Its been quiet here since last October, when I was fortunate enough to work with many companies internationally, trying to help them to understand the 4IR, change their company, or coach their executives to be ready for the 4IR.

After all these discussions, workshops, and coaching sessions, one point came out very clearly as the biggest threat companies have in this transformation.

It is not technology.

It is not their people.

It is not their business model and products.

The biggest threat and reason why most companies will fail to adjust and most likely either end up bankrupt, acquired, or marginalized…

… is their leadership mindset, which is embedded in their company culture.

Here is why. I don’t think I’ve ever had a single leader refusing to talk about the change needed or about digitalization. In 99% of the conversations I had, companies immediately signed the proposal to get more insights about the 4IR, more insights about what is happening. The majority of conversations held with leaders, boards, and leadership teams were actually very good.

However, the rubber hits the road the moment you see how fast the company will be able to make the needed changes. It’s when some leaders have to learn to let go of old fashioned approaches or purely hierarchical decision making processes.

The moment changes affect leadership style, learning and feedback capabilities, or company culture.

This is the moment where you can with certainty predict a thumbs up or thumbs down for their future.

So far, only a third of the companies I’ve been working with could have earned a thumbs up, showing their openness and readiness to change. Although their change process may be a hard and long way, I got the feeling that they will be able to unleash the magic of transformation.

Two thirds, however, were very clear at the beginning that it would simply be impossible for them to change due to their leadership mindset and company culture.

Here’s a very specific example. Various companies I’ve worked with came out from transformational workshops with clear plans, clear steps to change, clear priorities.

However, the moment some of these agreed-on priorities or steps had to be implemented, „the ghost of untransformation“ came along and found various reasons why not to change.

Typical reactions at this stage were „I’m the CEO, I decide“, „We’ve done this for years successfully and we shouldn’t change“, „All these feedbacks are wrong“, „All these trends won’t impact us“, „This is not for us“, etc. The list goes on.

Companies and leaders who were on the right side reacted by asking, „What do we have to change?“ and „Am I the right CEO to lead this change?“

If you then compare the mean time to change, or time how quickly first steps were implemented, you’ll see that thumbs down companies have not made any adjustments or even first steps after 5-6 months.

On the other hand, the thumbs up companies had basic steps implemented within a few days or weeks, which led to new energy for change.

Thumbs down companies instead implemented new processes to solidify the old approach, e.g. republishing the old org chart to ensure everyone got the message of who is the boss.

It’s a subtle but clear message to your team.

What kind of leader are you?

What is the culture of your company?

A thumbs up or a thumbs down company? Get in touch and find out.