Sunday, June 7, 2015

Digital Master Tuning #95: A Bimodal Digital Organization - How to Strike the Right Balance between Agility and Stability

Change is not for its own sake, it’s the means to the end, not the end.

Organizations large or small are on the journey to digital transformation, the paradox is that you need to keep the light on to maintain the stability, but also be adaptive to the changes caused by digital disruption with increasing speed. Hence, many businesses just have to run the bi-modal mode: the industrial speed to do what they always do, and the digital speed by leveraging innovation to experiment the new way to do things. But philosophically and methodologically, what’s the right balance between being quick to adopt new methods and risking them for failing, and sticking with tried and tested ones and risking them becoming obsolete? Or more broadly speaking, how to strike the right balance between agility and stability?

"Test and Learn": Quickly adopt new methods until the time you have achieved a tried and tested method that meets the objective of what you are trying to achieve. And stop when new methods don't take you significantly closer to your objectives. It is ingrained in the business. So when you want to roll out economic transparency, which they eventually brand with committed engaged owners, you can try several pilot operations, testing the concept. You then refine the process from what you learn and move ahead. This mitigates the risk but also gets started right away, learning by doing.

To innovate an enterprise must be willing to fail: Decide whether the possible gains will outweigh the probable losses. If you don't cultivate an atmosphere that fosters some risks, then you will stagnate. It's never just about trying and learning, and it's never just the "new and risky" that works. It is insight and foresight and the ability to integrate knowledge from both. The thing to do is to drop the fear and grab the rope and swing out over the water and let go, have faith in your planning and execution, and the ability of the people you are working with to get it done and make sure in your planning, you have thought forward about the possible snags and planned accordingly. Some say the right balance is always an elusive thing. Sometimes things go smoothly, other times not so much. Being willing to dive in rather than just dip your toes is sometimes needed even if you are scared. Fear of new things is often the biggest enemy. Most of the people, including leaders, often find themselves playing it safe and spending too much time trying to weigh risks and outcomes.

Change is not for its own sake, it’s the means to the end, not the end. Some things should stay. The old cliché of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater springs to mind. Some things should change. Rational people within the particular business should be aware of that, and always, always frame and ask the right question before embarking. Sometimes change becomes an end in itself, and the question, "Do we need this change?" is seldom asked. Largely through fear. Who dares question the inviolable mantra that change must happen? Incidentally, why do Change Managers always wear a synthetic, exaggerated, fixed smile? Is it part of the training process? Maybe that should change as well. The point is to keep in mind about the reasons behind the changes. "Do we need this change?" but also realize that necessary change is inevitable no matter how you feel. Often the balance lies between the control you desire to have and the willingness to take the leap of faith that might lead to even greater things.

For many businesses, especially legacy organizations, it is necessary to keep stable processes to run the business as always. However, to move up business maturity from efficiency, to effectiveness, and to agility, their focus should shift from process to execution via eliminating bureaucracy. So you even need more creativity - the innovative mode to provide agile and flexible products and service and build up competitive uniqueness for business to compete in the long term.


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