"What my 14 year old self taught me about Business Transformation"

My personal experience with transformation has had a profound impact on my work and business perspective through the years. It has impacted how I approached a “30 year old start-up”, a “turnaround” and Microsoft’s transformation to a “cloud company”.

Dictionaries define "Transformation" as "a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance" as in, "the landscape has undergone a radical transformation"

Many companies are now in a fight for business survival and in almost every industry and sector, the clear choice is either disrupt or be disrupted.  Consumer services and entire industries are being disrupted by advanced technologies, the app economy and cloud-based delivery models. It’s no longer just shopping, music and transportation - sectors like Investing and Government Services are also being disrupted.

Disruption affects both small companies and large technology companies. Despite the opportunity for first mover advantage or to at least play catch up, many organizations fight the change or wait too long. In many cases, fear holds these organizations hostage due to the unknown impact on business outcomes as a direct result of new go to market strategies, revenue projections and cash flow models. And change requires commitment, perseverance and a long view by leadership and financial stakeholders.

I've witnessed this play out first-hand multiple times and needed to work with leaders to rethink the model and persist. I can tell you the case for change was strong each time and led to positive business results and happy investors.

My firm belief and advocacy for change when there is a strong business case are rooted in my personal childhood experience making a dramatic transformation in my personal life. As a 14 year-old boy I learned an experience that grounded me in “change fundamentals” that I carried onto business.  

My personal story is of an adolescent coming to grips with childhood obesity. By 14 years old, I was 65 lbs. overweight, dejected and despondent. I longed to be healthy and fit, but converting my dream into reality was another matter.  

I broke from my old mindset and connection to food by taking a long hard look at my situation just like Marlow did in the Dickins' classic "A Christmas Carol".  By stepping outside my current state and projecting out five or ten years, I became extremely uncomfortable with the harsh consequences of lifelong obesity.  

With a new mindset and a desired outcome to be fit and thin, I became resolute in my approach to food and exercise. My journey took years and had I not persevered my life would have ended up radically different. I leveraged some good partners and coaches along the way who helped guide my path to better nutrition and exercise. And because my world radically changed, I became anchored in the belief that anything was possible through strong perseverance and real work. Lesson learned - there is no quick fix and mindset impacts everything.  

I've applied the principles of a “breaking from the past mindset”, “commitment & perseverance” and “leveraging the success of others – through partnerships” to every company and work situation in my career. These principles have helped my work at the “30 year old startup” launching a disruptive wireless technology, opening a new market for a turnaround company looking to be acquired, and finally impacted my work at Microsoft to transform the channel model as it moved to cloud. Each time I’ve been reminded of that 14-year-old boy who needed to reach deep in order to succeed.  

I plan to go into greater depth on each of these “success factors” in a future blog post, but I'll leave you here with one question, "what is keeping your organization from achieving the desired result you hope to achieve?"