Disrupt or Be Disrupted

Donna Morris weighs in on how to be bold in your career.

It was March 19, 2012. I was in Bangalore, India, having just arrived after a 20-hour flight. One of the first meetings on my schedule: an interview with an eager reporter from the Economic Times of India. After a few general questions, the conversation turned to the ways in which human resources contributes to the business. Basically, she was wondering whether HR made any impact whatsoever.

In my agitated and sleep-deprived state, I shared a little more than I should have about how I wanted to disrupt how HR is done — starting with the performance review. I said the performance review was an antiquated, painful and unproductive HR process that had outlived its time.

This became a front-page news story in India: “Adobe Set to Scrap Performance Review,” which then spread around the world. The problem for me was that I had not invested the time to vet my point of view with my boss, the CEO, or with my peers. This could have turned into a career-limiting move.

I quickly communicated my desire to rethink reviews to the company, of course, and was met with overwhelming enthusiasm. The result was eliminating our annual performance review and moving to an ongoing “Check-in.”

This underscored a key turning point for me in my career.  You need to exemplify courage as a leader and take risks. You need to disrupt – or you will be disrupted. It’s that simple. I would do that India interview all over again, because I am passionate about the change and the results are better for the business.

To be a disruptor in your own career, I have four pieces of advice:

  • Question “conventional wisdom.” How often do we challenge the way things have always been done in our group or company? Not enough. It could be a performance review process, a product strategy, or a sales or marketing approach. If it seems wrong to you, be the one to ask the question and drive change.
  • Learn intensely. To make an impact, you need to understand all aspects of your business, all the time. This includes products, customers, financials, people, etc. It doesn’t matter what job you’re in, this insight help you disrupt in an effective way that really moves your business.
  • Redraw the lines. How work gets done within your organization can be challenged, too. Are the right teams aligned? In Adobe’s case, we brought HR and facilities together into a People & Places organization focused on the overall global employee and work experience. Sometimes things that don’t look alike on the surface can have incredible power when you bring them together.
  • Embrace your inner nerd. Regardless of industry, technology is the single biggest change agent within business today. Embrace it, even if your role or function isn’t “technical.” If you make technology part of your core function, I guarantee your impact will be greater. Deferring that expertise to someone else means you will be disrupted later.

So are you disrupting or are you being disrupted? We have a fun, magazine-style quiz here where you can score yourself.

This blog was originally published on LinkedIn.

Donna Morris, Executive Vice President, Customer and Employee Experience

“Disrupt or be disrupted” is Donna’s rallying cry. From abolishing Adobe’s annual performance reviews to dramatically expanding its family leave policy, she has set the industry agenda while making Adobe a great place to work. She leads the product, customer service, and technical support experience for all Adobe products, in addition to all aspects of human resources and the workplace. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Carleton University, and her “north of the border” accent gives her away as a native of Ottawa, Canada. If Donna were not at Adobe, she would have a home decorating show on HGTV.

Donna Morris, Executive Vice President, Customer and Employee Experience