What do we mean by pragmatism? A sense of realism, practical steps, a desire for tangible outcomes.
It’s a good description for what we are seeing in a market that carried ambitious strategies into 2018 but ran afoul of internal headwinds.
Don’t get me wrong, the external market is neither easy nor forgiving — the combined forces of empowered customers, hyper-digital advancement, and new and hostile competitive fronts are not going away. But forced pragmatism results from issues related to allocation and readiness: Did leadership allocate the political and real capital necessary to overcome organizational inertia? And was the organization ready for this kind of strategic upheaval?
Turns out, no: All good intentions aside, allocation was mostly insufficient, and practical considerations such as back-office technical debt created stronger headwinds than expected. Indeed, we saw flat CX performance, slimmed-down digital efforts, and culture chewed on by the jaws of culture. The revolution was interrupted . . . but hopefully not stopped.
This is a fork in the road for leaders: Is pragmatism in 2019 traction or retrenchment?
The pace of change is not slowing down, nor is the market getting more forgiving: Customers challenge companies to deliver value to their lives. The pace and diversity of technology — from the promise of AI to the reality of technical debt — challenges prioritization and budgets. And cyberthreats can destroy a brand’s value in days. These continue to be consequential times for leaders seeking to retool their companies to compete in a dynamic, hostile market.
I hope you enjoy and learn from our 2019 predictions. Mostly, I hope that leaders treat 2019 as a critical foundation-building moment — and are ready to come out swinging in 2020.