Decisions in the right places (or why I wrote that book of mine)
Change is the new normal.
How many times have you heard this already?
I remember the first time I saw it – on an IBM deck lying on my boss’ desk about 15 years ago. It did the trick. It made me pause. It had an impact.
Since then, I’ve heard it more times than ‘Thursday is the new Friday’ and ‘whatever I am trying to sell you is the new black’.
That doesn’t make it less true.
It’s actually as true as ever.
It just makes it less impactful. Less helpful. Definitely not jarring.
Yes, we live in times of unprecedented change both in its pace and its variety.
There is a lot of it, all at once, in a context that is itself disrupted.
At this point, you’re probably thinking: tell me something I don’t know.
There isn’t something you don’t know that anyone else has privileged knowledge of, let alone an ability to withhold or disclose.
What there is to know is what we all know.
There is more technology change year on year at the moment than previous generations saw in a decade. And there is always more of it. And there is always more complexity to choosing with every passing year, not least because year on year as an industry we haven’t made the hard choices in a timely manner.
But we have spent a lot of time testing technology. Again and again and again. When the issue with adoption was inside the walls of our own institutions.
About all the things that hold us back: structures, habits, ways of parcelling up time and prioritising and rewarding and identifying what is important. About all the ways in which the things that hold us back have nothing to do with technology and everything to do with people.
Which is a little depressing, to realise that we have been at this transformation malarkey for 15 years and mostly getting in our own way.
But no matter. It’s also uplifting. Because we can do something about it all. At the individual level. At the team level. At the company level and at the industry level.
And yes, technology comes into it: you need to uplift your infrastructure. You need to make budgetary allocations that are realistic and ambitious, and that is never an easy balance to strike. You need to partner and use technology that is designed to make your life easier by providing utility where you need it so that you can focus on your business.
That’s the job at hand.
This transformation malarkey is undoubtedly harder than we thought even when we started saying that change is the new normal. Let’s not make it harder on ourselves than we need to.
Start treating technology as an enabler, not an end game.
Start facing into the human and structural obstacles to change with honesty and a willingness to change.
And start solving for them at the right level.
And that’s the last thought I will leave you with before I let you go back to whatever you need to do today: changing habits and everyday ways of working shouldn’t be a CEO initiative. It is everyone’s job. Choosing the right technologies for the job shouldn’t be an ExCo decision, it should be part of doing the job. Adapting ways of working to the needs of the industry we are in shouldn’t be a multi-billion-dollar industry. It should be an instinct that businesspeople are encouraged to develop. All of those things need to happen and they need to stop needing to happen at the top.
Because while the CEO is involved in decisions on core vendors and transformation programmes and culture change, they are not thinking about the big strategic moves they could be making both from a business perspective and from a technology enablement perspective. It’s true that me sitting at my desk cannot make my business understand that lower unit economics allow us to make financial inclusion a profitable business – fancy that. That when choosing your tech stack you can make sustainability decisions right out of the bat without needing to pay someone to write a glossy report about offsets later on.
I can’t do that alone from my desk.
But there are things I can and should be doing alone at my desk. And when I start doing those… and then the team starts making the changes that are appropriate to their levels without needing the blessing of the C-suite to even change the colour of the paperclips, then the things that I can’t do alone from my desk will finally reach the desks of those who can operate at a systemic level.
But for that to happen, we need to make room on those desks. By taking all the things that clutter them now – including decks with recycled truisms from 10 years ago – and moving them to the right place in the organisation. Move them on and ahead. So we can move forward. So the organisation and the industry can keep with the times. And so that the big decisions can finally start getting the head space they deserve.
It sounds grandiose, but it’s rather doable if you take it step by step. Read the book. You will see what I mean.
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem. She is chief client officer at 10x Future Technologies.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!