What is our organisation’s change velocity?

One of the things that marks out today’s cadre of digitally native businesses is their ability to change very rapidly. And their propensity to do so.

For me it’s one of their most violent and disruptive advantages.

They eat away at industry incumbents through their ability to whip through the OODA loop many times faster than the old guard.

Another change! Another change! Another change! POW.

I am thinking Amazon vs. Barnes & Noble / Waterstones, Netflix vs. Blockbuster, Threadless vs. GAP.

And related to this, one of their other great emerging characteristics is their ability to u-turn. By u-turn I mean not just product innovation. This is wholesale changes of direction.

Whatever you think of it, Facebook has been absolutely brilliant at doing something, hearing a load of feedback, and doing a public u-turn within hours or days. It doesn’t always, and has returned to the same initiatives and goals over time, but the Beacon turnaround sticks out – though there are others. See this Google search for “Facebook u-turn” – 999,000 results (same search for “Google u-turn” returns me 18,200 results, and for Apple 19,400).

I thought of this characteristic again having followed the interesting Netflix story lately.

If you haven’t already heard, they made some bold changes to their product – divided the whole business in two with no consultation, called the DVD mailing business Qwikster, kept Netflix as the solely-focused streaming business.

The outcry has been sustained, and numbers have backed up the complaints – some commentators say this is hitting Netflix’ business.

Now I read that, 23 days later, they’ve reversed the decision – That Was Qwik: Netflix Dumps Qwikster, Won’t Split DVD-Streaming Accounts by paidContent

I always admire a u-turn:

1. You tried to innovate and make change – that takes guts and brainpower

2. You listened – that takes ears!

3. You are humble enough to publicly admit you were wrong – that takes guts

A couple of the qualities we at NixonMcInnes most want to see in businesses and organisations in the future is the ability to hear/see and then to change. We are starting to think about this agility and openness as a characteristic of Social Business.

Now having begun to write this I realise that before this little phase of reading and writing I just got off a call with a team in a gigantic multi-national bank.

Some young talents in a development programme for top potential future stars have been working on launching a business innovation. Their biggest challenge is what they describe as the internal ‘conservatism’. Making change in that organisation is really really hard. Scarily hard when you think about the above.

A mate of mine has worked his whole career in sales. He is a proud salesman through and through. And he half-jokingly introduced me to one of his favourite concepts a few years ago: “revenue velocity” – not how much work the client needs doing in total, but how quickly they need or want to invest that budget. At the time I find it a hilarious encapsulation of his persona both good and bad (though in time running this services business I’ve learnt to appreciate some of the wisdom in it).

But it makes me think about an organisation’s ability to change quickly – would it be too cheesy to think about the change velocity of an organisation? Perhaps change quotient or potential is better?

Right now I am wondering about our change velocity :)

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