How C-Suite Executives Master Digital Transformation And Avoid Stalls and Failure, Part 1
Your company is a business in transformation. It’s not about the newest technology, it’s about mission; it just so happens technology is your business and digital transformation is your future. Though most CEO’s and CFO’s didn’t rise through the ranks of tech mastery, they still see clearly the essential changes in front of them. They then enlist alongside them a whole new band of Chief technologists. Together, Digital Transformation is your shared vision.
But many digital transformation efforts fail.
In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath write, “Don’t obsess about the middle. Look for a strong beginning and a strong ending.”
The middle is mostly a mess. A rule for life is the same for digital transformation efforts: Don’t quit in the middle. The ability to see an effort through depends on the strong beginning which set the vision, clear expectation and tone. It also depends on the strong ending, which is a clearly understood, effectively applied new reality that benefits every internal and external customer of the business.
Every C-Suite Executive leads any digital transformation effort through three intentional commitments: Rally. Craft. Drive. (Craft and Drive will appear in a sequential article).
Intentional commitment #1: Rally
Every C-Suite Executive leads any digital transformation effort through three intentional commitments: Rally. Craft. Drive.
Legendary football coach Bear Bryant knew how to win, and his players at Alabama always brought discipline to the field. One game, however, near the end of the final quarter, Coach called in a running play to his offense. With the team ahead, they needed only to run out the clock. The quarterback changed the play. He threw the ball. It was intercepted by the fastest defensive back in the Conference who began running toward the end zone and certain victory. The quarterback gave chase and somehow tackled him before he scored, preserving the victory for Alabama. After the game, the opposing coach asked Bear Bryant, “How did your slow-footed quarterback ever catch my world-class sprinter?” Coach answered, “Your man was racing for six points. My man was running for his life!”
Too many companies are driven by desperation. Crisis leads the way. To rally a company, C-Suite Executives focus on three practices:
- People can sense when change is needed. They don’t need to be convinced of it. They need to be connected to it. Seth Godin advises, “Transform shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change.” People accept the need for change when change is toward fulfillment.
- Do employees have a clear understanding of the company’s current position in their industry? Do they know the score both for the company and for their team?
- Do employees have a clear understanding of how customers can be better served through digital transformation? Do they know how change will better serve their own motivation for working with the company?
- Do employees have a clear understanding of the negative consequences of failing to get out in front of competitors? Risk-averse voices will try to pull back transformation, but non-traditional disruptors demand attention and consume the luxury of time to get up to speed.
- Do employees know how new applications will solve problems and result in greater efficiency, less headaches and greater profitability/employee benefit?
Your teams are motivated by an awareness of need and opportunity. Too often, initiatives are rolled out without further understanding of each team’s relationship to the process. Every digital transformation needs a single message, even if it is from multiple voices. Efforts will bog down if outside voices, such as vendors, begin to pick at a process by offering alternative solutions.
C-Suite Executives need to relate the following:
- An honest assessment of the scope of the overall project.
- The contributions expected of each team.
- Realistic time frames to understand new technology and use it, and the training that can be expected to do so.
- How circumstances or positive developments have made the course of action obvious.
- The drawbacks to anticipate.
Part of the Relate Strategy is to lead people and teams into agreement. They share the same motivations and they commit to their responsibilities within the initiative.
Seth Godin says that great leaders “realize that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group could be.”
Connect involves cross-pollination of teams, and multiple team representation for the purpose of coordination and communication.
To connect also requires removing silos. Digital transformation is not a point-specific problem. Data silo in a single group restricts access needed by others. Digital transformation is about holistic value to the business, and data integration is the leverage.
Connect requires simplified structures. The emergence of new C-level titles can increase complexity, but digital transformations require agility. Clearly delineated outcomes, flow of information and means of decision-making are requisite for efficiency, avoidance of redundancy and alleviation of turf protection.
Outside eyes are part of an effective Connect equation. It is difficult to innovate in your four walls. Unbiased stakeholders who think creatively can stimulate your teams and clear up perceptions. Outside eyes say what needs to be said, so that connection is strengthened toward problem-solving rather than threatened by problem-identification.
Digital Transformation requires rallying the team. Long-term initiatives can only be sustained when compelling motivation is in place. Unless employees and teams can relate themselves to the project, diversion and distraction will pull at focus and energy. But when motivation and relationship is in place, connected teams will answer the rally cry with great determination.