The Live Enterprise: A book review by Bob Morris

The Live Enterprise: Creating a Continuously Evolving and Learning Organization
Jeff Kavanaugh and Mohammed Rafee Tarafdar
McGraw-Hill (January 2021)

How resilience and regeneration enable companies to adapt and evolve

Note the gerund “creating” in this book’s subtitle. It correctly suggests that achieving a strategic objective — especially one that Jim Collins characterizes as a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) — is an ongoing process, not an ultimate objective.

Based on what Jeff Kavanaugh, Mohammed Rafee Tarafdar, and their Infosys colleagues learned from their analysis of more than 1,400 of the largest, most complex enterprises on the planet, “the idea emerged that while the industrial economy was shaped by Adam Smith’s invisible hand, we hypothesized that the digital age is constructed by the invisible brain. We then deconstructed what that means and how to do it.”

Next, they developed principles “that could sit on top of such a brain — how to create zero proximity and conduct simulations — and we drew parallels from the biological brain and how the enterprise can replicate it. We imagined how to leverage the potential of 240,000 people as if they were all connected together as one, and how such an enterprise would be sentient because that’s how human brains function. However, sentience is a state, so we choose ‘Live’ as the theme because it is motion and embodies evolution — a journey, not a destination.” For Charles Darwin, it was a process of natural selection.

Kavanaugh and Tarafdar introduce and then focus on the core elements of the Live Enterprise Model, elements that include these:

o Self-organizing work teams
o Cross-functional and platform-mindset-based small teams
o Anytime, anywhere workplace
o Distributed agile processes
o Technology as strategic differentiator

Of special interest and value to me is Kavanaugh and Tarafdar’s explanation of what adoption of the Live Enterprise Model can make possible that “old-fashioned approaches” cannot. For example, it can create quantum organizations, deliver perceptive experiences, build responsive value chains, drive intuitive decisions, nurture hybrid talent, and build digital runways that result in resilience and drive innovation velocity. Obviously, the effectiveness of any business model is wholly dependent on those involved in its adoption and implementation. Long ago, Thomas Edison observed, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

It is noteworthy that the original goal at Infosys was to leverage the skills, ideas, and innovation of more than 200,000 employees in order to “created a shared digital infrastructure powered by a digital brain and a form of sentience.” During a three-year period, Infosys’ market value grew from $33 billion to $69 billion…more than 100% increase.

With or without the impact of a force of nature such as a tsunami, hurricane, or pandemic virus, the fact remains that all organizations — whatever their size and nature as well market value may be — must have a business model that ensures resilience and regeneration. Only then can they advance to the next stage of their evolution.

I commend Jeff Kavanaugh and Mohammed Rafee Tarafdar on The Live Enterprise. It is a brilliant achievement.

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