Hic Sunt Dracones – Navigating the next Imperative

(or how CIOs can help navigate the business recovery conversation)

As a young child I was always fascinated by maps, old and new. They seemed to spark hope, inspiration and excitement of journeys as yet to begin and at the same offer some reassurance about our own place in the big wide world.

Today, with a deeper appreciation of art and history, early maps in particular, with their curious blend of beauty, half-truths, errors and legendary beasts, offer us a metaphor for today’s uncharted waters, as we take our first tentative steps out of our COVID lockdown. And non-more so than marvelous phrase “Hic Sunt Dracones”; literally Here be Dragons first found on the wonderful  Hunt Lenox Globe (1503-1507).

Right now, many of us are having to take decisions at unprecedented speed, and as we attempt to navigate our way through stormy post lock-down waters, our actions as business & technology leaders may well have far reaching implications for years to come. And with the warning bells of impending economic doom ringing loudly in our ears, is it any wonder we’re all looking for a little help to make the best decisions we can. Or in this case, to get all of our businesses working together on “what matters most, next”; the next imperative.

A quick look in the dictionary defines an imperative as something that simply must be done, critical, a matter of life and death.
Last week one of my good friend Chris Weston and his colleagues from IDC posted a really neat twist on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

This helped many of us think about where #CIOs and #ITLeaders might need to steer their efforts as we move out of the first phase of CV-19 and set out on the uncharted waters ahead. You can find that post here https://lnkd.in/gqjgD_n

Winding back these past 10 weeks to early March, pretty much all of us shared the same journey into the COVID-19 world. It was clear there was pretty much one shared purpose for all of us – our imperative was to ensure the safety of our families, colleagues, customers and partners. And as such, despite the fears of the unknown and those lurking ‘dracones’ we simply got on with it like never before. We were all in this together. People, as is so often glibly touted in business, really were the most important asset and we meant it! IDC’s needs hierarchy demonstrates this really well with its foundation. It was a powerful feeling for many of us with everyone so clear about what we needed to do.

But whilst the journey into lock-down was pretty much universally shared, on the way out, our business journeys will all be very different. It is as if we are all in different boats on a shared sea, being tossed around by one helluvah COVID-19 cyclone.

So, fueled by suggestions that now is simply a time for survival, controlling costs, and hanging on in there, I found myself asking if it really was as simple as moving up the hierarchy addressing the needs one by one?

And the answer can be found by considering which business boat you’re in!

Many organisations may well be thinking they don’t have time for digital and business transformation, whereas right now it could be the only game in town! There will be organisations out there that actually need an emergency elevator straight to Transformation, as they simply haven’t got the time or resources to take this journey one step at a time.

In my experience generally TIME and MONEY are the two things that pretty much drive the imperatives in business. And right now this means

  • how deep is the financial impact of COVID-19 on your business, and
  • how long will it take your business to recover (back to something like pre-COVID levels of prosperity)

By applying these two dimensions to the “needs thinking” and looking at it through a good old 2×2 lens, technology and change leaders can quickly help their organisations think about the reality of their business situation, and chart a path to the next imperative;

That is getting people focussed as fast as possible on the right strategy for your business coming out of lockdown.

The rest of my rough cut chart below is pretty easy to follow, and I’ve given a few hints and thoughts in the grid, so whichever boat you’re in right now; whether you need to reimagine your business future, replan, restructure or just keep on reassuring everyone around you, here’s hoping this little tool can help you shift the conversation and reach your own safe harbour just that little bit quicker, and maybe, just maybe, help you steer clear of those dragons.

Adrian Wakefield

A successful IT & business leader with 25 years experience in delivering large scale organisation, operations, sales & customer experience transformation programmes in global organisations. I am able to develop, align & implement business & IT strategies, design organisations, create teams & inspire individuals. I have a deep understanding of IT programmes, projects & methods. I build great relationships, know how to get things done and am able to make a difference in complex and challenging circumstances. Being results-driven & commercially focused I have a proven track record in delivering on-going business value. Operating at 'C' level, where I am valued for my broad experience, as well as for my specific skills and expertise.

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