History gives us plenty of reminders of the dangers of not changing with the times. The market quickly forgets those who get left behind. Derek Britton looks at what’s changing.
“To change is difficult. Not to change is fatal.” – William Pollard
When first published in 1955, the Fortune 500 list was following brands that were present at the time:
- American Motors
- Brown Shoe
- Collins Radio
- Detroit Steel
- Zenith Electronics
The one thing they have in common is they are no longer on the list. In addition, the vast majority of the current Fortune 500 are different from the same list a couple of generations ago. As little as 12.2 percent of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 remained by 2014. While some of this might be because of rebranding, or M&A activity, much of it is because those former big names have failed to survive into the modern era.
More recently, the notorious examples of WorldCom (Telecoms), Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers (Financial Services), General Motors – since revived of course (Automotive), and Pacific Life (Energy) provide sobering evidence of the risks associated with strategic transformation. In markets that evolve and thrive on the back of innovation and technological advancement, failing to embrace change in the right way is laid bare by such illustrations.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin
Those successful in continuing to succeed have been able to ride the waves of change, again and again. Cigna and JPMC provide enduring examples, as two of the longest running members of the Fortune 500 (both regulars since the 1950s). More enduring still is BNY Mellon, which goes back to the 1700s.
In the modern era, adaptability is evident in successful organizations. Amazon used to be an online bookstore, Microsoft used to write operating systems for PCs, Apple built desktop computers and mobile phones. In each case, while the organization has evolved and changed, those original elements remain.
Going Their Own Way
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw
Long-term business success requires ongoing effort to adapt, and meet current and emerging demands, and opportunities. While no two stories are the same, the threat of fresh competition is constant. Few could have predicted the disruptive forces affecting the market that gave rise to the success of Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, or, perhaps more notably, Tesla. FormulaE racing was no more than a pipe dream a decade ago. Fewer still foresaw the unique turmoil caused by the global pandemic. Entire industries, supply chains and buying behaviour changed dramatically in just a couple of years.
Faced with such upheaval, successful organizations managed a seismic shift in their business and their markets, to reshape themselves without jeopardising present operations.
“We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.” – Max Depree
For the breadth and uniqueness of the organizations mentioned, and many more besides, there are fundamental characteristics of successful, long-running organizations:
- Acceptance of, and Positive Attitudes to Change – a culture that has a positive attitude to change is more likely to achieve positive change.
- Running while transforming – finding ways to support present-day business requirements while simultaneously planning for an evolved, improved future state, is foundational for long-term success.
IT leaders must find a strategy that allows them to invest in digital transformation, while still protecting existing operations that are already under significant strain.
Solving the Digital Dilemma
Run and Transform – At the Same Time
As any good change management professional will tell you, you are never done. Change is a constant. The lofty-sounding term Digital Transformation typically covers a strategic, enterprise-wide program of change covering a range of disciplines and operational requirements, which will require an incremental review-and-improve approach.
Studies reveal a balanced approach, that leverages proven investments, as yielding the best results. Highly complex operating models and IT systems cannot be simply ripped out, the risks are too great. For many such projects, “a high percentage of those fail to pay off” (Forbes).
Micro Focus helps organizations striving to change for the better while meeting today’s commitments. For forty-five years, we have provided customer-centric innovation and support for tens of thousands of organizations. Our proven, enterprise solutions span key enterprise technology areas of application delivery, IT operations, analytics, security, modernization, and governance. Micro Focus helps organizations solve their digital dilemma by enabling them to run and transform at the same time.