"You better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changing.”

2016 has brought forth the best tangible evidence in many years that Bob Dylan’s lyrics from 1964 are as true now as they were 5 decades ago. Every election year brings, or at least promises, an inevitable shift, but it felt like 2016 was the year that was determined to truly show change. Either way the coin flipped.

Politically, in businesses, and industry sector specific changes, the world will look differently in 2017. At the end of each year, we naturally look towards transformation and evolution. Personally, and also in massive scale through business transformation. It only seems fitting that at the end of each year, we take stock both things accomplished and the fails, and then set our sights on what’s next.

I can say with confidence that “change” and “transformation” were the 2 key words of which organizations requested most frequently to see in 2016, when considering prospective executives that would lead them through a shifting 2017. Hands-down. And for good reason. Smart businesses are looking to stay ahead of the curve and pushing towards versus resisting change. They have seen it on the horizon and know that the ways in which they plan now to embrace and lead this change, is critical... Industries are rapidly evolving themselves to meet the way products and services are being demanded by businesses and consumers alike, 2016 being tangible evidence of change in so many facets and the Health Care and Energy sectors standing center stage as 2 of the best industry examples. Technology is merging itself into more staunch, traditional roles and industries and the structured ways of past business success is cyclical and making a comeback to humble and merge with a rapidly evolving workforce. In 2017, the trend of change will continue, in greater force and maybe even lean more drastically towards becoming key words in business “revolutions”.

But going back to it, the term “transformation” in it of itself is extremely subjective. What that means to one, is completely different to 2 others (and those 3 people with separate definitions, could be the combined hiring committee for your next prospective executive to lead this change). To define this and work towards the common goal of positive change in your business, a few key questions need to be asked:


What does transformation look like in your industry, as a whole?

Is the forecast in 2017 of growth, rebuilding, downsizing? What will it mean not to just change your business landscape to meet the industry’s trend, but to be ahead of it?


What does transformation look like for your business (or business unit, product) specifically?

Is your business looking to make bold, public moves toward change or is the theme subtler, and under the radar? Think about the people employed today... will change affect the cultural employee dynamic as it existed in 2016? Are you combining products and business units to speak to an unanswered market demand?


How does this translate to tangible attributes of a leader?

By truly knowing the goals of the first 2 questions, this helps bring to life what has just been the theory of a new executive towards real, tangible attributes one will seek in prospective candidates which will speak best to the common goals. A growth focused, change-driven, and risk taking executive may be the perfect face of a business or product to the external market, with a strong presence and likeability. However, this may not align with the end goals of the business unit’s operational complexity and vice versa. Understanding the critical components this executive will drive versus the superficial aspects will build the profile of your leader.


Answer these questions first, and you can take the next steps towards finding the right leader to elevate your organization in leading the pack and towards successful evolution, or even revolution in 2017.... For the Times They Are A-Changin’.

image credit mlive.com