Sunday, October 21, 2018

Five Steps to Achieve Digital Breakthrough

As uncertainties are a common occurrence in any walk of our progress, the business leaders and their team cannot afford to be unprepared for the challenging task of facing the “VUCA” digital reality. 

Today’s organization is an organic living thing thriving at the expanded business ecosystem. Digitalization disrupts not only the functional and business boundary but also industry and geographical territories. Digital management is responsible for designing, enabling, energizing, and enforcing a collaborative, innovative, intelligent, inspiring and inclusive working environment. With increasing pace of changes and frequent disruptions, making incremental improvement only is perhaps not fast enough. Here is the five-step scenario to make a leap for achieving the digital breakthrough.

Practice “Out-of-the-box” thinking: Breakthrough progress starts at the mindset level. The power of thinking is fundamental to all collective progress we’ve been made. To break down silos and outdated knowledge, shaping the bigger, much bigger box of thinking is evolutionary to solve problems at the cognitive level. The mind is the storehouse of thoughts and experiences. To keep the mind fresh, today’s digital leaders and professionals must continue updating their knowledge, gaining insight, practicing how to tap into their most powerful and brilliant mode of thinking anytime, anywhere, and under any circumstances. Only fresh thoughts help to resolve emerging situations, and through applying the new found insight and accumulated experiences, the mind crafting, in turn, becomes the reservoirs for resolving the next ‘situation’ with fresher thoughts. To achieve the digital breakthrough, it’s important to build an innovative workforce which continues to depoliticize working culture, dismantle bureaucracy, encourage creativity and risk-taking, leverage multiple choices, think out of the box, pack it in a new box which then creates breakthrough solutions to either new or existing problems. Today's problems become more complicated in the ever-changing world, collective thinking and creativity can lubricate idea flows and digital breakthrough.

Make the “art of possible” strategy: The digital business is very complex, the leaders need to diagnose the core issues they have in their organizations, observe, perceive, and pay attention to the myriad of internal, external, national, or global forces that define and influence the way they do business these days. Making the “art of possible” strategy means businesses will set aggressive enough mid or long-term goals to inspire and motive, rejuvenate their workforce to achieve high performance and unlock their potential. “The art of possible” strategy is not based on the mirage but on a set of differentiated digital capabilities because business breakthrough and digital transformations are not something every business can accomplish, you have to systematically develop and sharpen those abilities which cannot be built overnight. Strategic planning is paramount but, in an uncertain time, this should go hand in hand with contingency planning around “what if” scenarios. The goal of digital management is to build a robust business which is able to recover quickly from adverse and unpreventable conditions; innovative, flexible, resilient, and well positioned to explore “the art of possible,” to improve and deploy countermeasure against threats.

Manage the flawless execution: With increasing paces of changes and continuous disruptions, the digital strategy implementation are not linear steps, but an iterative continuum. Most strategies that do fail, it fails not because the fundamental strategy is flawed, but because of poor execution of an otherwise sound strategy, through misalignment and miscommunication. Managing the flawless execution is challenging, the heavy lifting starts as a firm aligns resources, processes, talent and executes, makes effective decisions and improves the strategic responsiveness of the organization. From the business management perspective, it means to have the right people getting the right information to make the right decisions timely. Strategic responsiveness is the ability to process business information almost real time; break down silos, communicate and collaborate with business counterparts, dig through the real business problems and fix them. The challenge for organizations is to manage its portfolio of relevant cross-border strategic synergies and organizational interdependence, laser focusing on the top priority issues and maintain the digital balance, fine-tune the organizational structure, improve changeability, engage people to deliver quality products or services, and achieve operational excellence.

Strengthen the weakest link - people: People are always the most invaluable asset but the weakest link in organizations. The talent gap (both cognition and skills gap) is the reality, not a fiction. Thus, strengthening the people link is a crucial step to achieve the digital breakthrough. The part of the digital transformation journey is to prepare people for the new structures and to recognize this is a crucial step. As the digitized world becomes hyper-connected, over-complex and interdependent, the bar is actually raised higher either being a digital leader or being a digital professional. The workplace needs to be designed to help employees at all levels within an organization (from top leaders to front-line employees) to sharpen digital mindset, understand and develop their creative capacity to solve problems and explore opportunities in new and innovative ways. In reality, most organizations today are process and control driven, but building people-centric changeability is a prerequisite for adapting to business dynamic. It’s important to develop the process of a corporate pulse that identifies where the pulse, passion, motivation, and commitment of the organization lies, and who embodies it. Organizational development and people management need to manage the conflict between the classic style and the digital style of the management to achieve the business breakthrough by the alignment of people, process and technology and applying the new methodologies and practices to achieve the digital breakthrough.

Play the number game wisely: You can only manage what you measure. A performance measurement system is a necessary foundation for continuous improvement, also critical for making the digital breakthrough. More precisely, it is not the measurement that is important; it is what you do with the data obtained from the measurement, to improve business responsiveness and develop organizational competency. In fact, it is dangerous to impose metrics just because the focus on what’s measurable is manageable. Managers need to ponder: How do you design metrics to measure what changes and how these changes are measured? What are the relevant metrics and how can they be quantified and validated? All indicators must be related to the outcomes identified in the organization's strategic plans. Performance metrics setting needs to strike the right balance of transactional measures and transformational measures. It’s important to link lower level metrics with higher level strategic objectives. Every measure selected should be part of a link of cause-and-effect relationships, and ultimately, affect the growth and long-term perspective of the organization.

As uncertainties are a common occurrence in any walk of our progress, the business leaders and their team cannot afford to be unprepared for the challenging task of facing the “VUCA” digital reality. Digital organizations arise when the scale of the interrelations, interactions, or interrelational interactions brings the new cycle of business growth and the next level of organizational maturity. The challenge for today’s business leaders is to be well prepared, take the dynamic approach with logical steps to achieve the digital breakthrough and move forward confidently.


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