‘Create a sense of crisis before diving into digital’ — Huawei

A SENSE of crisis should be encouraged and intensified to help drive digital transformation, Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping believes.

Huawei Chairman Guo Ping, digital transformation
Guo Ping, Chairman Huawei

Ping was speaking at a recent gathering of management professionals, the 13th Global Peter Drucker Forum. The forum is held every year in the management guru’s hometown of Vienna. It brings together professionals of modern management; the theme of this year’s conference was “the human imperative of navigating uncertainty in the digital age”.

Motivated employees “on a mission” and strategic planning aligned to the company’s goals were key to creating the climate for successful change, Ping said.

He predicted all companies would go digital, but feared some lacked clear strategic goals and were “just following the pack”.

There was no real alternative to change, he said, but he added that companies had to reflect on how they could improve their organisational competitiveness and achieve strategic goals.

A fundamental transformation of Huawei’s product development in R&D and sustainable supply chains began 20 years ago, with IT strategy and planning.

“Looking back, we feel quite lucky,” he said. “Interlocking the digitalisation with the company’s overall strategic goals was certainly the right move. These transformation programmes made us a world class company.”

Changing employees’ mindset was, he said, “the biggest challenge” — but key to successful transformation, with urgency generating a sense of mission and momentum for change.

“The sense of a crisis is important,” he said. “Make it visible to intensify (it) to make employees truly understand the need for a change. Huawei ensured employees understood the need for change, fostered a culture of eagerness for transformation, and ensured affected workers felt protected.”

Huawei’s culture of innovation began “with a tolerance for failure”, he said, with its researchers encouraged to adopt a varied, trial-and-error approach.

He recalled the words of the company founder Ren Zhengfei: “You take a path to find it only leads to a dead end. You share it with others so that they don’t repeat it, and try another path: that’s also a success.”

At Huawei “the one thing that never changes is change”, he added. “To advance with times, we review our transformation planning every year, to ensure it aligns with our business strategy.

“I believe continued transformation management will enable companies to constantly improve their capabilities in the digital era.”