2 ideas to inoculate the digital transformation virus in your company

We keep on repeating that digital transformation is key for companies. But we actually fail to explain what is key to digital transformation: People & soft skills.

The prerequisite is culture

Most of the digital transformation effort is about culture.

  • You don’t actually change a culture by talking about technology,
  • You don’t make people to willingly change by scaring them (and digital stuff they are not familiar with are scary).
  • You don’t lead change with authority but by example
  • You don’t benefit from example unless your organization is liberated
  • You don’t free an organization, unless you work on its culture

What does your company culture encourages people to do?

Innovate or consolidate?

  • Innovation is about taking risk for the future
  • Consolidating is looking at the past with a conservative view.

Most culture encourage people to consolidate. Which is going to be an obstacle if you need to move forward.
You need to unlock your culture.

Flexibility required

The digital transformation is about taking advantage of the new technology in combination with your assets in order to develop your next ones (the ones needed to survive in the digital world). That requires a mental ability to visualize the change. It also requires flexibility to proceed with the needed changes.

Your positioning will certainly need to evolve. And so will the competences required to move forward.
And this is not optional. To continue to serve your clients, you can’t stay still.

Inoculating change with a trick

Giving a physical dimension to change

I very much like this idea that if you wish people to evolve in their thinking process, they have to move. When I say move, I say physically move.
The body and mind actually work together. If you ever get stuck on something, start to walk And you will see that your brain is going to flourish with ideas. If you move your body, your ideas will move too. So, if you wish your people to change their perspective and come up – willingly – with new ideas, have them move around.

Here are 2 examples, I came across during the @leadersparis conference, that gives some concrete hints on how to do it softly.

Idea number 1: Doing more with less

Sony Music was in a difficult phase. Pressure on budget was so high. The french subsidiary ended up having contradictory needs like reducing its headcount while developing its position at the same time.
The boss had an impossible puzzle to solve. Make more with way less.

His idea?
If I cannot change inside, maybe I can show change outside.
His assumption was that many other Directors were probably in the same situation: facing digital transformation issues while under budget pressure. So he cam up with the idea to exchange work forces.

3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months.
Each company keeps on paying for its own employees.
Each company ensures employees comeback in the very same conditions.

Once fear disappeared, people started to see interest, and started exchanges.

The interesting thing is that each employee brought his fresh eyes, his questions, his ideas and experience to an entirely new ecosystem. Not only does it unlock potential in the new company, but it also empowered and motivated both teams. As soon as the employee returned full of fresh ideas and discovering new ones (from the one who took his position) motivation grew and digitale transformation started (credits for this story @emmanuelVivier).

Idea number 2: The quest challenge

People in companies will be eager to follow the company development provided it is well prepared and well explained. The most difficult part is management because for them a lot is at stake. Most of them are evaluated on providing stability and predictability. And well, change, is anything but status quo.

Well Philipps did get that. They offered to all their managers a passeport.

This passeport was issued with objectives to fill. Like if on a trip with « stamples » to collect. Moving to other places and meeting new people, discovering new projects and ask questions. And people loved it.
As moving was rewarded, they took the challenge and met people and asked questions.
And it happened.

People started to ask question as per the passeport required but as answers were not exactly what they expected, they started to dig. And asked more questions. Challenged the answers. And change happened.

Their findings led them to ask questions, to reflect on the challenges in their own divisions, but also to provide interesting insights, And when they returned in their division, ideas were flowing.

135 projects got deployed.
Across 17 markets and 11 business groups.

The results

Leading change

Change is not going to happen if you just ask and pray for it to happen.

You need to:

  • Set the appropriate cultural conditions
  • Get top management sponsorship
  • Challenge people to move outside of their comfort zone
  • Reward exploration and findings
  • Encourage and support their creativity

It is about trust and freedom. It is also about recognizing each of your employee ability to bring in disruptive ideas provided you create the good conditions for them to explore and try.

Make them see new things, travel, move because when they will return at their desk, they will see their place with entirely new eyes.

Changing is not going to happen overnight but it is not a fate either.
Issue traveling papers and opportunities and people will move by themselves…without even having the feeling they changed 🙂

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