On the other hand, look at Nissan, where CEO Carlos Ghosn joined as COO in 1999. In the eight years prior to Ghosn's arrival, Nissan had lost nearly 30 percent of its global market share. Management became complacent, product development had come to a standstill, and the company was $US22 billion in debt.
A few months after Ghosn came on board, a big portion of the company was engaged in developing an integrated plan to address many of Nissan's pain points. The Nissan Revival Plan incorporated not only cost-cutting efforts to reduce debt but also strategies for long-term growth. Through this integrated, all-encompassing and speedy transformation effort, Nissan reached its stated goals (such as launching 20 new models, reducing debt by half and becoming profitable) within two years, an entire year ahead of schedule. Nissan's success prompted Ghosn to seek an alliance with GM last year, although the talks have since broken down.
What Rapid Change Means for CIOs
CIOs are critical to companies' success with rapid change — but only if they take an integrated view of both the business and its transformation. Unfortunately, within many of the companies I studied, IT departments remained stuck with old models for implementing change. In fact, re-engineering as propounded by management consultants throughout the 1990s failed because of its deliberateness. The methodology often takes three to five years to execute and entails addressing one narrow section of an organization — such as finance products or supply chain processes — at a time.
Among the companies that succeeded at business transformation, CIOs were essential leaders of integrated, fast, top-down change efforts. They often helped create the holistic methodology for change that was then adopted by the top executive team. Furthermore, the successful CIOs often led the implementation of individual change initiatives by involving the cross-functional senior executives in a synchronized and well-planned process.
The bottom line: Change is inevitable. It's how you make it that determines whether your company will thrive.
Behnam Tabrizi is a professor at Stanford University. He is an expert on business transformation and consults to Fortune 500 companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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