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Disruption. Forget technology. Focus on ambitions and power of action

29 May, 2017
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Thomas Honoré

Chief Executive Officer

Digital transformation for the long haul

Many companies mistakenly believe that disruption is about being on the cutting edge of technology. However, disruption is about ambitions and the power of action.

Disruption was introduced by the American professor Clayton Christensen for about 20 years ago. One of his main points is that old companies do not have a chance, because they are bound by obligations to their existing customers, and therefore they will be devoured by new and innovative players.

Although Clayton Christensen is probably right that it’s hard to disclaim experience and unlearn the truth of the past, I disagree with his opinion. I do not think that businesses are bound by their obligations to customers, but by their inability to execute strategies and plans. 

Many companies lack the power of action, and this is the reason why they fade and lose their momentum.

On a daily basis, I am responsible for Columbus, and even though we are not the world’s largest company, I must say that one of our challenges is to implement the changes we all know are necessary – both in the short term and in the long term.

In Columbus, we have a clear and common understanding of why we need to change, and also which way we are heading. We can see the new threats in the binoculars, and we read the same market and trend analysis as our competitors. We also know what we need to do in order to achieve our goals, and we usually have good action plans. This way, we are probably not very different from other companies. We also experience that even the best plan is not being executed, and therefore we miss significant opportunities and earnings.

When disruption threatens the company, which is does to many businesses today, the challenge aggravates. If one competitor – new or old – suddenly finds new ways of doing things, which puts your company under extreme pressure, it is important to muster all the power of action, as we possibly can.

But what is the power of action really? And what can you do as a leader?

Power of action is defined as the ability to implement your strategy, to translate intention into action and achieving your goals effectively (source: Tune Hein). It is not about the unrestrained initiative, but about being able to implement the right actions. Therefore, the concept “power of action” implies a good deal of priority.

It all starts with ambitions. Disruption is almost per definition ambitious. If the management lack ambitions, the visions have no effect. It can be altruistic ambitions about creating a better world, do things that are important to the environment or to contribute to society. It can also be selfish ambitions about own career, lifestyle, reward and recognition. Regardless of what ambitions it is, it is crucial for the management to identify employee aspirations and link strategies to these in order to mobilize action.

Ambitions must start somewhere. So start with yourself. Are you on or are you tired? What ambitions do you have?

Before you as a leader can create action, you must ask yourself what you are passionate about. Management plays on emotions, and therefore desire is an important factor. It is essential because it is contagious. And it is essential because you as a leader can only send your ambitions out into the world through other people.

Next step is to make the strategy concrete for the individual employee. The big strategic words have a hard time finding a foothold among employees in a busy life. Therefore, the close things become important. As leaders, we must remove all obstacles so our teams can act on firm ground: Clear goals, simple programs and constant focus. And then repetition, repetition and repetition. It creates power to act.

If you want to be at the forefront of disruption, think power of action into all important decisions. That is what makes the difference between success and failure. Everybody can make plans, but getting them done is about management. 

Categories: Disruption, Leadership, Corporate

About The Author

Thomas Honoré is Chief Executive officer and President of Columbus.

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