Leading Digital Transformation: From Vision to Change
August 5, 2020
What is your transformative vision? How are you strategizing ways to become different and better? Do you view digital as merely a support function or as a strategic competency? Companies across the world are struggling with the answers to these essential questions.
In my last article, outlining the four elements of digital transformation, I shared that failed digital transformation often happens not because strategies are not robust, but because the culture is not ready to adopt the thinking necessary to execute those strategies. Prior to COVID-19, some companies perceived agility and nimbleness as skills that were nice to have. Now, in the new normal, it’s growing clearer than ever that they are critical to survival. Others have approached digital transformation with a singular technological focus, when transformation truly comes from delivering a new customer value proposition that scales your revenue stream.
There is a fundamental difference between digitizing existing services and generating real innovation influenced by organizational and cultural change. Companies that understand this early can leverage this as a competitive advantage. The global pandemic has accelerated the importance of digital transformation, and, like any change management exercise, leaders must be methodical in how they drive this change.
Start with Transparency
Once you have diagnosed your problem or identified an opportunity, you need to share your vision for change. Within the implementation and execution of a digital transformation strategy, the organization will need to adopt an enhanced focus on data. Ultimately, data will reveal what is working – and what is not.
If your organization lacks this emphasis on data, invest the time to drive this change in your culture. Because this shift can bring a level of discomfort, preparing your people with an understanding of the value it can deliver will help them get on board with your vision and pave the way for frictionless execution.
Embrace a Culture of Innovation
The change unfolding across your organization should focus on empowering teams with new tools to develop high-performing strategies, driving an unapologetic culture of innovation. This requires both alignment and investment from every layer of the organization. With the digital landscape rapidly changing at a pace that traditional businesses have not seen, leadership across every vertical must commit to driving holistic change.
Yet change is never easy. It will undoubtedly bring some friction within your organization between those with more advanced digital sensibilities and those who are late adopters. Training can become an effective tool for easing these frictions; however, it’s important to avoid placing the burden on those who possess the knowledge to lead the training for the organization. Instead, invest in learning opportunities for all employees. Create a shared understanding of the learning curve and support your employees’ efforts to get up to speed. For those with an established knowledge base, invest in opportunities for them to scale or deepen their sensibilities. Transforming your organization’s approach to digital should offer transformative growth for every member of the team.
Navigate Change with the Seven R’s
As you embark on your transformation journey, you may notice the parallels with change management activity. To navigate the change and mitigate the friction, consider this commonly used framework: the seven Rs of change management.
Who raised the change request? Which innovator within your organization has identified the need for digital transformation? Was there an external influencer who recommended this shift?
What is the reason behind the change? Why are we looking to transform our organization’s digital capabilities? What impact will this have on our business?
What is the return required from the change? What makes the change worthwhile? What benchmarks do we need to reach to see ROI from our digital transformation efforts?
What risks are involved in the requested change? What are the potential roadblocks or losses we could incur from undertaking a transformation? How can we alleviate the cultural risks involved?
Who is responsible for the creation, testing, and implementation of the change? Which individuals or groups within the organization will lead the transformation effort? Who will drive the change at each level of the organization? Is leadership aligned with the change and the investment required?
What are the resources required to deliver the change? What investments in technologies, training and personnel do you need to implement your transformation vision? How can you execute on this strategy by optimizing resources you already have within the organization?
What is the relationship between suggested change and other changes? What opportunities exist for alignment between the digital transformation and other evolutions within the business? Where can you leverage knowledge-sharing to enhance digital understanding across the enterprise?
As I share with my team all the time, vision is singular, yet leadership is plural. As you form and execute your digital vision, remember to share the vision, get your people on board and navigate the change in a methodical and collaborative manner. To fully realize that vision, you’ll need the support of your full organization to lead the change in both technology and culture.