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In this post we will deal with the philosophy of digital transformation team building. In other words, there is a mentality that you will need in order to be successful. The mentality to be successful in transformation has four parts (yes, we are fond of “fours”): fast, light, courageous and all in.
The days of plodding are over. The book It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small…It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business had it right. Of course, that book was written 15 years ago when things moved a lot slower! In Tim Sheedy’s article In The Digital World, CIOs Need To Help The Business Move Faster, Sheedy puts much of the responsibility for speed on the shoulders of the CIO. He notes that it is the CIO’s responsibility to remove friction points from processes to allow the building of new capabilities fast. Technology cannot be a bottleneck in moving quickly to meet customer needs or in responding to competitive threats. It is important to note that Sheedy also mentions that speed cannot sacrifice quality and that we cannot shortcut testing. However, we add, in this vein, that the work needs to get done at a pace that allows time for proper testing. Organizations often dawdle so long that there is not enough time left for production and testing. We would also add that the entire leadership team must set and model the pace for change in the organization.
It helps to be fast if you are light. Ever watch two featherweights box and then watch two heavyweights box? Ever see an offensive lineman pick up a fumble and ramble down the field? Notice anything different than when the halfback carries the ball? It is just easier to be faster if you are lighter. In digital transformation, being “light” starts with the understanding that most touchdowns are scored by working the ball down the field methodically and not by depending on the big play. Whether you are working on incremental transformation or disruptive transformation, organizations find that small, fast successes are important. Focusing first on small goals, the proverbial low-hanging fruit, will allow an organization to set a transformational culture of success and confidence. When stakeholders see relatively quick and easy change for the better, confidence will grow and set the playing field for bigger successes in the future. We must also remember that though we need to be light and fast, we also must not forget about contingencies and scenario planning. For advice on being fast and light while still be focused on the future we recommend reading The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World .
Muhammad Ali said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.” Digital transformation is not a trend. Digital must become an organizational capability for organizations to prosper or even survive. An organization cannot be paralyzed by fear of failure. Giving your digital transformation team permission to fail is critical. While we want to get early, easy victories, we also need to know that a lot of things aren’t going to work right the first time. More importantly, people will be too afraid bring forward their most creative and innovative thinking if a permission to fail culture is not nurtured. For a good, short read on permission to fail, check out Harvard Business Review’s article Permission to Fail.
All in is simple. It means “all in”. Everybody. All in. This is especially true of leadership. If we understand that digital transformation is not a trend then we must commit and not turn back. If we understand that digital must be a capability, then it cannot be something we try out or dabble in. One of the most common mistakes we see is that an organization hires a digital transformation leader and then leaves that person high and dry. Digital transformation must be funded financially and emotionally. This especially means that leaders must be actively supporting and encouraging those in (https://hbr.org/2012/05/permission-to-fail) the ditches of transformation. Leaders that will not strongly support the digital transformation process have no place in a transforming organization.
Hope you found the first “P” helpful. Please check out P #2 – Pillars of Digital Transformation.