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How C-Suite Executives Lead Digital Transformation and Avoid Stall Or Failure, Part 2

The Birmingham Sunday Mercury reported in December 2000:

Bosses of a publishing firm are trying to work out why no one noticed that one of their employees had been sitting dead at his desk for five days before anyone asked if he was feeling OK.

 

George Turklebaum, 51, who had been employed as a proofreader at a New York firm for 30 years, had a heart attack in the open-plan office he shared with 23 other workers.

He quietly passed away on Monday but nobody noticed until Saturday morning when an office cleaner asked him why he was still working during the weekend.

How do you walk past a dead guy?

In his book, Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud writes about the importance of pruning. He teaches that a gardener cuts off branches and buds that are healthy but not the best or sick but not going to get well or dead and taking up space needed for healthy ones to survive. He then writes, “(1) If an initiative is siphoning off resources that could go to something with more promise, it is pruned. (2) If an endeavor is sick and is not going to get well, it is pruned. (3) If it’s clear that something is already dead, it is pruned.

How do you walk past a dead initiative?

Companies get so buried in daily responsibilities they overlook what really matters. Digital Transformation matters, and the effort it takes to rally, craft and drive that initiative matters. In Part 1, we talked about rallying change through how you motivate, relate and connect.

Part 2 addresses how change needs to be crafted.

Establishing pace is essential. Pace deals with size and seasons. Leaders manage Digital Transformation so that reasonable benchmarks are reached in rational time.

Pace is critical. Michael Easter was the number one cyclist in California. During one race he cramped up and could not finish. He commented later, “All the skill and all the will can’t overcome dehydration.”

Chip and Dan Heath, in their book Shift add, “Self-control is an exhaustible resource. The bigger the change the more it saps self-control. When people exhaust self-control, they exhaust the mental muscles needed to think creatively, to focus, to inhibit impulse, to persist in the face of frustration…Change is hard because people wear themselves out. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.”

Three types of changes determine the size and seasons of changes.

1.   Immediate Changes

  • What will we do to demonstrate that things are happening.
  • What small wins will validate the sacrifice people make?
  • What do people need to hear, to see or to experience that communicates this is change toward progress?

Chip and Dan Heath reinforce this, “Change feeds on itself. Small change snowballs to big change.”

Immediate changes must result in positive experiences and allow leaders to reinforce the behavior they want to see. Group perception begins to shift. People do what others are doing. You’ve established an environment that fosters the new.

2.   Incremental Changes

Long term vision; short term views. Incremental changes understand the impact of change and gives time for employees to understand and utilize new systems, processes and components.

  • Where immediate changes inspire, incremental changes anchor.
  • If X is implemented, what, if anything, might be unattended that is still a critical function to us?
  • If X is implemented, what, if anything, could be more than people can handle?
  • Time invested in one function means time may not be invested in another: When can we let go of something and not be impacted negatively?
  • How is the energy level? Do we need a celebration or a rest?
  • Do we have the right people in place to keep moving the right things forward?
  • Are the financial resources still in place for the next piece?

3.   Ideological Change

Seth Godin in Tribes writes, “Ideas that spread, win…Do what you believe in. Paint a picture. Go there…The very nature of leadership is that you’re not doing what’s been done before. If you were, you’d be following, not leading.”

Ideology is belief that moves forward; it is vision turned into identity, capacity and destiny. Ideology clarifies, multiplies and solidifies.

  • You are immersed into Digital Transformation for a reason. How will people know, always, how these changes more firmly define them?
  • How will people experience greater growth themselves and, therefore, a sense of greater contribution than they have made before?

How do your ideas fulfill what your employees always hoped would be true of your company or of their talent?

Leaders craft change. They prune. They pace. They purposefully implement what is new.

But they must drive what has been designed. And that is Part 3.

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:

  1. Motivate
  • 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?
  1. Relate

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.

  1. Connect

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.

3 Shifts The CIO Must Master In Order To Provide Value

Don’t blink.

Change in your role as CIO is that fast. In seemingly no time, business departments are now employing their own IT staff. Those same departments are buying technology without consulting with you. Overall, you are making less IT decisions for the company, and much of your own IT work is being outsourced. The days of control have passed; the time of being only a cost center is in the history books. People are looking to you to be more than a Director of IT – and that is good news. You always have been more. Your love of what technology has longed for others to see its value. That day is here. But you must make some shifts, and you can’t wait to be invited to make them. You must demonstrate your value, or the thing you always knew technology could do will be entrusted to someone else.

Welcome to your new world of customer experience, data analysis and wise counsel.

The Shift to Customer Experience

Customer experience is the new brand differentiator. Price and product is becoming secondary to customer-business interaction. Consumers will pay more out of brand loyalty if such loyalty is rooted in experience; and one bad experience not handled to a customer’s satisfaction will be the end of the loyalty.

As CIO, you must now be aware of every customer’s touchpoint with the company, and how your technology meets customers at each point. To demonstrate your value, you must engage in multiple department interaction. Understanding the end user experience, and how each department feeds into that, you are now the champion of how technology serves their strategies. In this, you are aware of how changes in technology and new proposals for technology affect each department’s performance.

You are not just a cost center; you are a revenue driver. Over half the projects consuming the attention of a Chief Experience Officer involves technology.

The days of the CIO and IT staff being brought late into strategic development are far behind you. You must seat yourself at the table, in the beginning, designing the customer journey and being the champion each department needs for technology’s implementation.

The Shift to Data Analysis

Just like that, data is seated on the throne. As CIO, you are now a critical player in digital strategy. You do not need to be the Chief Digital Officer, a position that 90% of global companies will have in place by next year. But you do need training in analytics.

As a CIO trained in analytics, you further equip yourself to be a data source that helps departments solve problems. Your primary role is moving from a permission-giver (the old cost center mindset) to a prophet: Because of data, you can see what is needed before others, you can warn of regrettable actions departments might take, and you can direct leaders to the most efficient, cost-effective and customer-centric options available to them.

The Shift to Wise Counsel

The CIO now represents a consultative relationship rooted in strategic relevance. You have the opportunity to use your IT knowledge to inform better decisions. You are now more than bits and bytes. You create a digital, optimum performance place of work.

As CIO, you must be consulted on significant technical spending. There are aspects of past responsibilities that will remain in play. But you must also inform marketers what technology is capable of, and in places where technology, marketing, customer experience, sales and services seem blurred, emerge as the one to whom others turn for sound advice.

You live in an interesting tension. The CIO today that clings to the old model of business will find that people will look for ways to avoid them and get around them. Today, the CIO is a peer strategist and team player. IT is not a necessary evil; it serves every department in quest of the mission. To succeed, to demonstrate your continued value, you must shift into areas foreign to your previous job descriptions. You are now the heart of every customer experience; you are the knowledge pool of business decision making; you are the sage who has stepped out of the shadow to guide the many.