Here, we hear the story about the secret ingredient for successful digital transformation, as engagingly told by Mark Vincent, Owner of Applied Change Ltd
“Success leaves clues” – Jim Rohn 1
It’s February 2019, and Sal is in Manhattan, New York, in a state-of-the-art 60-story building about 5 minute’s walk from Broadway. It’s a gloriously sunny day outside, yet Sal’s mood is precisely the opposite; all he can think about is this next meeting with Miranda.
What is the secret of successful digital transformation?
Sal is a 45-year-old programme leader, a confident and strong-willed high achiever, slightly resembling a young Italian version of Tom Jones. Over the past few years, he’s delivered one of the most transformative changes this global music company has seen, consolidating all the local European country teams into one technology platform and common process.
They are now managing inventory better, serving their customers better, and building stronger relationships with their suppliers and distribution partners. The programme has already paid for itself in smarter buying practices alone, driven by much better-quality data. They are spending less time on administrative tasks and using that time to get creative with their customers, suppliers and each other. They are finding ways to get smarter, faster and more efficient. Sal’s reputation has been growing rapidly, along with his feeling of confidence in his ability to deliver real change. Today, he’s not feeling confident.
The room is drab and stuffy from the late working of many people the night before, evidenced by the coffee cups and pizza boxes strewn around. It’s in the basement, so no natural light creates an eerie and depressing atmosphere.
His mouth feels dry. How has it come to this? It’s been building for some time, and the meeting they have just come from was even more techy than usual.
In she comes, Miranda, the intimidating CFO of the U.S. business entity, “Devil Wears Prada”, he thought to himself to try to lighten his mood. Sitting down opposite, she peers at him through thick-rimmed rectangular glasses, breathes slowly and then goes straight in:
“How did you think this was going to go? I’ve told you we’re different here; the U.S. market is different; our suppliers and customers are different.”
Sal tries to rescue the situation: “If we customise the system as you’re suggesting, you’ll end up exactly as you are today, but with a new IT system, you won’t get the benefits we’ve achieved everywhere else, and it will take us another nine months!”
Miranda fires right back: “The risk to our local business is too big, and if anything goes wrong, it will be on my shoulders. I’m not prepared to accept that risk, and I’m not convinced we need to change to that extent, not right now anyway, so I’m going to block the go-live till those customisations have been made.”
She pauses slightly, then in it comes: “And I’d like you to hand over responsibility to Ben from my team”.
“People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.” – Charles F. Kettering 2
At this point in time, for Miranda and her team, self-protection and preserving the status quo were more compelling than truly transforming what they do. This part of the business was in steep decline, so radical change was a sensible answer, at least rationally.
However, within the context of an otherwise successful overall business, it just wasn’t compelling or urgent enough for Miranda and her team to take any risks. They perceived that, at a personal level, they had more to risk than to gain. In a culture where trust is low and personal stakes are high, this creates a handbrake for any transformational change.
Most importantly, they didn’t feel they owned the change; it felt to them like someone else’s change. It felt like the change was being forced on them, being done to them.
“People don’t resist change – they resist being changed” – Peter Senge 3
In Europe, Sal had built trusted relationships with the executive teams, having them closely involved throughout. They all agreed with the imperative to increase efficiency and protect the margins of the physical business, whilst improving customer service levels. They agreed that consolidation and digitisation were the best way forward, removing the duplication and waste resulting from their legacy approach of operating differently in each country. They felt part of deciding their future. They owned it.
Exploring what a successful digital transformation means With digital transformation, it can be tempting to focus on technology and to believe that great technology will drive the change. It’s a common mistake that often comes with a high cost.
The real transformation happens within the people using the technology.
People re-imagine how they do their work. People find better and more efficient ways to deliver a great customer experience. People get creative on how to interact with each other in a way that delivers even more value for the organisation.
They do that when they feel engaged, and empowered and have a strong sense of ownership towards the outcome. When they feel part of designing their future and, above all else, when they feel psychologically safe enough to try something that might not go as well as planned. That’s the real transformation.
About Change Journey Navigator
Change Journey Navigator has been uniquely designed to bring measurement and focus to the human component of change. You will be able to see clearly where to focus your attention to increase engagement and ownership in your transformation, leading to better outcomes, a faster pace and a far lower risk of attrition and burnout.
For more information or to try the free version go to: https://appliedchange.co.uk/unleash-digital-transformation/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.