Telstra’s executive director of digital, Gerd Schenkel, says a “burning platform” – a term that basically means you’ve stuffed your digital strategy – can lead a thriving business to utter calamity in very fast time.
Schenkel, speaking at yesterday’s Daze of Disruption conference in Sydney, believed the path to digital failure often takes just six lonely years.
He argued the first year was all about celebrating a win. The second year everybody starts saying it was “a bad year”. The third year, Schenkel says, you “fire the CEO”. The fourth year you hire consulting firm “McKinsey&Company”. The fifth year you hire a micro consulting firm. And the sixth year “all the good people leave and you just spiral downwards”.
Schenkel warned: “If you have a ‘burning platform’ it might be too late to actually change anything. We’ve (Telstra) done a bunch of analysis internally and we’ve found that the time from peak in terms of volume to loss is about six years.”
However, to combat digital disaster he advised in investing in good staff. Not staff with the best technical skill set but staff that have “resilience, patience and empathy”.
Neither was Schenkel a fan of this idea of learning from your failures; this much touted idea of failing and quickly moving on.
“People say, ‘failure is ok and it’s a good thing’, but it just isn’t,” he said. “You have one project that fails then you will go with it. All your projects need to succeed and you can’t say to people that failure is okay. It’s a very unattractive proposition to people on the project and it’s a very unattractive proposition to your stakeholders.
“I think that language has to be stricken from anyone’s lexicon; you have to succeed and you need to succeed to earn yourself the next round,” he said.
And if you covet success, what’s the fastest route? Schenkel says: “If you need to do some form of change or transformation make sure you get the best people you can attract, make sure they’re focused on the customer and the financials. Don’t tell them everything’s cool; it’s all about the customer and the dollars and unless the customer and the dollars come back then don’t bother,” he said.
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