Strategic Reorientation: Activating Outcomes of Human & Machine Ecosystems


It’s the time of ‘And’ not ‘Or’

There was a time when tech was simply meant to enable humans. Today, tech and humans, both, enable and get enabled by each other in repetitive reinforcing loops. If one gets better, the other is bound to progress. Hence, activating the many benefits of the human – machine ecosystems are no more a binary game. It’s no more a direct cause & effect. Today, we must have several ‘Ands’ to succeed in organization & tech transformation. The Human – Machine Ecosystems need some deliberate design to unleash the real benefit.

But, to build this story & go a bit deeper…

Once upon a time, (it does sound like a distant dream) there was the era of: use tech for data management… Hence came forms, files & applications. Linear benefits were outright. Then came the time to get technology to take care of processes with minimal human interface… This led to the advent of systems with rules, workflows & automation. ERPs and enterprise level connectivity became the play of the day. Compounded benefits were plenty, but errors were coming out faster.

Along this play, things became easier because enterprise-wide transformation (mostly digitalization, and some digital transformation) began to make way. Web was the ruler, and e-… was the name of the game. Benefits only came if change was managed well.But more often; benefits started getting shaky, because failures of these projects were plenty.

Rapidly, we are seeing visualization, widgets and UX take over… and everyone is beginning to talk and pretend AI, Machine Learning & Deep Learning. Experimentation is plenty. But, today’s failures are not just with projects, it is a challenge of “strategy” to “execution”.

Benefits or scares: whatever is predominant, plaintiff, judge & jury, all have some time to go.

However it is seen, the many benefits of this space are just beginning to be tapped. And in the same space, the many scares of this movement are just beginning to be talked about. In the opinion of most thinkers, Industrial Era 4.0, is a beautiful place to be in. The benefits of computing power are only beginning to impact all aspects of life & organization. The mobile and ever connected devices are only beginning to make our lives & the world a better place to live. Ripe are the conversations of how consumers & organizations can benefit from DARQ in the post-digital era. Accenture1 did a beautiful feature on this recently.From business models to operations, everything is reaping the benefits of today’s tech. From CEO’s office to Ops to HR, every function is getting so much more done with technology. McKinsey2 recently stated the following facts about the impact of People Analytics being applied in organizations:

While this euphoria is on, about 84% companies3 are failing in digital transformation.

Now, a digital transformation is typically one of three: a Cloud-based business model shift, a deep tech change to create digital customer experience, or to deeply embed analytics, big data & AI into the business model. Typically, these three are interconnected, sometimes even inseparable.

Taking a deeper look at these components, KPMG# estimated a few years back that 60% of the Analytics/Big Data projects fail.Revised estimates even predict 85% failure.Digital & Print publishing is rife with stories of gains and pains in this era of hyperactivity.

So, what does this mean for leaders, especially CXOs?

Every read, every look at insights uncovers two broad themes:

  • In crafting transformation journeys, only a few tenets were factored by most organizations. Several key aspects were ignored.
  • Problem definitions were often vague on one end or highly complex/unclear on the other. There was always a hurry to gain possible business benefits.

So, the questions now are:

  • What can we do to at least prepare ourselves better, before attempting digital era transformations?
  • How do we have a strategy to all these strategic interventions?
  • How do we ensure these initiatives are worth the money?
  • How do we make sure these initiatives deliver the critical “survival and flourish” impact desired by business leaders signing-off on these projects?
  • And so many more…

My response: Approach & insights exist – but yet to experience a formula or devise one. Today, it is critical to choose correct partners and problems for a transformation journey. However, there are 10 odd themes that I am following in my work, which are even more critical for success than the choice of partner and problem definition. These are nuggets that I have been testing and discussing with leaders / institutions I am working with.

For today, following are three ‘ands’ or ‘tenets’ out of these 10 oddthat I think are critical in this digital era…

Digital & AI Age Values

Case in point – most organizations even today have values to direct collective human identity/behavior. Close examination shows, even some of the best brands lack values that clarify a digital identity, digital behavior or digital future of the organization.

If everyone is not going to live and breathe Digital & AI mindset – there is no way the strategy & execution at play will truly be Digital or AI. They will only create Digital & AI like attempts. From Leaders to Employees we have control-oriented & manual legacy of generations that need to be shed. How can a mindset of the past breed transformation for the future?

Some startups are solving this challenge very well by being truly digital in all ways. Even top AI companies like5AIBrain, Anki have a digital identity that enables their core.

Indicative AI age values could be like:

  • Real time – intelligence sharing for every employee
  • Research First – being original with point of views
  • Insight driven – knowing exact cause and effect

Values like these can get Digital & AI to the core of every employee’s mindset. Definitely, training and enabling will play crucial part but clarifying values is the first step to changing mindsets.

What are the Digital Age Values, Value Clarification and Mindset shift your organization needs before you make expensive Digital Age decisions?

Agile Transformation Strategy

Today, competitive advantage may sometimes just last a few quarters. So does Strategy. We do something today with great planning, only to see an agile startup do this faster than us next day. So, what is the solution?

Organizations today need to:

  • Incubate – business and tech ideas
  • Invent – business maneuvers
  • Acquire – desirable startups
  • Partner – with open collaborators

And so much more… faster than they ever did. Today’s agile strategy cannot be just about products or services. They have to be about transforming the very way we live and work.

What are your smart moves to be agile, nimble and rapidly evolving?

Distractors as Attractors Culture

In today’s scenario often we set out to do something, only to discover a whole host of ways to do it better and a whole host of ways to not do it. This is not because of the classical way of trial and error – but because of the rapid developments in tech and application. Latest is happening fast and obsolete is happening faster.

In the time, executive decisions have been made, money has been spent, people deployed, announcements made etc; the market, competition & tech has mostly changed. Then the most common recourse is – let the distractions be &we hold course or let’s abandon the current way and start anew with what we learnt is new.

Both approaches are discounting approaches, not appending and building in today’s era. In today’s times, it’s highly possible to be only partially right, after being completely right a few days or months ago. It is highly possible to discover right things as you go along. Hence, decisions need to be open decisions & maneuvers need to be discovery-oriented.

Approaches that will help sound like this:

  • This seems to be a good next step, let’s build it in our current plan.
  • Why don’t we step back just a little and consider this solution too?
  • Let’s expand the scope.
  • Let’s use this approach as a bolt on strategy.
  • Let’s use this new information to educate the stakeholders.
  • And so many more…

Adaptation and flexibility are the name of the game. These behaviors and approaches need to be rewarded.

How are you breeding adaptation & flexibility in your organization?

Hence to close this story…

In today’s era, to be fit for Digital, AI, DARQ and so much more of the human-machine interface and unlock its value:

Choose a new set of organization anchors fit for purpose – values


Choose a way of doing business – strategy


Choose a new mindset & behaviors based on values & strategies – culture


Choose a digital transformation path as required to support all the above – tech


Finally, choose digital ways to enhance quality of life in the organization – engagement

Divided they make organization loose – time, value & sometimes everything…

Together they win…the human-machine game for everyone

Bibliography :,,, ,

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Sai Kumar Chandran is Board Member to several SMEs, and the founder of OrbitShift, a Coaching & Consulting practice. He is a Strategy & Performance Partner and a Business & Executive Coach. Sai currently helps senior leaders in organizational transformation through strategy, people, cultural, AI& tech solutions. He has been a business and HR leader with many large organizations/groups and is recognized for the impact that he brings through thought leadership, strategic orientation, and execution excellence. Sai believes in simplification and intelligent use of technology to enhance productivity & impact.


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