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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

CEO Journal

The role of Chief Disruption Officer (CDO) in organisations of the future

Business Team Brainstorming

Disruption once referred the sudden and unpredictable effects relate to new technology, whereas today the technology is also an enabler of broader change. On top of globalisation, over the last decade we have seen the internet, social media and algorithms emerge and create a new age, one filled with fast paced change that is unpredictable and uncertain. This term disruption has now broadened to include change that is aided by technology and the internet, so includes changes in politics, economics, trade wars, new currencies. Changes and new technology are almost always announced and shared over the internet or social media, so each is now almost instantly available around the world, often with little to no verification or filtering.

Management have for so long relied upon formal structures, processes, job descriptions and governance so as to achieve results and maintain control. The formality of the past operating models often required lengthy time frames to prepare, approve and distribute structures and approvals. In this new age many of the procedures and structures may quickly become out of date or may need to be constantly updated. Staff, customers and suppliers that cannot depend on the formal processes and structures may become confused, frustrated and even stressed. Leaders and managers that do not provide context of this faster less certain new age may find that their stakeholder or lose trust and connection, resulting in reduced performances or dysfunctional operations.

The case for a CDO

It is possible that line management may be too focused on their daily operations to have the time and resource to chase disruptions that may not even eventuate. It may be that disruption is so risky to business success that a new specialist role, named Chief Disruption Officer (CDO), is required to prepare the organisation for future disruptions and their potential impacts before they emerge. The proposed CDO role will be tasked with skilling up and preparing business for almost constant uncertain, unpredictable and risky change. The CDO will therefore scan new technology and information that emerges over the internet, social media and competitors. As disruption may be complex, the CDO should be skilled in change management, organisational design, communication as well as leadership and management skills to a high degree.

Operating in a constantly changing disruptive environment will be significantly different to the past, so will require new forms of management and leadership practices. Leadership practices are but one organisational element that will be affected, irrespective of whether emergent change arises from new technology, new tariffs or a trade war. When new disruption emerges, it will need to be well communicated and positioned with staff, customer and suppliers, otherwise each may be confused. It is likely that decision making may need to occur far too quick to engage stakeholders using the old methods, rather in the new age closer relations that align to partnering may be more appropriate, where the CDO should be responsible for the new closer arrangements. If the CDO can develop partnering with stakeholders, it is likely that stakeholders may be able to understand and support decisions more easily.

CDO roles for the future 

The CDO role is quite different to maintaining a risk register that previously protected organisations, a risk register that was once was filled only with the probable and the likely. Preparing a disruption plan is one of looking over the horizon, around the world, linking in with social media and new information sources. The benefits of a CDO role is that someone will be looking at the impossible and improbable, developing scenarios and preparations to act should the need arise. An organisation without a CDO role in the future may simply not be prepared enough, nor nimble and flexible enough, for this new age of disruption.


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Dr. Mathew Donald
Dr. Mathew Donald’s (Dr Mat) specialist topics are leadership, management and organisational change and has over 35 years of business experience. He is the principal of Dr Mat – The organisational Health Doctor™, available globally for consulting, mentoring, presentations or use of his change monitoring tool. Author of “Leading and managing change in the age of disruption and artificial intelligence” (Emerald $100). Dr. Mathew Donald is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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