Can Culture Save the Upcoming Telecom Crisis?

Save Your Corporate Culture with Carol Ring Lifesaver launched a drowning man in the seaNever before has the telecom industry been so vulnerable to the future.  Communication service providers have a history of strong growth from telephone, television and internet services.  They have been in the driver’s seat for much of their lifetime. But a tsunami of change is heading their way.

  • On the telephone front, traditional telco usage is disappearing as consumers ditch their home phones and use internet based services for long distance. Millennials are less about talk and more about touching.  Look at the app explosion of Facebook, Twitter, and instant messaging.  Even these are being touted as aged and old school now.
  • Video services like Netflix and Hulu have seen revenue growth of 29% as more and more people cut the cord on cable tv. In 2015, over 1.1 million Americans dropped their cable subscriptions.
  • And while some analysts feel that mobile internet and big data could help prevent a total disruption of the industry there are still many risks. Complex legacy architecture, systems, products and services stand in the way of making meaningful inroads into the digital experience.

Changing mindsets

The industry is full of operators who have been able to call the shots for decades. Their entrenched silo attitude no longer serves them.  In a world where new technologies are coming to the forefront in rapid succession and customer trust levels are on the decline, a change in mindset is critical to the future of communication service providers.

And a change to the mindset of the leaders means a change in culture.  These leaders need to be able to deliver an organization that is adaptable and flexible. They need to cultivate collaboration and partnerships with a whole new set of industry participants.

Telecom leaders can develop a new strategic direction, however they need to bring their employees and suppliers along with them.  In an industry where the focus has long been on physical assets, it’s human assets that also need attention.  This new world will bring many changes in roles in an ever evolving ecosystem of new players.

A change in mindset vs a change in personnel

A new vision, new strategies and a new way of working all add up to a challenging shift for the telecom industry. New entrants come in with a modern culture that matches the times. And it’s not only the competition. Organizations that are nontraditional partners also come with a startup mentality and a speed to market attitude that is blazing in comparison.

This type of environment puts huge pressure on the enterprise.  Do we have the right leaders for these new times? Can we train leaders in something as soft as behaviors and attitudes?  I experienced a similar situation when I had to turn around a poor performing telecom business unit.  Some leaders were able to shift to a new way of working.  Others couldn’t and moved to a new career outside our company. The third step was to bring in leaders who naturally demonstrated the new behaviors needed.  And finally, we were relentless in inspiring, rewarding and coaching the employees to adapt to these new ways of working together.

How similar is your industry?

While we’ve been focusing on the telecom industry today, many other industries are being affected by a rapid change in technology that will touch all aspects of our lives. How soon might your industry be disrupted?  Will the culture you have today, as good as it may be, serve you in the future? Have you built an action plan that will move your organization to where it needs to be? The action plan is the missing piece I see in so many organizations that are facing a need to shift their culture.

It’s easy to talk about a change in culture, it’s more challenging to make the adjustments needed. For the telecom industry, and for you too, I believe Walt Disney said it best:  “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.”

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