Creating Digital Leaders Who Thrive in a World of Exponentially Accelerating Change

Cisco Blog >Executive Platform

Executive Platform

– November 6, 2017 – 3 Comments

Thriving in a digital world requires agility. To bring this concept to life, members of my team created the Digital Business Agility (DBA) framework below. As you can see, becoming digitally agile requires hyperawareness, informed decision making, and fast execution. In parallel, you must reimagine work (how your business operates) and reimagine value (how your company makes money) as I have covered in several of my previous blogs.

Digital business agility (DBA) is the critical capability for digital business transformation.

Given the magnitude of change in becoming agile, while literally reinventing everything about your business, where do you begin and how do you accomplish these Herculean goals?

The answer is simple: it begins with your employees. Cisco’s inaugural Leader Day was a huge step in creating the agility we need to succeed. This 24-hour global event fully leveraged Cisco’s digital collaboration capabilities to educate, engage, and empower more than 8,000 people leaders to understand our own transformation and embrace what it means to be a digital leader.

Cisco TV, TelePresence, WebEx, Spark, live chat, Q&A, social media, and audience polling were all seamlessly integrated so that every attendee, no matter where they were located or what device they were using, became an integral and connected part of the Leader Day experience. In total, the event involved six live broadcasts to 37 locations and included more than 900 WebEx working sessions with pre-assigned cross-functional groups to enable real-time collaboration among attendees.

Leader Day wasn’t just another company-wide event, it was what modern digital communications looks like when transforming a company of more than 70,000 people.

Here are some of the key areas addressed during Cisco’s first Leader Day:

  • How we led yesterday is not how we should lead today or tomorrow. At Cisco, this means leadership is about ownership and being agile enough to change when it’s required. It’s about measurement. It’s about accountability. “I didn’t know” is no longer an excuse. This means broadening the scope of leadership.
  • Digital leaders must be true business leaders, connecting their team’s work to the company’s strategy in order to improve overall performance.
  • Effective leadership requires setting clear expectations with measurable outcomes. However, leaders also have to balance risk with the return. To do this, maintain focus on investments that deliver value to the company, and know when to stop investing in things that don’t. This approach requires agility, ownership, and accountability at all levels of management.
  • Strong leaders own the team experience and building great teams that people want to be part of. At Cisco, leaders are responsible for achieving success with individuals, teams, and teams of teams. For individuals, success means creating an experience of growth, support, and contribution. For teams, success is building and developing world-class groups and harnessing the best of each person to deliver results. For teams of teams, success means driving innovation, alignment, and cooperation across Cisco to win.
  • Leadership isn’t without obstacles. It requires effort, commitment, focus, and resources to become agile. Cisco demonstrated this by taking a full day to bring leaders together and reset what it means to be a leader in a digital world. Even so, Leader Day was just the start. The energy around the globe had our leaders asking to continue the training and dialogue on an ongoing basis.

I hope the example of Cisco Leader Day and these insights about being an agile leader in a world of accelerating change are helpful to your company’s transformation. Please let me know your thoughts and your own experiences when it comes to educating, engaging with, and empowering your leaders.


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  1. Dean Edward Young

    November 13, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Kevin, great summary, we have started our Agile journey and it is really mind blowing to see the ideas / thought people brig to the party when in this type of mindset. The main challenge is balancing the run rate business environment with the Agile process as we transform on this journey

  2. David H Deans

    November 9, 2017 at 5:49 am

    The critical capability for digital business transformation is your people (digital talent). True digital leaders are the ones who have eager followers — regardless of the leader’s title within the organization. Those individuals clearly demonstrate a clear vision of where the company is positioned relative to the competition. That said, if what you articulate seems like a ‘me-too’ strategy that numerous other competitors have already claimed as their own focus, then you are not differentiated in the marketplace. Those are my thoughts, Kevin.

  3. Rui Teixeira

    November 8, 2017 at 4:46 am

    Hi Kevin, it’s great to see the concept of Digital Business Agility in your blog. After the Leaders day, I did a similar excercise with my own team around building DBA for our main initiatives and extending the concept with our main stakeholders as well. Thank you for your leadership!