Growth, Strategic Transformation, and Stuff

I recently read a Stanford Business School article by Mark Leslie about growing a business through ‘strategic transformation’. Leslie outlines a business’ typical life cycle and illustrates the optimal spring point at which one should consider transforming in order to sustain growth and longevity. As you can see in the graph, his recommendation is to transform prior to hitting ‘peak business’.

While Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovators Dilemma” offered a case study of this principle years ago, Leslie’s article is less about comparing entrenched firms with disruptors and focuses more on tech-oriented companies in general. He offers Oracle as a canonical example of its growth through such transformation, driven by “opportunity-driven” leader Larry Ellison. In contrast, Leslie discusses Nokia, and its recent trajectory being driven by “operationally-driven” decision making.

Bear with me for a minute, and let’s take a couple of leaps of faith. First, let’s translate this logic to a services-oriented business, such as architecture and engineering, and let’s also zoom in a little and concentrate on the technologist’s role in such organizations.

It’s a frequent occurrence that technologists often find ourselves wanting to be opportunity-driven yet find themselves focusing on operationally-driven initiatives. Standards and execution planning come to mind as two examples. Also, it’s usually not an option to simply shift focus away from the operational needs of a business. One of the values we bring is our ability to improve efficiency. So, I ask, how do you manage to do both? Is it in how your team is tasked? If it’s just you, how do you determine how your time is divided? How can you keep that balance between strategic and tactical? Have you identified opportunities to do that better?

An even bigger question is this: what does ‘strategic transformation’ mean in a services business? Is it the same as in software, or product manufacturing? If not, how does it differ, and why?

Please join us this summer at DTS and let’s discuss. I look forward to seeing you there!

Image credit:  First Round Review/


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