TBMC20: Titans of TBM Inspire Fellow IT Leaders with Success Stories

The annual TBM Conference has something for everyone, whether you’re a TBM veteran or still early in your journey. However, given TBM was born in response to the 2008 financial crisis, this year’s TBMC20 – which was held in the midst of the COVID-19 economic disruption and took place entirely online – is especially relevant to those still on the sidelines of TBM and eager to get started.

“Now is the time to establish your TBM foundation so you can have fact-based discussions and effectively manage your digital transformation,” advises Apptio co-founder and CEO, Sunny Gupta, in his TBMC20 keynote address.

Hearing first-hand from TBM experts can provide a jumpstart for IT leaders faced with forecasting and re-planning their businesses in response to 2020’s economic challenge. This is why we’ve rounded up some highlights from Apptio customers who shared expert advice at TBMC20. Although these events happened last week, you can still listen in on any TBMC20 session by registering here.

Becoming a disruptive leader

Take Phil Armstrong, for example, who spoke in his keynote address about how to become a highly-valued, disruptive leader and how TBM is a tool to help get you there. Armstrong is executive vice president and global CIO for Great West Lifeco, a financial holding company that owns and operates brands around the world and has about 31 million customers globally, $1.7 trillion in AUM assets, is the second largest pension administrator in the US, and is the sixth largest re-insurer in the world.

First off, Armstrong explains what a “disruptive leader” looks like in light of seven key attributes. Disruptive leaders:

  1. Have a dogged pursuit of the truth and challenge the status quo
  2. Are decisive, future-oriented, and confident
  3. Are adaptable, flexible, and resilient
  4. Are curious and inquisitive
  5. Are sensitive to the fallout that large-scale change can cause within the organization
  6. Put customers at the center of everything they do
  7. Create their own rules and ways of working

What does a disruptive problem look like?

In contrast, says Armstrong, “disruptive employees” have similar characteristics, but drilling down there are some negative differences. Disruptive employees:

  • Create work by challenging things that are already working
  • Ignore today’s issues and come across as arrogant
  • Keep changing direction and are inconsistent
  • Ask too many questions
  • Are unaware of the fallout that large-scale change can inflict up on the organization
  • Use customers as shields to protect their ideas
  • Create their own rules, break rules, and figure out their own ways of working

Three-step process to being a positive disruption

So how do you become perceived as a positive rather than negative force when the differences are so small? To answer that question, Armstrong has defined a three-step process that revolves around vision, team, and journey and distinguishes between positive and negative:


Leaders that are perceived as positive disruptive leaders create a vision​ and articulate a clearly-defined clear North Star goal, says Armstrong. “They ​are relentless in their socialization​ – they will talk to anyone and everyone inside the organization about why they are doing this change, and what the outcomes will be. They explain why this change will be better for the customer and the organization. And, more importantly, they answer the question, ‘Why should we change now?’”


Disruptive leaders c​reate a team. “They gather people – a team – assembled specifically to effect this change,” he says. This should be a talented team with diverse people, and a diversity of thought, who are committed to moving this change through the organization. They should create a sense of identity and purpose, and keep that momentum moving along on the change initiative. But they are also very attuned to the environment, asking, “Do we have enough support, enough alignment, the right team, and right resources?” And they make that judgment before they start execution.


The third step is sharing the journey, says Armstrong. He advises: Be excellent at narrating the journey back to the organization, avoid change fatigue by celebrating small wins and milestones, and broadcast progress along each step of the way. Also, importantly, inform the organization on small course corrections​ – as more information comes in, you’ll make small adjustments. “Nobody executes exactly to the plan. So, no surprises, lots of communication … communication, communication, communication … that is the big difference in the perception of being a positive disruptive leader and a negative employee.”

How can TBM help?

In his role as a disruptive leader, Armstrong uses TBM as a strategic management tool. “For me, it’s a communication aid; it provides that one source of truth. TBM is a map to validate the journey and the progression toward the goal, and on delivering the promised business value.”

According to Armstrong, TBM specifically enables:

Fact-based decision making – “Important when trying to cut through the noise of change.”

Quantification of business value – “Quantifies that value promised in your business case when you got those resources and that investment.”

Alignment of resources – “Makes sure you align resources – whether it’s people, dollars, or time – to where they are best deployed.”

Standard language – “The taxonomy is what gives you that standard language.”

Conflict resolution – “I’ve used TBM for conflict resolution, pointing to specific examples with numbers.”

Course adjustment support – “Allows you to validate and broadcast those course adjustments.”

In summary, Armstrong believes becoming a disruptive leader – one of those highly-valued employees within your organization – is primarily about approach.

“You need to articulate and share your vision – your North Star goal – broadly, and align your organization. Answer that key question, ‘Why are we making this change now?’” he says. “You need to live the characteristics of a disruptive leader, but do it with sensitivity and humility.​”

Stay tuned for more leadership and success stories from TBMC20. You can hear those stories firsthand — register today for TBMC20 and you’ll have access to more than 100 customer sessions, roundtables, and product demos.

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