Transform for the future

5th September 2023 |   Cathy Ward

Anticipating the future puts you ahead of the game. Here is an innovative guide to driving change.

Part I: We couldn’t possibly do that! How the “future readiness movement” began.

It was the midst of the pandemic, and it was my first team meeting as I embarked in my new role as the Chief Operating Officer for SAP Asia Pacific Japan. I had just introduced the idea that the Chief Operating Officer was evolving to something new, something different – the need to reimagine the role to go beyond operating today, driving operational efficiencies, and managing risk and compliance, to transforming our business for the future.

I remember the moment vividly, leaning forward in my office chair, hands loosely clasped and a feeling of nervous excitement in the pit of my stomach and taking a breath to stop and wait – wait for the response, the questions, the feedback – and the silence was deafening.

I shared passionately my belief that we need to create an adaptive culture and encourage a mindset where recreation time becomes “re-creation” time for self-learning to develop relevant skills for the future. In the final crescendo, I closed with this statement: “We can no longer look in the rearview mirror to solve the challenges that lie ahead; that’s why the traditional responsibilities of the COO must anticipate and empower change to help prepare ourselves, our teams, and our organisation for multiple different futures. The Chief Operating Officer now gives rise to the Chief Anticipation Officer.”