Makarand Utpat

3 Ways the Zero-Based Thinking helps to Move Your Digital Needle

“Give me a long enough lever…. and I shall move the Earth.” —Archimedes

It’s said that if you keep doing the same things, you will get the same results you’ve got. So as a high-performing C-suite leader, if you are not getting the results you desire or find yourself in choppy waters, one tool you can adopt and apply is Zero-Based Thinking (ZBT).

CEOs, C-suite executives, and corporate turnaround specialists routinely make use of the Zero-Based Thinking (ZBT) to turn around the struggling business units, battered capabilities, and dysfunctional organizations or in case of mergers and acquisitions to achieve the business alignments or market expansion opportunities.

Zero-Based Thinking (ZBT) is also a great tool to achieve the digital turnaround for your organization.

Themes behind Zero Based Thinking (ZBT): 

  1. Recognizing that I now possess the new set of information (based on the emerging business trends, changed priorities, technological advances, hard-knocks, lessons learned) that I didn’t necessarily had or didn’t know in the past, would I still take the decisions I took in the past?
  2. Recognizing that I now possess the new set of information (based on the emerging business trends, changed priorities, technological advances, hard-knocks, lessons learned) that I didn’t necessarily had or didn’t know in the past, would I be willing to stop doing things that are no longer working today, not needed, or need improvements?

Digital Transformation is Disruptive:  As disruptive as it is, the digital transformation is becoming an indispensable force that organizations need to embrace and weave into its existing infrastructure, something that C-suite leaders can’t ignore. It is not only affecting the internal business dynamics (e.g. people, process, information, technology) but also extended the ecosystem (of partners, systems integrators, and customers) that organization co-exists with.

While the digital capabilities are being implemented, one key challenge they face is how best to put their foot forward (that allows them to embrace the innovative technologies such as mobility, cloud, analytics, digital marketing, and social media technologies) while keeping the other foot firmly rooted in the legacy / operational environments that still need to be kept running.

3-Ways the Zero Based Thinking helps in achieving the Digital Turnaround:


  1. Challenge- It helps validate or challenge the assumptions (which may have been integral in the past but may not applicable in the present or future business conditions).  Digital transformation is forcing C-suite leaders to rethink what it is going to take to create value in their specific line of business (LoB). E.g. launching digital center of excellence, integrating organizational units to achieve customer centricity, constructing digital IT architecture building blocks, creating shared transformative vision between IT and business for the digital future.
  2. Justify- It justifies the new investments. The hindsight is 20-20 and thus, through ZBT, C-suite leaders can take advantage of discarding the non-productive things that have not yielded the results (e.g. End-of-life legacy systems, inefficient business processes, duplicate applications, outdated technologies) cutting their losses saving time, money, and resources. They can blend in the new digital capabilities with the current robust capabilities. E.g. developing new digital apps; mobile websites; fuse IT and business groups to build digital skills; building new portfolio of applications; integrating various channels with existing CRM programs, master data management (MDM), and analytics; making the current workforce digitally savvy by investing in their skillsets, hiring new talent.
  3. Facilitate- It facilitates the problem-solving by opening the doors to the entirely new set of possibilities and thus, achieving new breakthroughs that C-suite leaders may not have thought about earlier. E.g. serving the wider set of customers through the social media channel engagements (e.g. Websites, Mobile Apps, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn), reaching out to specific set of customers through specific digital touch-points they prefer, educating customers through the content marketing and blog marketing techniques.


In Summary:  

  1. C-suite leaders are willing to explore and experiment with the new possibilities and foresee the need of doing something different. At the same time, they are willing to stop anything that no longer is working in business’s favor. This allows them to fail fast, cut their losses, stay one step ahead of the competition, and maintain an edge in the marketplace.
  2. Digital disruption is causing them to go back to the drawing board and how they can move the digital needle by fundamentally rethinking how they want to shape the next generation of their business or IT units. Zero-Based Thinking is that lever that allows the C-suite leaders to move their digital needle!

©2016 Makarand Utpat. Makarand Utpat is a digital business expert, blogger, and a published book(s) author (or coauthor) on leadership, team-building, project management, and digital transformation. Well respected by the peer community and subordinates, he has delivered successful digital initiatives for the for-profts and the nonprofits. You can reach him at 201-819-0894 or [email protected].