Change management turns your digital transformation from impossible to possible in the minds and actions of those impacted.
Previous articles in this series explained how digital transformation impacts the entire company and, therefore, requires an enterprise strategy that balances culture and technology. Change management is how we evolve the culture of the organization to embrace the new, digital environment.
Digital Proficiency and Change Readiness
The culture aspect of digital transformation is usually much harder than the technology. We look at culture through two unique, but complimentary, lenses: digital proficiency and change readiness. Both of these will challenge the skills and emotions of your organization, and they require as much, or more, attention as the technology aspect of your transformation.
Digital proficiency refers to the technical skills of your employees. We previously explained that digital transformation likely changes how a customer places an order and how you process that order, impacting marketing, sales, and operations. You are using technology to transform how you delight your customer. That means that your organization must have the technical skills to support those customers and to operate in the new environment.
People often resist change – especially when it involves technology. Your digital transformation requires a thoughtful approach to orientation and training on new technology skills.
Communication is key. Let everyone know what’s coming and make sure they all understand the benefits to the customer and the business. Reassure them that there will be plenty of time devoted to training. And be clear that these new technical skills are critical to their job and long-term career.
Then, follow up.
Provide plenty of demonstrations of any new technology. Provide sandbox environments for your team members to get acquainted with the new tools. Involve as many people as is practical in the requirements and design sessions so they get familiar, contribute ideas, and take ownership.
And then train, train, train. Set up demonstrations as the systems and/or tools are being configured and the final products. Schedule mandatory training with sufficient flexibility to accommodate departments and individuals. Schedule make-up sessions for those who will inevitably miss training.
Have subject matter experts “hand-hold” during the first week or two of live, production use of the new technologies. And create an environment that allows for mistakes.
Improving the digital skills of your employees will return huge dividends in the long run. You should see increased productivity, improved employee engagement, and reduced attrition.
Change readiness is the second part of the culture of digital transformation. It refers to embracing the change that is initially coming and also anticipating change as a new way of life. Change readiness makes an organization nimble, able to react quickly to changing market conditions, and can provide a measurable competitive advantage.
But people, in general, don’t like change. We get comfortable in our paradigm and don’t like to take risks.
In my decades of experience, I find that leaders are more resistant to change than staff. Perhaps they’re afraid of losing power or authority. Maybe they’re afraid of being exposed for a certain lack of knowledge. Regardless of the reason, leaders are key to change and must be on board.
Just as we described with digital proficiency, leaders and staff must understand why change is necessary now, why it should be embraced in the future, and the benefits it will bring to our customers and the business.
Communicate frequently about why the digital transformation is happening and about progress along the way. Be sure that managers understand how the change will impact each of their team members and build the change readiness into personal performance plans. You want to be sure that the entire organization can demonstrate its readiness to embrace change.
Project naming contests, posters, swag, and communication from the CEO are excellent tools to ease people into the change that’s coming. As the change occurs, recognize people that embrace the changes. Recognize departments that adapt. Reward the good behavior with praise or even bonuses or vacation days.
And don’t be afraid to take action to improve, or remove, anyone that continues to resist change. A bad attitude is a cancer on the organization and must be cured or removed.
The more you recognize and reward the adoption of change, the more ready and willing the organization will be to embrace the next change. And once you start your digital transformation, change will become a way of life.
Who Leads Culture Change?
When we think of digital transformation, we tend to think about IT as the leader. Rarely should IT lead the digital transformation. That’s actually one of the top reasons that the majority of digital transformations fail.
Remember, we’re talking about an enterprise strategy that balances culture and technology. Certainly, let IT take a leading role in the technology. But when you think about culture, is IT the first group that comes to mind? Probably not.
Previous articles in this series talked about the enterprise strategy and executive sponsorship. While the sponsor is an emotionally engaged evangelist for change, he or she will probably not be very involved in the details.
Best practice would be to include Marketing, Internal Communications, HR, and, yes, IT in the cultural aspect of your digital transformation. Culture change requires a lot of communication and performance management in coordination with the technology.
Change management is crucial for any initiative but is vital for a digital transformation. Most, or at least a good part, of your organization will need updated technical skills and some level of digital proficiency. And change readiness will become a core competence of your enterprise.
These changes have a tremendous impact on people and need to be managed with at least as much attention as the technology change.
Digital proficiency and change readiness will eventually create a sustainable competitive advantage for your business.
In the coming weeks we will cover the following, critical aspects of digital transformation:
- Scope Management
- Marketing and PR
- Staff Challenges and Surprises
- The New World After Digital Transformation
If you’re embarking on a digital transformation, planning to do so, or just don’t want to wait 12 weeks for all of these articles, just email Emily at Emily@WolffStrategy.com and she’ll be happy to schedule a call with me to discuss any or all of these topics.
Larry Wolff is the founder & CEO of Wolff Strategy Partners, a boutique consulting firm specializing in Enterprise Strategy Management and Digital Transformation. Larry has served as CEO, COO, CIO, CTO, chief digital officer, and management consultant for public, private, international, and emerging growth companies. His specialties include corporate and IT strategic planning, technology led business transformation, business and IT turnarounds, merger integration and large-scale project rescues. His methodologies span industries and scale to companies of all sizes.
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