NetApp’s Tom Mendoza on Innovation and Embracing Change

Recently, at FedScoop’s FedTalks 2014, an event attended by top leaders in the tech and government IT communities, more than 1,200 people came together in Washington, D.C. to discuss how technology and people can change government and their communities.


NetApp’s Vice Chairman Tom Mendoza was one of the speakers at the event. In his presentation, “Embrace Change or Die,” he spoke about the importance of change and how an organization’s culture is key to its ability to change and innovate.


“Seventy percent of all organizations that seek to change fail.” Mendoza kicked off his talk by citing this statistic–a startling reminder that in order to remain relevant and stay successful, organizational change is mandatory, not optional. 


A core attribute Mendoza ties to organizational success is candor, both from leaders and from all employees. A company where leaders—and, in fact, all members of the team–don’t feel free to speak the truth, even if those truths are sometimes not popular or easy to hear, is a company that will not be able to embrace change and ultimately succeed. Part of success is taking risks and employees feeling free to address difficult situations and approach leadership with ideas for change and growth.


A further aspect of NetApp’s culture that has led to their success and ability to innovate and embrace change is respecting and appreciating people. Mendoza described his practice of “catching someone doing something right,” where he encourages staff to email him to call out employees who are doing a great job. He then calls those people and thanks them personally—a practice he’s employed for the past 20 years and which takes just a few minutes each day. “People don’t care what you know unless they know that you care,” Mendoza said of leaders taking the time to appreciate employees on a regular basis. In a culture of appreciation, he argued, when times get tough and change is necessary, they’ll be all in when it comes to implementing that change.


While change can be disquieting if a company wants to succeed, ongoing change is a fact of life. By adopting a culture that embraces and rewards change, Mendoza shared, you can inspire employees to want to be part of that change and reap the rewards of both an engaged, productive workforce and a successful, adaptable organization.


Want to hear all of Mendoza’s inspiring speech?  Watch the video below of his talk at FedTalks 2014.