more details.</p>
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.