Challenging Change: The New Transformation Mindset
There are a huge number of ‘transformation’ programmes taking place across all industries at the moment – many of which will often fall under that magical term ‘digital transformation’ which we hear used so often – all aligned to driving businesses towards their future. What many organisations don’t appreciate is that any digital transformation programme is fundamentally another significant change programme, and often there are a number of these running simultaneously within an organisation.
So with ‘the future’ in mind, organisations are focusing on the main technology themes that we all anticipate will have a bigger impact on our respective industries over the next few years. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, and the Cloud of course are just a few that businesses are evaluating as enablers that could help to address opportunities and customer pain points.
However, if great technology on its own was enough to drive ongoing successful digital transformation, we may have stopped writing about the complexities of change programmes years ago! What’s been known for some time and yet in many situations continues to be an oversight is that the biggest challenges to overcome for technology driven change programmes are culture and behaviour – it’s much more about people and perception than methodology. Successful change is very much dependent on beliefs and behaviours, so it’s essential that everyone within an organisation has a shared belief when it comes to driving change and digital transformation initiatives forward.
All Change Please….but Mind the Gap
When it comes to ongoing digital transformation, where many organisations experience difficulty is having too many change programmes underway at any one time, particularly if the behaviours in those programmes conflict with those being demonstrated in another. This may cause them to lose sight of the importance of the culture within their organisation which is welcoming of change, which takes people on a journey and which supports them in making a move from the current to future state.
It’s incredibly important to begin by recognising all of the achievements which have led you to the success you’re having today. This allows your people to reflect and recognise exactly how the way you’ve done things in the past has driven successful outcomes. But it also gives them the chance to open their minds to consider that with different challenges ahead, it may not be those same things that drive future success. You may find it difficult to do this if you’re half way through several separate digital transformation programmes, or forced to begin another immediately without having a little time to consider what you learned.
Adopting an Open Mindset
To be successful in delivering now and in the future, we’re seeing companies looking both in the rear-view mirror and at the road ahead, but there’s balance required elsewhere too. There’s a need to balance a real clear vision for the business, the tools, systems and processes that accompany that vision with a laser focus upon the individuals that will drive you towards your vision.
There’s the need to open the mindset of your colleagues to change. Business change programmes can fail because this balance is out of kilter – you’ve no doubt got a group of extremely intelligent people in your teams, a clear strategy and yet you don’t achieve the successes you’d hoped for. We challenge the strategy, the decisions we’ve made perhaps around technology, we potentially add in further controls or processes, and yet we don’t always challenge whether we’ve done enough to prepare our people for change – to challenge limiting beliefs, to challenge behaviours that revert to the ‘old ways of doing things’ when things get tough.
Win or Learn, Not Win or Fail
For businesses and digital transformation programmes to succeed, accountability is key. It’s important to create a culture of leadership – where everyone in the business is a leader and taking accountability for making the ‘future state’ a reality. For this to happen, a culture of psychological safety is recommended, where people can be themselves, take risks, challenge the ways things are being done and feel comfortable providing feedback which will help colleagues, and therefore the business, to move forward.
Where this culture exists you’ll see people trying new things to take you towards your vision, taking calculated risks and recognising that you win or learn, not win or fail.
There is no significant change without some friction, and this is entirely normal. But with the right amount of focus on culture in place within an organisation, we can challenge change and shift the mindset of organisations from the past and present, to the future. Ongoing digital transformation will always present us with challenges, but if we can shift to this more considered, positive and accountable mindset, it is much more likely to lead to a more positive experience as well as more demonstrably successful digital transformation initiatives.
Gareth Cram is Director of Business Transformation TAA, Wolters Kluwer UK, and is responsible for delivering transformational digital and leadership services across Wolters Kluwer's UK tax and accounting software division. An inspired leader with a track record of delivering outstanding results over a 20 year period in customer service,...