January 29, 2018
Avaya’s new CEO Jim Chirico delivered an inspiring post-bankruptcy keynote at Avaya Engage today, with a focus on the company's changing culture.
In addition to some news (Avaya plans to acquire Spoken Communications; will invest more in R&D, developed a new organizational structure, etc.), Chirico discussed the cultural change in place at Avaya.
“Culture eats strategy for lunch,” Chirico says. “If you want to change a company, you need to change the culture of the company.”
Of course, changing culture is not easy. Avaya started its cultural shift in October 2017, after Chirico took the helm. It’s still a work in progress, but he’s on the right track.
Here are the cultural principles Avaya has adopted:
- Simplicity – Avaya had an “executive committee,” or people reporting directly to the CEO, of 13. Now, it’s down to six. Likewise, 100 VPs now are down to 50. That’s driving decisions faster.
- Accountability – The Avaya teams’ success is measured by customer success, and by doing what they say they’re going to do.
- Teamwork – One of Avaya’s historical cultural problems is inertia. Chirico says that’s hard to eliminate. The company is working on breaking down silos and collaborating more together.
- Empowerment – A work in progress, Avaya is shifting decision-making to the field, closer to customers.
- Trust – The top principle to Chirico, Avaya wants to earn customer trust in the company’s day-to-day actions.
If I could add one item to the culture shift, it would be enjoyment. Whether that enjoyment comes from a successful customer meeting or the development of a new app, or supporting an executive, people should enjoy their careers. When they do, success naturally results. When they don’t, negativity enters the workplace and takes over, preventing the ability to move forward.
A cultural shift can be as profound as a traditional technology transformation project. In fact, as we work with our clients on their digital transformation initiatives, so much of the focus is on the technology itself—at the expense of the cultural requirements at the outset of the project and the cultural changes that will result from the project.
“The industry is going through a transformation, and we need to transform,” Chirico says. Indeed, after being hamstrung by bankruptcy proceedings, Avaya must swiftly invest in R&D, products, and services.
But, as Chirico has embraced, Avaya must pay attention to its people—those who will drive any transformation. Avaya has a tremendous opportunity. Whether it succeeds depends largely on Chirico, his leadership team, and the rest of the employees.
In our research, customers have rated Avaya low in “innovation” compared to its competitors. That’s not surprising; most bankrupt companies are not innovative. But Avaya’s bankruptcy is in the past. Innovation is now paramount to success.
Who will innovate? People. Technology is an enabler, but the right employees, associated culture, and organizational structure will be the ultimate determinant for success.