Thursday, June 13, 2019

Applying Strategic Thinking Principles to Drive Digital Transformation

Apply strategic thinking principles to broaden their outlook, envision the bigger picture, keep the end in mind.

In the digital era, any business can be at risk for survival at any minute due to continuous digital disruptions and change as the new normal with a faster pace and broader spectrum. Digital leaders and professionals must be comfortable with “VUCA” reality, apply strategic thinking principles to broaden their outlook, envision the bigger picture, keep the end in mind in order to drive digital transformation in a structural way.

Strategic thinking encourages to think about the future by exploring the “WHY” factor: Change is just the vehicle to elevate you toward the ultimate destinations. Thus, it’s critical to apply strategic thinking - keeping the end in mind. The change should never happen for its own sake without figuring out the big “WHY” part of the change. Change cannot completely be manipulated from top-down, the transformative change and leapfrog improvement have to deprogram the outdated mindsets, old traditions or the voices from the past and embrace digital mentalities, norms or behaviors. When organizations heavily focus on “how” - the action part of changes without clarifying big “why,” they lose sight of the purpose of changes. The digital leaders who are equipped with strategic thinking can inject passion by exploring “why” factor, build a comprehensive change roadmap and keep things on track to ensure that every process, every expenditure of time, money, energy and every assignment of resources should directly relate back to the “WHY.’ It’s important to work on a fairly comprehensive change management model that views change and transformation as different points along a continuum with very different tools and competencies needed along the way.

Strategic thinking deals with discovering novel ideas or rewriting the rules of the competitive game: Digital transformation is the large scale change which needs to adjust the underlying business structures, processes, or cultures. Thus, fundamentally, it is the strategic business game and leadership involvement is a must. The transformative leaders have to set fair principles, or if necessary, rewrite the rules for guiding changes, discover and embrace novel ideas and strike the right balance between the new way and the old way to do things. By following the digital principles, the business lifecycle could be viewed as resulting in emergent means of reorganizing, refocusing, rebalancing resources, restructure, and redirecting people to understand the whole to ultimately reach the well-set vision. In Change Management practices, it’s not so easy for a set of principles defined that can be applied holistically. Their content perhaps contains natural conflict, and without a method of prioritizing and implementing them consistently, they become a source of contention. Therefore, it’s important to figure out a pragmatic way of applying the well-defined principles to solve problems in a consistent manner, otherwise, it’s a waste of effort to even state them.

Strategic thinking is more about making decisions directly towards achieving defined outcomes as a purposive activity: Change or innovation requires a goal to get started and solve emergent problems. Digital leaders should always stay focus on the big picture of the business, leverage and prioritize and ensure that the business transformation is on the right track to achieve well-defined goals. In practice, there are numerous barriers or hidden pitfalls on the way to fail the change, such as lack of direction, fear of unknown, culture inertia, dysfunctional systems, misaligned processes, unhealthy competition, status quo, poor judgment, overly rigid hierarchy or mistrust. Thus, change leaders need to apply strategic thinking to keep the end in mind, ensure they set clear goals that have business purpose first as well as getting people evolved and clarify what needs to be done, overcome all sorts of obstacles and laser focus on solving problems and achieving measurable outcomes as purposive activities. Do not think measurement as a change management mechanism only, ensure having a goal that has the business purpose first. If at some intermediate performing stage, change management measures something that is not congruent with the final outcome, and then, dysfunctional behavior arises, change might not get sustained, and potentially diminishing the end-to-end change performance.

The digital transformation is costly and it’s a long journey full of uncertainty, velocity, complexity, and ambiguity. But it's worthy of its weight because of its high impact on the business’s long-term prosperity. Organizational management has to apply strategic thinking and various digital thought processes to understand issues holistically, take a step-wise approach to manage changes, continue assessing, fine-tuning and adapting.


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