Change: When, Not If

July 16, 2019 - 11 Comments

“Change” is a beautiful word. It’s so beautiful, in fact, it’s practically all some people in my line of business talk about. Technology is driving change into organizations at a pace no one thought possible just a few years ago. And if your business isn’t busy transforming itself, it may not be around for much longer. That’s no longer hyperbole, that’s just stone-cold fact.

But the minute somebody says it’s time for you to change, well, things change. You look in the mirror and say, “I’m perfectly fine. I don’t need to change. I’ve done all the changing I need to do. I’m good.”

I’m here to bring you some news, my friends. Just as businesses must adapt to the rapid pace of innovation, you need to embrace change on a professional level as well.

Everyone loves to talk about driving change, as long as it’s happening to someone else. You have to embrace it for yourself as well.

Technology is the catalyst of change

The fact is, your personal life has probably already changed quite dramatically thanks to technology. When’s the last time you hailed a cab, visited a video store, or used a pay phone? Do you remember bringing work home on a USB thumb drive or – and I’m really dating myself here — a 3.5-inch floppy? With the cloud, your data is never more than a few clicks away.

It wasn’t very long ago I was routinely flying tens of thousands of extra miles each year for business meetings because video conferencing technology was still too complicated and unreliable. Now everyone on the planet is reachable within minutes.

Multi-purpose software running on technology platforms has transformed how we live and work. And yes, tech can allow you to do your old job faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. But it also enables you to do things you’ve never done before – if you’re willing to think and do things differently.

(Do you know who needs to embrace change more than anyone? IT departments. Ironically, the people most responsible for implementing the tools that enable these incredible opportunities for innovation are also the most prone to keep doing things the same way they always have.)

How is Cisco adapting?

At Cisco, we understand the need for change better than almost any other enterprise. We’re a much different company than we were five years ago, and we’ll be even more different five years hence.

We’re in the process of transforming from a company that sells the world’s best networking hardware to a platform that enables digital business in a multi-cloud world. We’re moving from being a connectivity company to one that allows enterprises to automate workflows and unlock the power of data at scale. At today’s Cisco, everyone is our customer, and creating an exceptional user experience is our top priority.

That’s why we’ve created a new customer experience division headed by Maria Martinez, and have spent more than $6 billion acquiring companies to help us fulfill our new mission.

This means my sales organization is also adapting. We’re moving from selling massive numbers of shiny metal boxes under multi-million-dollar contracts to selling software and service subscriptions that cost a few hundred dollars each month. It’s a new set of challenges that require new types of skills, and we are actively encouraging our employees to get the training they need. But it’s ultimately up to them to take responsibility for moving forward in their careers.

This massive cultural shift will take years before it’s fully realized. And I guarantee you, the process won’t always be pretty. But we are moving forward and embracing the challenge with both arms.

Be accountable

I’m not leaving myself out of this discussion. Change is happening for me on a personal level as well.

Over my 22 years at Cisco I’ve learned to think quite differently about my job. I do a lot more listening and learning than I used to. I’ve learned the value of developing close relationships with the people who report to me, and how to maintain those relationships, even when changes in the businesses have led us to part ways.

And if you had asked me five years ago what I’d be doing today, becoming a blogger would not have been very high on the list. But this is something I feel incredibly passionate about, and this platform is one of the best ways to open the conversation to a wider audience.

Change is something you do, not something that happens to you. I’ll have a lot more to say on this topic in the future, and I hope you’ll join me in the discussion.


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  1. It is a really good blog post, Gordon.
    Change is something you do, not something that happens to you.
    Are you in the right room of the house?
    This is how I experienced you as a leader many years ago in Security.

  2. Great Blog. A powerful call to action leading by example. Personally, I love change but many do not. Encouraging such changes in the process industries especially for cloud applications is a challenging conversation which I’m glad to say is getting a little easier as the ‘awakening’ to the value of digitalization is growing. Oil & Gas have been familiar with simulation for over 40 years, essentially on-prem digitalization, however moving their data, analytics and simulation into the cloud is causing a lot of nervousness. Private cloud overcomes that to some extent. The Mining industry has very little experience in simulation and analytics so is likely to take up the ML, data science approach increasingly enthusiastically as it will show a good ROI. The inherently remote locations of mining operations will lend themselves to cloud solutions. Comms connectivity will be a key issue. The increasing advent of data sovereignty laws may require in country hosting. I see Cisco’s move from metal boxes to customer focused, outcome based, subscription services as absolutely on the money. My assessment is that the key to success in this rapid and incredibly valuable IT OT convergence journey is getting the trust of the customer by showing them that their use cases, their business, is understood in all aspects. Starting with safety & reliability, through operational procedures and processes with an understanding on the specific financial aspects of their businesses, to the ESG issues and beyond to enterprise efficiency and supply chain optimization. IT OT convergence isn’t primarily about the technology it’s about the change in behavior it enables, personally and corporately. It’s no longer a case of having the best mouse trap and lobbing it over the fence to the customer, it’s a collaborative journey with the customer. My assessment is that the best place to start a digitalization journey is with service providers that are already deeply trusted, who have been providing mission critical solutions and services, in many cases for decades. BTW This would be a great conversation for LinkedIn.

  3. Great blog Gordon! Lots of wisdom shared in this one.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing Gordon – you have always been a great leader for me and have provided many words of wisdom along my journey at Cisco over the past 20 years! Looking forward to reading more from you on these important topics.

  5. Thank you for leading by example, Gordon! Great words of wisdom.

  6. Great blog and words of advise. We all need to adopt change!

  7. Thank you for bringing this conversation alive, a compelling call to action and a loud call to pay attention… otherwise change will sweep us up before we know it.

  8. Appreciate the message very much. Change can be tricky and the reward for changing is waiting for each of us to make the change. I look forward to learning more! The unknown is my friend…

  9. Great to see this in words. As you have said "Change is in our control, be the change"

  10. Gordon is definitely a change leader and as authentic as they come!

  11. Well said. Change provides opportunity which allows us to grow. Focusing on the outcome and the impact that each of us can make allows us to get their faster. Thanks for sharing.