By Clare Witter,
Client Principal, Clarity Insights.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

This familiar phrase captures how companies struggle as they seek to establish goal setting and employee engagement parameters in a constantly changing environment.   Disruption is one of the most misunderstood terms in the business world today. Yet over the last decade, disruption has consumed the attention and focus of many organizations.   

Defining business disruption is one thing; measuring it and achieving tangible results is an entirely different obstacle.  How can businesses take something as subjective as disruption and translate it into milestones for success? The latest Gartner report dives deeper into this quandary providing guidance that gives disruption meaning across all industries. 

Defining Intent

The extent to which companies make disruption a formal discipline greatly varies.  Often it is measured exclusively within innovation teams. But for management to be effective, disruption should be tracked, labeled and distinguished across the entire organization.  Disruption is a continually moving target --so how do you define parameters and effectively measure? Management teams should be trained to ask the following questions:

  1. What qualifies something as being disruptive versus a feature or a fad?
  2. If it is a disruption, then what is the fundamental shift that is occurring, or has occurred?
  3. What level of disruption is the organization looking to achieve (or react to), and how soon?

This simple yet effective trio of questioning creates a baseline criterion by which all levels of management can evaluate disruption.  Organizational shifts can be identified through standardized categories and agree-upon strategies can be escalated to facilitate correction.

 

Navigating the Landscape of Disruption, Innovation and Transformation - A Gartner Report

Get the Gartner Report

 

Measurement at the Center

Different types of disruption — ranging in magnitude and influence — alter the strategy for response. For example, the disruption that was caused by the Industrial Revolution is far different than the disruption caused by radio broadcast technology.  The scope and secondary effects of the change on consumers and workers alike is dramatically different. Taking this into consideration, companies should begin by considering three factors — scale (quantity), reach (ubiquity) and richness (variety of options and capabilities.)   To jumpstart the process, measurement recommendations should be outlined as follows: 

  1. Establish a plan for which disruption strategies to pursue (see full report to learn about the five types of disruption)
  2. Establish a scale to measure and compare the impacts of disruption over time
  3. Create a prioritized investment plan for responding to digital disruption in your industry (whether at the idea or project stage) 

Could Disruption be Advancing Innovation in Pursuit of Transformation?

As disruption is measured, it is necessary to keep in mind the forest through the trees.  By creating a universal language for distinguishing disruption, teams can better see the alignment between their specific initiatives for correction.  Routine check-ins showcase how management efforts complement one another while adjusting to and avoiding redundant work or cannibalizing other projects.  

At the end of the day, it may be more accurate to say, “You can’t measure what you can’t define,” rather than, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”   By understanding the intricacies of both phrases, you can further reinforce and strengthen your objectives, boosting awareness and involvement from upstream and downstream parties in the process.  Connecting the dots between disruption as both an abstract concept, and as a transformational result of insightful research and decisive leadership, is a challenging undertaking. But the investment in semantics is well worth the pursuit and achievement of business viability. 

Still curious about how to define and measure disruption? Download the full Garter report here.

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