Digital Mindset vs. Mergers and Acquisitions Mindset

In my career in start-ups and as an executive in the Digital Space, it's become very clear to me that leadership mind-set matters.  ALWAYS.   Everything from company strategy, goals, to culture are all set from the top.  Whether or not they are formally communicated, or left to trickle through the rumor mill,   the organizational ability to Innovate using Lean-Start-up, Design Thinking or even Agile relies on leadership's formal or informal point of view.  How does your organization rate on Leadership Mindset?  

I've worked with and for a variety of companies in "Growth Mode," but growing doesn't mean ORGANICALLY or with an innovation mindset.   Public companies are especially subject to Mergers and Acquisitions vs Innovation mindset, but here are some ways to tell whether your efforts in Innovation and Digital Transoformatin will get support, or be slow-rolled by leadership.

If you are already in the process of buying another company, this may be a tip-off but here are a few reasons that leadership may even be in the middle of an acquisition but STILL support a Digital Transformation:

  • They are buying a company that has a new technology it would take longer to build internally
  • An acquisition is successful in a key market that would compliment your company's existing buisiness
  • The employees of the Acquisition target possess skills sets that aren't present in house

 If any of these ring true that's great!  Many times, however, a company will be merge with a competitor to GROW SCALE.  This point of this is, generally, to keep from being disrupted by becoming a bigger player (too big to fail, anyone?).  This pleases investors, feels to leadership that they are building a company that can win on scale alone,  and increases market share and profitability without the need for Innovation, Product or Design Thinking.  This is the mindset that will kill (or at least slow roll) any Digital, Lean, or Agile mindsets that may have been forming within parts or the organization.  The mindset here will be integration and consolidation only - at least in the short term.

Keep this in mind and weigh how fast and where you start with Digital in your organization.  Start small with the willing, and have a lot of success to show leadership before expanding. 

Cross-Functional Demystified

I was speaking at a conference a few weeks ago and got a question about Cross-Functional Teams.  The way he asked the question, it was clear what he meant - he meant "how do I get QA to work with my development team?"  It may shock you to hear me say that having a SCRUM team of Developers and Testers does NOT mean the team is cross functional.  I'll explain:

In football you have catchers, running-back, quarterbacks, defensive lineman, etc.   If the opposing team fumbles the ball right in front of a lineman what does he do?  Stand there and say "Where are they guys who are supposed to run this ball?  I don't run the ball.  HELP!!!"  No.  He grabs the ball and runs as fast as he can...sometimes even being responsible for the game-winning touchdown.  That's what we mean by being cross functional.  How does this football player know what to do?   He knows it's his responsibility.  He knows the rules of the game.  In addition to his squad work, he works with the rest of the team on real plays in true game scenarios.

So what am I saying?  Have the SKILL SETS on the team is one thing.  Having people who are given permission to, expected to be and TRAINED TO BE cross-functional is something else.  Cross-Functionality isn't just a skill set it's a MINDSET that breaks silos across disciplines and hierarchies.  It has to be taught, recognized, and rewarded because it isn't easy.   The risk of not being cross functional?  Bottlenecks and your organizational "dropping the ball" in the market, losing to competition, and falling behind on the innovation curve.

Check back for a post about how incentives can help.