Five Strategies for Driving Digital Transformation!
1. Foster a leadership team with a vision and strategy
So where do you start? First, by openly engaging the organization. Talk about change—and make it personal, by sharing success stories from various business units. It’s also up to you to model change, by engaging with new technologies and new ways of thinking.
At the same time, CEOs can’t do it alone. If you are leading a digital transformation initiative, you must build commitment and alignment within your senior leadership. Senior leaders provide day-to-day guidance for the organization. Their cues—both spoken and unspoken—help teams understand what’s really important about your initiative.
You must put the right people in place to drive change. Digital transformation affects every area of the organization, from sales and IT to marketing and operations, and requires teams to coordinate and collaborate like never before.
So, your first step is simply this: Set your vision and strategy, engage outside help where necessary, and make sure your senior leadership and management teams understand where you’re headed.
2. Communicate a leadership agenda for change
When you’re leading a digital transformation initiative, you have an exciting opportunity: the chance to create and communicate an agenda that will drive change. You can build excitement around a new way of working, deliver better experiences to your customers and position your organization for long-term success.
But to do that, you have to set the vision and rally everyone behind it. This type of communication can be a challenge for those schooled in conventional management thinking. Traditionally, senior leaders recognize a need to change, pick a task force of people (maybe the head of HR, a couple of mid-level managers, a senior VP) to oversee the change effort, assign the team their roles and instruct them to make it happen. They don’t always articulate the opportunity and then communicate it widely to create a broad-based sense of urgency before pressing ahead.
A new set of skills focused on communication is required for senior leaders. You must decide what to say, how to say it, and how long to say it. Because any digital initiative without a strategic communications plan is not likely to last long enough to be truly transformative.
3. Encourage a digital culture
One reason so many change efforts fail is because big ideas don’t take hold or have the desired impact due to lack of support.
Shortcomings in organizational culture are one of the main barriers to success in the digital age. That is a central finding from a recent survey of global executives conducted by McKinsey, which highlighted three digital-culture deficiencies: functional and departmental silos, difficulty forming and acting on a single view of the customer, and a fear of taking risks.
Even in companies or departments, such as IT, that are focused on technology, these three deficiencies are often commonplace. When an organization’s culture is fastmoving and digital-dependent, employees often use their own preferred tools and solutions without collaborating or sharing information.
These benefits extend to digital ways of working, which will impact recruitment and people management strategies. Digital skillsets—the ability to work and think quickly, collaboratively and boldly—will become the default for new hires. You will also have to build these skillsets in existing team members, so consider investing in continuing education or training programs.
4. Organize to enable agility
It’s been said that change management is a dolphin, not a whale. Traditionally, organizations have approached change as a large splash—a whale. An agile, iterative approach that relies on small changes over time—more like a dolphin—is key to success in driving digital transformation.
Today, technology and consumers are evolving faster than traditional roadmaps can deliver. Rapidly changing conditions and digital technologies require rapid change in corporate, product and marketing strategy to match.
“Agility has always been important for companies,” says Wouter Aghina, principal with McKinsey. “Take the high-tech sector, where I’ve done most of my work. In that sector, you’re often only as good as your last product. That means you have to be agile. Now, having said that, you could think, ‘I’m not in the high-tech sector, so that’s less relevant for me.’ But with today’s levels of uncertainty, ambiguity, volatility in the markets, and globalization, this is starting to be true for any company. It’s critical to be agile and quickly respond to change and actually benefit from change. And if you think that you’re still in a corner where this doesn’t hold true, wait for the disruption to come. Tomorrow it will be relevant for you.”
5. Inspire collaborative, forward-thinking teams that embrace change
One of the biggest roadblocks to successfully driving change is getting people on the frontline to not only understand that change is coming, but to agree on why change is necessary.
Digital transformation initiatives often fail to take into consideration talent management strategies, particularly when it comes to managing and rewarding performance. While you must build skills, develop leaders and manage talent to move the organization in a new direction, you must also align goals, compensation and motivators with that direction.
Shaping organizational culture is a crucial—and often undervalued—factor in enabling successful digital transformation. Leaders must be intentional in building a culture where employees feel comfortable trying things that might fail. Focus on empowering employees by eliminating bureaucratic decision making, shifting your focus to innovation (rather than strictly efficiency), and celebrating the iterative nature of progress.
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