The one with the peer’s pressure

It’s very easy (in my opinion) to admire Baroness Martha Lane-Fox. She created a successful business (lastminute.com), she’s given her time and energy to public service (as UK Digital Champion), she put money into the pleasure of bad singing (Lucky Voice), she’s overcome adversity (a significant car accident) and most importantly she replies to my tweets! The only thing I struggle with is she’s only a year older than me which has me thinking what I’ve been wasting my time doing!!

MLF

In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the World Wide Web she lead a debate in the House of Lords yesterday and having seen her tweets and a piece on the BBC News I ended up reading the full text of her speech that you can find here. As a brief aside another Peer Lord Jim Knight crowd sourced his speech from social media and whilst I am still recovering from the blow of my input not being included it does make me marvel at how the world has changed.

Whilst there is lots of interest in the speech the line that got me thinking was this one:

“only 4 ftse 100 businesses have a cto or digital executive on their plc boards and yet all of these businesses are facing potential upheaval.”

You don’t have to look hard to find a blog in support or challenge of the so-called Social HR movement and how we are apparently embracing social technologies to improve the way we deliver our roles. You would be hard pressed to avoid a blog citing yammer, jive or some other community and the impact it’s having on collaboration or community within organisations. The reason Baroness L-Fs quote got me thinking was that there isn’t much discussion about digital and/or social capability in senior managers, leaders or board directors.

Sure there’s stats about CEOs that tweet etc but they are usually in pursuit of brand, customer or staff and increasing the transparency or accessibility of the leader. But what about those CEOs who really understand the impact that the pace of technological evolution is and will continue to have on their organisations? How many CTOs are lying awake at night obsessing about the disruptive impact of technology rather than the go-live of the new data warehouse or the cost of SAP support?

Yesterday morning, by chance, I had breakfast with my first proper boss (from waaaaay back when) who ran a publishing company. I found myself saying how hindsight was a wonderful thing and referencing a conversation I’d had with him and my then manager about our under investment in the web and the impact I thought it was having on the business. It was a salutary tale about the dangers of trying to influence people with a beer in your hand but it remains true the only 20/20 business vision is hindsight!

If HR are truly the custodians or challengers of talent in the organisation is it not incumbent on us to not just play with the latest shiny and count our retweets but to actually challenge the leaders of our organisations to ensure that they are equipped to lead in a world where the rules of the game are being reinvented monthly rather than once a decade?

If you could picture having breakfast with one of your team in 15 years time what would be your hindsight observation about what you would have done differently to ensure the business was fit for the technology challenge? It certainly wouldn’t be how many twitter followers you had although it may include the fact that Baroness Lane-Fox replied to your tweets!!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The one with the peer’s pressure

  1. I wonder if boards need to be include CTOs or Digital Execs?

    I think the challenge is that the board are listening to messages about the changing face of technology at all, and who can convince them of that message?

    In that case, it doesn’t / shouldn’t matter who’s on the board, or what tech acumen they have. What they need is someone explaining what the future needs to include, and how they can and should make it happen.

  2. I think it is always a requirement of OD/HR to look externally first of all then and help create an organisation ready to harness the external opportunities and cope with the external challenges. I also think it is a significant requirement of more leadership teams that they anticipate/react to changes – and we should be more concerned about what else is getting in the way for them Too busy? Too tired? Too head down?. Assuming they are smart enough to understand it (most are by very definition successful businesspeople) then we should have the skill set to help remove some of the barriers to them being passionate about new tech. .My hindsight observation in 15 years? I dread to think of the many ways I will have failed…

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