Too big to dance! Why big organisations can’t disrupt themselves!

Many large corporations are finding it hard to disrupt themselves, letting small players inch and itch slowly right into the middle of their business model, but why is that? Here are just few reasons why it may be happening:

Reliance on Middle Management
Middle Management is a pointless layer of authority. Agile working practices allow everyone to be their own manager and work in a team. The fact that some companies have started to phase out timesheets and remove the limits on time off is an indicator that times are changing, and team dynamics will filter out those who are not team players. Middle management simply hinders creativity and, in doing so, reduces productivity. Take this layer out and things improve dramatically. Introducing Agile work practices while still retaining a level of middle management means that a company has not truly moved to an Agile mind-set.

Too busy milking the Cash Cow
Remember Nokia? They were busy milking the cash cow and thought that nothing could happen to them — that they could outlast the “smart phones”. It seems that, in some big companies, as long there is no crisis then all is well. Wrong! The cow will always eventually moves somewhere else and, as usual, customers are the cash kings with the disrupters chasing them. When the milk goes dry it’s too late by then!

Focusing only on Technology
For some reason, big companies think that introducing cloud, social applications, analytics engines and moving to mobile will solve all their problems! This completely ignores the fact that all of those technologies are available to everyone, including their competitors, so where is the competitive advantage and core competence? its above all of this …value add above others !

Problem Outsourcing
Large corporations don’t solve problems, they outsource them. , they think that outsourcing is the solution, all the while hoping that they can also shift the blame. But remember — accountability can never be outsourced. With 3rd parties change is slow (a subject of a separate blog) because the corporations keep failing to listen to third-party advice and not taking advantage of the fact that third-parties usually have tentacles everywhere with superior ability to learn from all their clients, a 40k employee outsourcing company has 40k lessons learned a day in a field where a client has only few hundred !

Copy others and they call it innovation! do it the right way they call it disruption — we all seen it before standard improvement now called innovation introducing social media like yammer its called innovation, doing the right thing its called disruption, in one organisation I worked for there was this manager who rolled out a standard software he called it a disruption and the funny thing all other managers agree!

The Headless Chicken effect
Big corporations are running around trying to do everything but achieving nothing. Year after year they claim that ‘this’ year is going to be the year of change, and yet no changes are made. Then there is a new management shuffle and the story simply repeats itself! Sometimes they buy other companies who are in the disruption space, hoping that this will help them to do the same! In fact, what happens is that they turn the newly acquired company into a headless chicken just like them!

The “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” attitude
This is a 1980s attitude and the opposite of what disruption is all about, which is “if it isn’t broken then break it or kill it!” This is a comfort zone thing, and disruption is all about taking advantage of it! Just think — The Taxi service wasn’t broken before Uber disrupted it!

Talking the Talk but not Walking the Walk
Corporations talk of diversity, only to hire people they already know. Fresh blood is just a myth. A new management comes in and the first thing they do is to bring in people they know, putting the necessary skills second on the list! Skills should come first. Knowing the person is just a bonus, Remember that the safer option may not be the best option. Remember also that feeling comfortable with someone may be counter-productive. In business you need people you respect, not people you like!

Playing the “Waiting Game

Disruption is not something you can copy, so waiting for your competitors to implement something ground-breaking is the worse strategy of all! You can end up waiting forever, or just until someone steals your market share from you! Waiting to disrupt is waiting to fail!

The 9–5 Culture effect
There are so many clock watchers! It’s true our days are ideally allocated to three 8-hour activities: 8 hours sleep, 8 hours social and 8 hours work, but watching a clock makes you a job seeker not career seeker. A 9–5 culture is the enemy of disruption. This doesn’t mean you have to burn yourself out, though. It might mean starting and finishing early, or working over the weekend and taking two days off during the week. Just be flexible, not tied to 9.00am — 5:00pm.

The “not my problem!” scenario
Vertical silos are a nightmare for corporations. They preach Agile, yet they operate in departments or groups that do their own thing in isolation and are only concerned about their own performance. Silos can destroy modern organisations with their lack of communication and information sharing. Remember that trees grow vertically but survive horizontally. I believe that 50% of targets and bonuses should be at horizontal level and 50% should be vertical.

The Pirate effect
Disruptors are like pirates — they attack large oil tankers rather than small nimble boats, as tankers are too big to manoeuvre, difficult to defend themselves from all directions, and their cash-laden cargo makes them easy pickings. Don’t be an oil tanker, be a collection of small boats that are well-led and in concert with each other. Look at the way penguins rotate to shield themselves from -50 degrees and reduce losses, while whales do the exact opposite!

Burying their Head in the Sand effect (the sketch above) 
The mix between good results and market size tends to lead executives into thinking about short term goals. This causes middle management to do the same, and the whole organisation becomes complacent and blind to change!

Noddy — the Boardroom Hero
Just nodding in agreement with the CEO (or whoever has shouted the loudest) in the boardroom has brought down many great companies. Remember Nortel and Kodak? Too many Noddies there!

Handing over the Old Culture
The poison of old culture is infectious during handovers. Every company has staff moving into or out of its employment; however, when handing over their duties they handover the old culture as well — don’t do this and don’t say that and be careful of him or her and so and so — imagine the compound effect of this. I have taken over from others many times, and almost half of each handover has been negative vibes about the organisation!

The Dinosaur effect
Many people have been with the same company for so long they have a totally blinkered, single-minded view of how their company should operate. I don’t blame them — they have too much invested in the company to disrupt or re-invent themselves. But in fact, they are the best people to support during a change as, by tapping into their experience while removing the baggage of old thinking, they will excel. Use evolution theory to evolve those gems! (topic for another blog).

The Treadmill effect
We have all seen how busy everyone is — but nothing actually gets done. We’re too busy to change and disrupt! This is not priority! I’m not sure it’s the right time! This is the traditional way that middle management works! Day in and day out moving statically t, sweating away at it …yet not moving anywhere.

The Bonus system is Flawed
I always ask big corporations this simple question: if one, or a group, of their employees invented something that could make the company an extra $10 million profit, why not give the employee(s),irrelevant of rank or experience, a one off 10% share of profit?. Surely it’s not hard! And it would encourage all those with hidden talent to bring it to the surface! What I hear is, “Ohhh we have a bonus system!” Learn from Apple, Microsoft and Google who created loads of millionaires out of ordinary, yet talented, employees.