A Sustainable Approach for Digital Change
The hot conversation in business is Transformation. Specifically, Digital Transformation. There’s good reason for the popularity - it’s well-documented how Digital is disrupting everything. How your customers experience your organization, how your employees experience their work inside the organization, and how deeply the external experiences (competitors, regulators, etc) affect your organization. When we talk about transformation, we’re talking about change. Technology moves fast so we need to ensure the change we implement is flexible and above all else, sustainable.
Understanding Your Organization
Depending on your organization, there are various approaches to begin enacting sustainable change. What are you trying to accomplish - specifically? What’s your organizational culture? What are your organizational drivers? What are your current leadership and managerial competencies? Do these competencies support your intention? Do they support or detract from a sustainable change initiative? Finally, what would you prefer each of these be – what’s your ideal state? They all influence your Digital Roadmap.
There are a litany of market factors which are out of your control, however, there are things which you can, if not control, cultivate. Organizational culture is at the top of that list. Organizational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which govern how people behave in organizations. Organizational culture is “how we do things around here”. Your culture is the biggest factor to impact employee performance and organizational effectiveness. So when engaging in a sustainable change effort, it’s important to consider your culture. Where is your culture today, organizationally, by business unit, across your leadership and teams? Getting a clear picture of culture is a foundational step.
Business drivers are often assumed to be clear and understood but as any strategist will tell you, it takes very little digging to find out this isn’t always true. Drivers are generally easier to identify by leadership and typically become more unclear and less actionable the closer we get to frontline teams. When it comes to drivers, how they’re created, shared, and managed is critical to successful outcomes.
Leadership is a starting point for all conversations around change. You need the right leadership for the right need at the right time. Are you in growth mode? You might need leaders who are either more creative or comfortable making space for creative thinking. Are you needing to sustain your success? You may need leaders who value efficiency, timeliness, and consistency. There is no “best” way to lead, it’s being clear about the type of leadership you need given your organizational objectives.
Defining Purpose and Process – Sharing Your Intention
It’s not unknown that technology is changing faster now than any time in history. Because of this, organizations are often chasing the latest/greatest tech fad - a coding language, a platform, a device. The amount of rework currently required to fix, connect, or grow digital products – particularly in the enterprise – is immense and it’s expensive. The most common cause we see for rework is the lack of a clear purpose and intention. This occurs when organizations focus on individual projects rather than considering cohesive, cross-channel experiences. To achieve sustainability, we want to consider the realities of today with a mind towards scaling for the future.
Let’s address the fundamentals – we need to understand your organization’s foundation so we know what we’re building upon. Before we can design a sustainable digital strategy, we must ensure we have sustainable as a precept. This means gathering leaders (and also including influential employees) in defining your purpose, processes, and sharing your intention both internally and externally.
Purpose and Process
As you take on a sustainable change initiative, it’s important to define who you are (your vision) and how you plan to share that vision. By this I mean define and share (and keep sharing) your vision within your organization. Digital itself, and the evolving nature of business, often put organizations into reactive, rather than proactive, mindsets. Priorities and timelines will shift and we want to establish a grounded and sustainable approach which will keep diverse, cross-functional teams purposively aligned today, tomorrow, and in the future.
Being Intentional About Experience
Many organizations are the owners (and creators) of a disconnected set of digital projects which means their customers are the receivers of a set of disconnected experiences. Some projects may seem intentional - at least as it pertains to the project. How about when we take a global view? To be sustainable, we need to build for customer experiences which are connected, seamless and cohesive across all digital (and physical) touchpoints. Think of products and/or services you enjoy which match these characteristics. The ease-of-use and enjoyment you receive from these experiences doesn’t occur by happenstance. It’s intentional both in it’s execution and how it’s supported.
A sustainable approach means rework happens far less often. It means that employees are active participants in the change rather than being an afterthought. Taking a sustainable approach means your customers feel the continuous improvement in their experience without feeling alienated by the change.
So even though it shouldn’t, when we think about change in the sense of Digital Transformation, it can seem overwhelming. It’s too big and too tempting to say there isn’t a clear place to begin. If you’re clear on your organizational purpose and process, if you’re intentional about your approach, and if you’re honest about your culture, drivers, and leadership competencies (or at least willing to examine them), then you’re in a great position to begin charting your transformation roadmap.