Change: When, Not If
“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.
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.
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.