In this Conversation, Steven Hallam was accompanied by Katherine Milesi, a co-founder of Deloitte Digital and the Deputy Chair of Deloitte Australia. Katherine has a long history of working with senior executive teams to navigate the rapidly evolving digital landscape and drive large scale, complex change. She has also played a significant role in driving Deloitte’s local and global strategies.

Katherine opened our conversation with a quote from Anne-Marie Slaughter, “This crisis is a time machine to the future”, discussing how the changes that would normally take decades have manifested in weeks during Covid. She shared with us her advice on how to keep pace with the digital transformation required and the acceleration and agility techniques you could adopt to drive rapid change in your business.

Decision making in the wake of Covid

The speed in which businesses have been responding to the economic shifts has been a clear differentiator between Covid and previous disruptions. It’s highlighted how calcified operating models, cultures that are internally focused and not customer centric, misalignment of priorities across the organisation and multiple spans of control have acted as blockers. These blockers can act as a hinderance to innovation and the accelerated decision making needed to keep up with the enduring shifts we’re seeing as a result of Covid.

Bottling the acceleration drivers

Whilst we’re all working at rapid speed to keep up with the change, it important to stop and reflect. Prioritise coming together to understand what is enabling or preventing your businesses acceleration. Consider what has been implemented as a response, what could have been done better and what will remain in place as a new way of working. Whilst it is uncertain how long the crisis will last, what we do know is that this period of turmoil won’t last forever. So, by bottling those new values and ways of working we can codify these learnt behaviours and create a bridge to the future of work.

Agility in organisations

The systems that you have in place can have a greater impact on the agility of an organisation than then individuals themselves. In the wake of Covid, businesses are now making decisions within days that would otherwise take years. This innovation process has been sped up due to review and approval processes becoming more streamlined and agile, not necessarily because of the type of ideas being considered or the types of individuals championing them.

Agile organisations are able to innovate and transform more rapidly and effectively. But where do you start? Katherine suggested a handful of considerations for organisations to consider:

  • Priorities: Prioritise the top 3 – 5 priorities
  • Measures: Each priority should have 1 to 2 key measures
  • Risk: Reset the risk profile to have higher level of acceptable risk
  • Focus: Noise drowns good ideas; ensure the ‘why’ of all decisions is clear to cut through the noise
  • Empowerment: empower your teams to make decisions within the right frameworks rather than doing it for them

The big reinvention questions

The crisis has opened the doors to creative destruction. But we shouldn’t just be creating for innovations sake. Reinvention and innovation that’s based on data and insights from listening to your customers will carry your business forward. Relevance to your customers is key.

So what needs to change in your business to be more relevant to customers? How are you going to maintain and build your brand in the current environment? What does the future of your work and your customers work look like? How are you going to reinvent to meet these big questions?

Balancing defensive and offensive focus

It’s easy, and was necessary to revert into a defensive mode when the impacts of Covid set in. But it’s important that organisations balance their defensive tactics with offensive strategies to set themselves up for future success.

We will always see organisations spread across the spectrum of defensive vs offensive focus. On one end there are organisations who are in distress and are focussed solely on defending the survival of their business. These businesses need to think about today, they are not ready to be discussing how they invest for the future. On the other end are organisations that have been cushioned by the impacts and are not distracted by defensive moves. These organisations will continue to develop and execute their strategies.

Those in the middle have the opportunity to reinvent and redefine their future whilst stabilising their core. They have the opportunity to invest in new business models, innovations and the future of work. Research from the aftermath of the GFC shows that organisations that master the balance between offensive investment in future strategies with defensive cost cutting were 37% more likely to succeed. So if your organisation lies in the middle of the spectrum, how are you balancing your defensive and offensive strategy plays?

Tips to champion digital transformation

There’s never been a better time to digitally transform your business. Boards and executives are open to understanding how the world is changing and more importantly, how their businesses will need to operate moving forward to be most relevant to customers. But how do you convince them to shift the budget necessary to champion digital transformation? Start with simplicity, board members and executives have different experiences so ensure your proposition is simple and articulated by aligning it to your business strategy. Be sure to back up all decision making by using the right data and appropriate risk analysis. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of storytelling.

We are witnessing an extraordinary event where now, more than ever we have the opportunity transform the future, faster. We’ve seen significant increase in digital adoption in response to Covid across all demographics. Adapting and responding to this adoption will be key to enabling the productive transformation of our organisations, industries and economy.

Conversations with Digital

This episode is part of our Conversations with Digital series, a collection of virtual conversations dedicated to helping you embrace the new, using new ways of working, we leverage new solutions, new strategies, new partnerships, and new experiences to make sure you’re always ahead of what’s new. To tune in to some of our other episodes, click here.

Published 01 Feb 2021

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