You are becoming a digital business. You are on a journey.
One thing is clear. It is very clear. Many things need to change.
That is very disruptive for our people. Fear and resistance are natural. It can feel like too much is happening too fast. The concerns of our people are real.
As leaders, we know we need some kind of approach to “change management”. In a pinch, we give it a shot. The press of the tactical operations usually cloud it over pretty quickly. We move on.
It is a sign of leadership to know when you need help. There is plenty of help available. Digital business is going to happen in our companies.
Here are a couple of ideas about how to approach the massive change needed:
- Admit, to yourself, and to others, you need help.
- Spend time every week getting help.
- Ask lots of questions. One primary question is, “If you were CEO, what would you do?”
- Figure out what the goal is.
- Create some rough strategies to test out.
- Get more help!
This is about a persistent approach to strategy, people and process. It is about real communication and collaboration. It is about a long term commitment to managing change and not putting our heads in the sand, think all the trauma will go away. It won’t.
Primarily, this is really about the human dimension. It is about the overall business ecosystem. We have to put our people first and we need as many as possible on board with where we are heading and how we will get there. If things change too fast for people or we are not taking into account the individuals that are touched, as well as their concerns, this can be a recipe for failure and at broader scale even resistance.
This gets back to “transformation” and the fear that strikes in our hearts. “Digital transformation” has a problem. Transformation means massive change or at least it sounds that way. If you said to your spouse, I want to fundamentally transform you, how do you think they would feel. It doesn’t sound good. At least it doesn’t when you are the other side and the one others want to change.
Transformation has a brother named Fear of Change. Most of us don’t like change. Say about 10% do and 90% are quite happy the way things are. Things are comfortable. Why do we need to change? What’s wrong with the way we are doing things today? Maybe just a few tweaks here and there.
Transformation also has a sister named Change Management. Change management is difficult because it starts with “the need” to change and the challenge of “I don’t want to”.
- Running a marathon is daunting. Two tenths of one percent of the U.S. adult population accomplish it annually.
- It may not seem worth it considering all the effort that will have to be put into it. I will have to get up early. Training will be painful. I won’t have time to do other things I am used to doing.
- Power walking a few days, like I am doing now, seems more attractive. A marathon runner only runs 3 miles a day on average (with one long run a week and 2 days of rest) to get ready for the 26.2 miles needed for the victory.
- It takes 18 weeks to get ready and finish.
The challenge with “change management” is that it is typically used on minor or small scale initiatives. Digital transformation is an extreme approach that is not easily achieved. It requires an approach to change that can handle massive number of initiatives and heavily culture oriented change.
There is an approach that may be helpful. It is called the “Agile Methodology” and it is used extensively in software development. Building a new application or significantly updating an existing one is an overwhelming task. This approach essentially breaks the massive number of tasks down into small deliverables that can be accomplished in three week increments. When you line up the sprints one after another, after a while you have made some significant changes. It is a little more complicated than I make it out to be but a fundamental level, the approach works.
If it wasn’t a “technology approach”, we would call it change management but that might be mislabeled as well. This methodology actually moves the ball down the field, incrementally, toward a touchdown.
The pace of change in the digital world can be dizzying for any executive. But it is especially critical for the CEO and other top managers to get a good grasp on this shift in order to make good decisions. However, often the biggest hurdle they face in their digital education is themselves. Ego, fear of failure and a reluctance to admit ignorance in front of subordinates can stymie an executive’s digital education. In the past, companies would just replace a CEO if the market changed. But digital shifts today are coming too swiftly – sometimes in a matter of months – so that it is not realistic to keep switching captains. That is why senior business leaders, as a first step, must admit that they need help and find ways to get it.