Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Make Stride Toward Digital Transformation by Avoiding Three Traps

Change is functional. Transformation is structural. Both are manageable. 

Change is overwhelming. There are all sorts of changes - positive changes, negative changes, incremental changes and disruptive changes, change as a response to changing external conditions and changes that are initiated because of internal factors. Change you want and change that is forced upon you. Some change is inevitable and another change is elective. Sometimes change is the problem, sometimes lack of change is the problem, sometimes the lack of clarity to discern the difference is the problem. Therefore, change is complex and overall speaking, change management has a very low success rate. Forward-looking organizations across the vertical sectors are on the journey of strategy-driven digital transformation; it means that the company needs to reinvent itself, change to the fundamental business model, culture, or other critical business factors for reaching the next level of organizational growth and maturity.  It's a thorny journey, how to make a stride toward the seamless transformative change by avoiding traps and pitfalls on the way?

Tunnel vision trap: Change is never for its own sake; it’s important to set a clear vision about what you want to achieve. Digital transformation starts with the realization that you are currently can no longer deliver the business goals and reach the long-term vision of success for your company and your shareholders. Thus, the forward-looking view of transformative change is to determine what the future needs to look like, what the business transformation must look like, how to overcome barriers, close blind spots and deal with change inertia. Digital leaders today need to be constantly visible by sharing a clear vision and enabling others to share it as well. Because lack of vision, tunnel vision or “vision existing on the paper only” are all sorts of traps which mislead management, disable changeability, and decelerate business speed. When jumping into the “VUCA” digital new normal, by envisioning and focusing forward, business leaders are able to accurately judge the upcoming curves and obstacles on the path to go digital. In many organizations, tunnel vision is often caused by silo thinking, business leaders and decision-makers fail to fully grasp or perceive holistically about what leads to problems or difficulties. Often, they try to fix symptoms, not the real issues. No wonder their change efforts fail and their companies get stuck in the middle of going nowhere. The other vision-related trap is that business executives think vision is what their job is all about, and think that somehow if they have a vision, magically it will become a reality by those under them; unfortunately, in this case, vision becomes a mirage. The point is that leaders have to live and be the vision, it follows the wise saying: “ We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Change is constant, there is always something to learn anytime, but one must be present at the place and at the right position to improve vision every day.

Linear process trap: There is a multitude of changes such as organizational change, technological change, and behavioral change. There are various approaches to change such as planned change, unplanned change, imposed change, negotiated change, and participative change. Transformative changes are nonlinear and multidimensional, often take a holistic approach with iterative continuum. The more complex the change is, the more complex the solution could be. Taking a linear process to handle dynamic transformative change often won’t work, even becomes a trap of improving one part of an organization at the expense of other parts of the company; or winning the battle but losing the war. For the large scale transformative change, apply a well-designed framework, take an iteratively strategic planning process and be cognizant of change from the beginning. The management should incorporate some of the core change management principles into its approach by involving those responsible/needing to support the initiative in creating the desired changes. Fundamentally, change large or small is about solving problems. The ultimate goal of change and improvement should look beyond immediate problem resolution. The focus should include actions designed to sustain performance improvement and anchor change as a new opportunity. The highly changeable businesses are the ones that have learned “why” should change, “when” change is called for, "how" to decide “what” to change, “who” takes charge of changes, as well as “how” to measure the change outcome. Those are not some linear steps, but an iterative business continuum.

Mediocre culture trap: People are creatures of habit and change is stressful. They get used to the “comfort zone”; “change” is perhaps the last thing on their minds regardless of how enthusiastic the leadership team is. People often resist changing also because they don't understand how it is relevant to them and they are simply not ready for change psychologically. Thus, transformative changes must dig into the mindset level, overcome “the good enough mindset” or mediocre culture (the collective mindset) trap. Organizations today are a huge melting pot of employees with the very characteristics of hyper-diversity (multigeneration, multiculture, and multidevicing, multitasking, etc.). To drive change effectively, communication, exemplification, and amplification of the best practices are all crucial step in overcoming mediocrity and building a change-enabling culture. Because the transformative change needs to deprogram outdated mindset, let go of the “voice from the past,” reprogram people’s mind with digital thinking, norms, and attitudes, establish a new blueprint for how you want to co-create a brighter digital future collaboratively. Sustainable change success depends on professional qualities such as positive attitude, trust, teamwork, creativity, empathy, and learning agility, etc. Innovative leaders and change agents are in demand because they can think outside the box, stimulate creativity, drive changes, and nurture the culture of learning and innovation. Improvement is a form of change, change can also be leapfrogged into business transformation. A culture that enables constant improvement is the most valuable change engine you can build.

 It is nevertheless true that the change itself has become unpredictable and evolutionary. Closer to reality is that 'change' is continuously happening in such a dynamic environment of a company. The inevitable range, breadth, depth, and pace of uncontrollable factors acting on any organizations mean constant fine-tuning is essential. Change is functional. Transformation is structural. Both are manageable. With the right change leaders are in place at the right time in a business life cycle or condition, the digital transformation is natural and smooth. Change management needs to assess and evaluate every specific scenario to create the change program success without falling into those disastrous traps. Ultimately, the success of the transformative change program is measured by results that are important values to the organization - and the cultural adoption of these goals is part of that measure.


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