Yes. You are in a race to compete and win. It’s exhilarating. The “landscape” is changing quickly. Your map may not even be big enough to understand what landscape you’re even on.

Organizations are certainly at different levels of maturity as it relates to re-assessing, re-visioning, and re-calibrating investments to adapt and win in their respective markets. But, the pace of change is undeniable. We feel it, and the data supports it.

“If you look at big companies, only 1/3 of them will exist in 2 decades.”

-John Chambers, CEO of Cisco at the 2014 World Economic Forum.

However, a common theme I am continuing to see and hear is that most organizations realize that they need to be re-thinking their business models, their marketing, information management systems, their supply chains. But most are not doing this to accommodate the pace of emerging realities. Change is not easy. Changing at the speed of today’s markets is even harder.

Process and technology, two traditional pillars of organizational transformation have arguably become easier to change recently. Cloud computing continues to reduce friction associated with adopting and integrating new organizational capabilities. Improving process(es) as a benefit of this more accessible technology is often a surprisingly positive benefit to older workers, and is expected by the younger workforce. So then, what’s the hurdle?

Re-tooling organizations with people who work according to new realities is a more challenging problem. Most of today’s workforce were educated and trained to do jobs that either don’t exist any more, or will shortly be irrelevant. These jobs were to be performed in industrial age top down models that placed emphasis on hierarchies and efficient production. Entire industries are being re-imagined and retooled as they shift towards acting and behaving as integrated networks of nodes.

Replacing vacancies or extending capabilities in an incrementally improving model is a well trodden path. It’s a model that senior leaders of most organizations understand. They’ve become experts in this model over the past 20 or 30 years. But shifting and staffing an organization that needs to be critically focused on continual learning, adapting, responding, measuring, and then adjusting in a perpetual loop is different. And, most organizations have few incumbent employees that contain these increasingly critical skills today.

While unemployment levels remain historically high, there are significant skill gaps for certain roles. It’s a strange and widening disparity.

So, how do we get from here to there? How will we change the wheels on the bus while it’s moving?

Questions leaders should know the answers to or be developing the answers for:

  • How do we acquire new talent, retrain and re-empower existing employees, and how do we slough off the talent that no longer aligns with our vision?
  • How do we shift our culture to embrace constant learning and adaptation to create value for our customers in feedback loops that are 1/2, 1/4, or 1/10 the length of our previous iterations?
  • How do we extend our capabilities and encourage agility by partnering with external talent and organizations?
  • How can we leverage technology to amplify, accelerate, and displace analog systems and methods?
  • How important is “experience” in our employees, consultants, and external service providers and partners when most experience may be obsolete or not directly related to organizational needs in 3 years?

In a future post, I’ll share some thoughts about some of the key characteristics of the ideal next generation employees.

What are your most perplexing challenges you’re seeing or wrestling with in building the road to tomorrow’s organization?

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