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Leading Through Change: Five Tips for Leaders

(Rockwell Automation e-Newsletter -- Thomas Donato: 5/31/18) The fourth industrial revolution is creating an era of exponential change, and not just within our industry. The change will proliferate through logistics, how we travel, how we shop, our jobs, our economies and our whole way of life within a generation. Against this backdrop, I’d like to share my thoughts on how a good leader must look out at the world and see the bigger picture in order to guide their enterprise to survive and thrive through change.

As a company, Rockwell Automation is one of the leaders in a very competitive global market. So, let’s start by thinking about how good leaders perceive competition. When questioned on this very topic, I recently heard a colleague say that she thinks of it rather like Formula 1 motor racing – “Without the other teams pushing for excellence, we wouldn’t have the same rate of performance improvement.” The competition, she said, is healthy for us, healthy for them, and healthy for the whole market. I think this is a fantastic way of looking at things. Relishing competition then, is important. The next logical question though, is… How?

Here are my top five tips and a few examples I’ve picked up from leadership conferences and my own experiences in leadership roles.

Stay Customer Focused

The best companies put their customers right at the front of everything they do, constantly benchmarking against the competition and seeking to outperform them by offering exceptional experiences for their customers.

An Age of Disruption – What Areas of Your Market Can You Disrupt?

And perhaps just as importantly, what areas will disrupt you? During a presentation from EY recently, I learned that they have a team that is not part of the organizational structure whose role it is to actively seek ways of disrupting the business model of the company. They role-play taking market share away.

This is one of the ways that EY can continuously assess potential weaknesses in their model and address them before another company does.

While it’s not practical for every company to set up such a team, finding a creative way of applying the principles involved may help protect the business from external threats of all types.

See the Bigger Picture

One of the trends I see is that historically stable markets are changing very quickly - there is more rationalization, more decentralization. Production costs are going down rapidly and that is changing consumer/end user behaviors.

We are from an era when ownership was everything, but we're moving into a new era of rental and servitization. Is your company ready? Are you offering servitized models? Is your competition? What if they did?

Create an Ecosystem

If your company is built around a single product or a product suite, you are vulnerable. Another company can create a better, cheaper or alternative solution to the need you service. That could devastate your company.

The world’s most resilient companies in the period of change, those most difficult to disrupt, are an ecosystem. Tesla is prime example of this as the company is diversified in a logical way with complimentary subsidiaries such as SolarCity.

It also implements vertical integration of owned assets such as component production, battery technology and charging infrastructure. This is to say nothing of how Elon Musk himself is able to retain the confidence of his shareholders thanks to his portfolio of other complimentary technology companies and initiatives such as Neuralink, The Boring Company, Hyperloop, OpenAI and, of course, SpaceX.

Creating an ecosystem is not just about the company portfolio and doesn’t need to be on a vertical integration strategy – it can also be about partnerships and agreements with non-competing businesses such as strategic alliances or partner networks.

These can help you to remain resilient and agile in the face of change and create new solutions whilst also helping your customers overcome the challenges or fears as previously siloed elements of business and life converge in the digital era.

Never Forget That Your Company Exists Within its Community

Ultimately every company is about human beings. My next blog will take a closer look at leadership within your company and maximizing the most important asset you have, your staff.

But it bears mentioning here that good leadership supports local initiatives in your company’s community. At Rockwell Automation, we have many such initiatives on a global and local scale – and we are always looking to support our staff and local communities to do more, and do better. If you’d like to find out more about that, take a look at our global commitment to the First Lego League STEM initiative.

(Thomas Donato is President, EMEA, Rockwell Automation.)

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