The Digital Transformation Journey
Once I was having a chat with my friends and we were joking about the digital transformation claims of different companies. One of my friends shared a story.
Two or three years back he joined a company ( A pretty big IT services Company) and there was one part in the induction program called “ The Digitalization Journey of the company”
My friend was eagerly looking forward to that session and surprisingly that ended up being the fastest session in the onboarding process.
The Digital Transformation Officer came for the session and opened up his slide
In fact, he had only two slides in his presentation (One heading and one content slide)
He said “ Hi guys Digitalization is a dream and buzz word for every company. It was the same for us. We were thinking about it for a long time!”
Then he showed the second slide which was a small video (2minute 30 sec) showing the employees using systems, Company infrastructure, and other digital platforms”
Then he concluded saying:
“One day we decided that we will become digital and then we became digital’
That is it! It was that easy.
What do you think?
If it was that easy then why many companies fail in digital initiatives or digitalization?
The company is a group of different functions which is indeed is a group of different people. So when a company decides to change they need to change from the root. I.e. people and process.
This is one of the core reasons for the success of any digital transformation initiatives.
The majority of the companies which are trying for digital transformation were following the old factory model working of 8 hours per day with all the dirty hierarchy which you could ever imagine.
Hierarchy is like the “Apple which is given to Adam and Eve!”.
Its like Dope, once you get the kick of it people will chase behind that. During the journey will also make sure that their route to the top of the corporate ladder and the chain below is maintained. So they will always remain relevant and important in the organization.
This, in turn, will result in an approval process. As the hierarchy grows the time taken for any small approval will automatically increase.
I will tell you another story about a friend of mine.
He joined as Chief Digital Transformation Officer in a company. For some initiative, he needed two white tables and four chairs in the big room near to the warehouse.
He called up the office boy and asked him:” Could you please arrange this in the room we have a meeting at this time.”
The next day he thought of checking the room but, the tables and chairs were not there.
He called up the office boy again:
“What happened, where are the tables and chairs?”
Office boy replied “ Sir, you have to send a mail to the Facilities Manager and he needs to approve that, then only I can provide”
He straight away sent the mail to the “ Facilities Manager “
There was no reply from this guy for two days. So he decided to pop into his big cabin.
He introduced himself and mentioned about the mail he sent.
The facilities manager replied: “ Who are you?”
He explained he is so and so and his role.
Facilities manager “ But Who are you to send that mail to me,? When you join a company you need to first learn the hierarchy, I don’t report to you. We have a process for doing everything here. As per the process you have to send the request to the CEO because you are reporting to the CEO. Then send me that approval mail”
He continued: “Our SLA is 2 days after that approval. So no use of popping into my room.”
I consider this as a classic example of the bad effects of hierarchy.
So the first thing to change is the Hierarchy and Mindset of people
When you closely observe any process you will realize that majority of them are just a CYA ( Cover Your Ass) strategy.
Hierarchy creates insecurity and politics which will result in loss of trust among colleagues and departments.
So change the CYA process to ESW (Expose strength and weakness ) process.
Companies should start considering people as there core assets ( many are saying this in papers and presentations, But what I mean is “from the heart”).
Richard Branson once said: “ Clients don’t come first. Employees do. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. “
This plus ESW is the key mantra for digital transformation.
People will be honest only if they trust the person next to him. You will open up only if you trust someone. No one will figure out your strengths or weakness till you open up
Once your college knows your strength and weakness then it's easy to share the work and support each other.
So second is build up this culture ( we need a separate write up to explain further on this)
Rewards and Recognition:
Getaway with rewards and recognition. There is no point in awarding the best performer because we work as a team and the team is as fast as your slowest member.
So the role of everyone is to support each other and bring everyone to the same speed. When you start recognizing one person you are actually hurting 90% of others (because we are humans we have egos and others will start finding ways in that cooperate ladder).
This is the reason why many Agile organizations are finding it easy to do Digital transformation.
But what the hell is this Digital Transformation! ?
“It’s the Integration of Digital technologies into all areas of business which will result in changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. This start with cultural, status quo change sand getting comfortable with failures”
We briefly touched upon the people's change. Now I want to briefly touch upon the failures.
What’s the acceptance rate of Failure in a Hierarchy driven traditional company?
Every failure will be marked in the yearly review and will be cross-questioned during the appraisal meetings and you can even fall in PIP ( Performance Improvement Plan) because of failure.
PIP is another funny process. “ It’s as if like we are machine just tune the engine and it will perform better.”
Oh please!!, Please learn to consider your employees are humans.
Because of this every individual and every department fears failure. We have to break this dirty chain.
We are humans and we are bound to make mistakes. Human nature is to make mistakes and learn from mistakes. That is how we learned to walk, eat, talk, etc and it’s going to be the same for Work.
So we have to accept failure, but make sure you are failing fast and learning fast. Once we start accepting failures people will be more willing to take up new initiatives and this will result in new ideas, new products, new ways of doing business, etc.
According to the Digital Transformation Officer in my friend’s company, it was so easy to transform the company:
“One day they decided that they will become digital and then they became digital “,
Realistically this won't work.
I am not saying these alone will make you digital. There are other reasons like silent disagreements in the management layer, failing to take the iterative approach, belief that buying a platform will transform, and many others. But the ones I mentioned above are some of the basic things to start with. It’s a long journey that will force you to change many of your behaviors, process, systems, also embark and respond to changes quickly.
If you really want to transform, then be brave and be ready for the change.