Transforming in Uncertain Times: A Review of our Fall Executive Forum

I am delighted to share with you some of the key insights from our recent Executive Forum. I am especially pleased to see how our team has been able to adapt and deliver such a high-quality virtual experience.

Digital-first is now more of a mandate than a slogan. In fact, it feels as though our work from four years ago titled Winning in the 21st Century and the need to switch from task to value-based decision making in an increasingly VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) world has become an all too familiar reality.

So how will the technology landscape evolve from here? In our opening session, we focused on taking an outside-in perspective, addressing disruption and the reality of operating in a world with sustained high levels of uncertainty and risk.

Dr Caitlin McDonald and DXC Technology’s chief architect Carl Kinson shared a blueprint for creating ‘antifragile’ organizations. This involves creating options to respond to various external shocks, which in turn catalyze wider transformational change. Organizations can learn to sustain the positive ones permanently while addressing weaknesses in supply chains and brittle operational practices that have now been made public. Embedding these options will enable an organization to be more resilient to future shocks.

Research fellow David Moschella then argued that China looms as the single most significant global business disruptor over the full course of the 2020s – more so than AI and other tech developments. China is both the world’s largest market and largest supplier, but is also the West’s toughest competitor and major geopolitical rival. Until now, far more companies have seen the upside, rather than the downside of engaging with China, but now virtually every industry sector has become a viable disruption scenario for Chinese companies. Ultimately, Silicon Valley and China want the same three things in the battle for technology: Leadership, self-sufficiency and writing the rules – but not necessarily in the same order.

Our guest keynote Rachel Botsman, author and Trust Fellow at Oxford University, shared her perspective on trust in uncertain times and how in a crisis people turn to leaders and companies that connect with their needs and show genuine empathy and integrity. Arguably some of the trust issues we are seeing today began several years ago. But it can take a crisis to bring out the magnifying glass, identify when trust is present or absent, and focus on the ‘trust leap’ we need to make.

We then switched gears into how we can enable faster IT modernization and business transformation, something which all clients want to see. Senior researcher and advisor Chris Surdak shared early insights into his forthcoming report on Next-Generation Operating Models, a subject which has received great interest in the client base as it is seen as a key enabler to achieving these transformation gains.

Philippe Mazas, CIO, and John Harris, his former CTO, of Mundipharma candidly shared the journey that Mundipharma’s global IT function has been on, learning to engage, adapt and ensure that a global pharmaceutical player is delivering critical products and services against a backdrop of the pandemic. This has only been possible because of the three-year change journey that their IT function has been on, in partnership with the business. The basis of the organization has been inspired by a fusion of Simon Wardley’s PSTP (Pioneer, Settler, Town Planner) model with Pep Guardiola’s obsessive focus on patterns of relentless discipline, earning the right to be creative and “play in the final third of the pitch”!

We closed with a series of elective sessions, sharing important insights from our latest work with clients in a  virtual roundtable setting. All four topics we believe are key components in accelerating business transformation. Simon Wardley shared his ongoing work about which technologies will evolve and industrialize over the next decade as a result of evolving needs. Chris Swan looked at ‘Agile’ and why organizations that are succeeding with Agile usually start small and then use success to breed further success – essentially taking an Agile approach to implementing Agile. Bill Murray explained why the narrative on cloud should be one of business differentiation and revenue generation, rather than just another technology to move workloads to. Lastly, Pip Ryan and Victoria Ward led a session on how to create more mature and sustainable working practices in this mixed world of virtual and physical working. These are key in improving collaboration and business performance in today’s landscape.

You can review our upcoming research agenda and the topics we will be addressing over the next 12 months. If you would like a more detailed discussion on any aspect of the day then feel free to contact me or reach out to any member of the LEF team.


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