Meet the Accelerator: Your secret weapon for driving change

You have the transformative ideas. Now you need a leader who defines next steps and rallies people around the vision
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Change is an integral part of any transformation. This change reflects the mindset of the organization and its ability to adapt – but change alone does not guarantee success. For any transformation to succeed, you need leaders who tackle obstacles and challenges, solve problems, set vision, empower people, and identify talent. Your secret weapon to achieve this isn’t the disruptor, it’s the Accelerator.

The disruptor’s role is to uncover something brand-new that no one has thought about or done before. The Accelerator, however, is tasked with providing clarity to the organization and helping it to prioritize the necessary steps to meet the objectives so everyone can rally and deliver.

Characteristics of an Accelerator

This Accelerator is a key leader who may be brought in from outside the organization or rise from within. The Accelerator is defined by a number of key characteristics.

This distance allows the Accelerator to create a sound and executable vision.

The Accelerator takes a step back to truly understand the goals. The Accelerator is an observer first. He or she creates distance from the transformation to better understand what is happening in the organization, the objectives of the transformation, and how the organization is attempting to transform. This distance allows the Accelerator to create a sound and executable vision that everyone rallies around and moves toward.

The Accelerator has a vision. The Accelerator has clarity regarding where the organization needs to go and how to get there, perhaps because they’ve been through a transformation before or because they’re a subject matter expert. Accelerators are adept at cutting through the noise to truly understand what’s necessary and important. Because they have taken a step back to understand the organization’s goals, they’re better able to define the next steps that will make the transformation possible.

[ Pace matters. Read our related article: The digital transformation trap: Don't ignore the marathon for the sprints. ]

The Accelerator builds and supports the right team. The Accelerator has an innate ability to get buy-in and set team strategy for creating execution paths while empowering the people with the right skills to make this happen. The Accelerator knows the skills needed on their team, and they’re willing to make tough decisions when necessary – if some people need to be rotated out, they don’t mind doing that. Whoever they choose as the leaders of the various parts of the transformation have the same clarity the Accelerator has. The Accelerator empowers those leaders of the various parts of the transformation in order to get the rest of the organization on board.

How to identify and empower your Accelerators

Accelerators are truly key in any transformation. You may have a lot of talent on the team with plenty of expertise and drive, but without this integral person, it’s difficult to succeed in your transformation.

Accelerators are comfortable with the unknown and capable of setting goals as they go.

Your role as CIO is to identify these leaders and elevate them to this position: You can’t keep this person in the same role and just tell them to Accelerate. There has to be an intentional step to make sure everyone understands that this person is expected to be the Accelerator. 

If they’re already in this role but don’t have the right kind of support, you need to provide the support. If they’re not in this role and doing something different, once you’ve identified that they’re capable Accelerators, bringing them into the right role will make that happen. 

Transformation always requires changing in multiple dimensions, which means it’s impossible to control the change. Accelerators are comfortable with the unknown and capable of setting goals as they go. 

Without these leaders, teams risk falling into a “hamster on a wheel” scenario in which everyone has bought into the change, is working hard, putting in long hours, and knows that transformation is the end-goal. The problem is that they’re stuck: They’re working without clarity, they’re consumed by distractions, or they have no clear path to execution. As a result, organizations have to jettison plans or spend more money and they lose time in achieving the outcomes they were looking for. Accelerators cut bait with brutal prioritization, keeping organizations on track and always moving forward. 

Businesses move fast today, and there are a number of dimensions of change that are required to be successful. Accelerators are the people who can cut through the noise, push distractions to the side, focus the team, make tough calls, and prioritize. Accelerators get to the meat of the issues and ultimately help your organization achieve your goals faster.

[ 7 new rules of the road for IT leaders: Get our infographic and learn from CIOs succeeding with digital transformation. ]

Satish Alapati, Vice President & CIO, heads the Technology Development - Mobility & Entertainment Customer Experience organization.