eCommerce – Business Transformation and Strategic Leadership

2014-07-25 14.40.08


Leadership challenges are considerable. Innovation, flexibility, responsiveness and creative redefinition of markets, with opportunities, is the well of competitive advantage in the global economy. In a rapidly changing world, organisations must become more flexible, more responsive, and more willing to change and adapt. Leaders need to have the self-confidence to create the future while keeping a keen eye on shifting trends. In the article Power and Leadership: An Influence Process, Lunenburg noted:

“Great leaders have the following in common: they have a vision to achieve large-scale ideas that they dream of accomplishing, and they have the personal power to enact it (Gibson, Ivancevich, Donnelly, & Konopaske, 2012). For example, such business leaders as the late Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of, Phil Knight of Nike, and Sam Walton of Wal-Mart had strong visions of the future. They were able to transform their visions into reality, because they had acquired and used the necessary power to do so. Great leaders make things happen by utilizing personal power (Pfeffer, 2011)” (Lunenburg, 2012)

In the late sixties Peter Drucker foresaw the “age of discontinuity”, predicting the onset of constant change that lay ahead. In 1997 Beckhard and Harris presented a formula to establish the probability of change. This formula: (Dissatisfaction) x (Vision) x (First Step) > Resistance, is a simple metric tool used to derive the likelihood of change. While the importance of a Vision is evident, deemed to be a crucial element in the process by implying that in its absence change is unlikely to happen, Dissatisfaction is the element that truly captures the essence of ecommerce leadership. In Strategic Windows Derek Abell alludes to the existence of this ingredient, Dissatisfaction, by highlighting the importance of market entry and exit timing strategies (Abell, 1978). Abell proposed that organisations must employ flexible approach and adapt in a constantly changing environment by developing a cultural dynamism in order to identify and exploit new opportunities. Strategic Windows encourages the rejection of satisfaction by promoting a constant state of dissatisfaction by continuously driving cultural evolution. “Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game.” (Lou Gerstner, U.S., former IBM CEO, IBM, 2008).

Ecommerce leaders seem to exist in a constant of state of Dissatisfaction, culturally transcending this urgency through innovative transformation. Culture is to an organisation as personality is to an individual therefore its failure is “because the fundamental culture of the organisation remains the same” (Cameron 1995). The underlying message is that a complacent culture increases the risk of demise or extinction. “The only constant in our business is that everything is changing. We have to take advantage of change and not let it take advantage of us” (Michael Dell). Dell alludes to the fact that a change culture solidifies an organisations brand proposition while underpinning its competitive advantage. So if change is to occur it must steep within an organisation’s core values – it must be incubated at a cultural level.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin 1809-1882, Biologist & father of Evolution Theory

Kotter proposed that communicating a sense of urgency is the first step towards organisational transformation arguing that by “not establishing a great enough sense of urgency” an organisation is heading towards transformational failure (Kotter, 2000). Dissatisfaction creates a culture of urgency, fitting in an ecommerce environment where rapid change is a daily feature.

Former Intel CEO, Andrew Grove, argued that Porter’s five forces model ignores a sixth force, one of power, vigour, and competence, namely complementors. “Complementors are companies that sell products that add value (complement) to the products of companies in an industry because when used together, the products better satisfy customer demand. For example, the complementors to personal computer industry are the companies that make software applications to run on personal computers” (Hill & Jones, 2009). In the ecommerce world complementors are the fulfilment centres and software companies. Often ecommerce innovators are ‘new entrants’, one of Porters forces; however their impact as game-changing disruptors can be traced back to strategic complementors.


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