Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Leading Digital Transformation Steadfastly By Dealing with a Set of Paradoxes Smoothly

Going digital is a multidimensional pursuit to strike the right balance, embed digital into core organizational processes and build differentiated business competency to ensure long term business prosperity.

Digital transformation represents the next stage of business maturity, which will improve how the organization works and interacts with its ecosystem, making people at the center of its focus. There is no prescribed formula to digital transformation. Building the bridge between today and the future requires vision, enthusiasm, planning, capabilities, and actions. It’s important to strike the right balance of a set of paradoxes and commit to a more responsive way of working to lead digital transformation steadfastly.

Sameness and Difference: With the exponential growth of information and knowledge only a click away, we are stepping into the digital economy with the very characteristics of nonlinearity, diversification, interdependence, and hyperconnectivity, etc. The intensity of darkness varies with each of us, and so is our understanding and action under the same situation or different circumstances due to cognitive differences. Many say that the great minds think the same; it doesn’t mean they always think the same things; more about they can masterfully leverage logic and intuition to come up with the similar conclusion, even perhaps take a different approach to deal with challenging problems or make tough decisions. On the other side, it’s the era of innovation, creative tension comes from the diversity of thoughts, not through groupthink. It’s important to socialize with simular-minded talented people for deepening understanding of issues we are commonly interested in, but it’s also crucial to broaden the perspective by embracing the complementary mindset and figuring out alternative ways to do things. From the strategy management perspective, the different part of the organization needs to move in the same direction with a clarified and cohesive vision, a well-defined set of strategic core values, and expected behaviors. In this regard, sameness means harmony. But from a change management perspective, for many people, "sameness" is psychological security, change leads to psychological insecurity. Thus, they are getting stuck with the cozy “sameness” - “we always do things like this,” "the sameness vs. otherness" mentality stifles innovation and decelerates the speed of change. From the business management perspective, on one hand, organizations should apply industry best practices, settling for the expediency of other people’s ideas; on the other side, if you only work for the “best practice,” you will be at the average. Like individuals, each organization has its own innate strength and developed competency, sameness might help you not lag behind, but only difference or uniqueness can truly make you stand out.

Hardness and Softness: The hard technological forces continually push companies to reach the tipping point of digital transformation. The integrated business platforms and recombinant business competencies enable companies to deliver products, services with a faster delivery cycle. However, if you only take the hard and visible business factors such as process or technology alone as an element of the strategy execution, you may miss the point and head to the troubles, or things will be slow down again after adoption. From the management perspective, soft forces such as leadership, communication, or culture will become the key factors for the success of changes. The hard forces such as technologies are disruptive and push the organization to adapt to the dynamic environment. But it’s the soft business elements can truly touch the mind and heart, and make change sustainable. More often than not, soft overcomes hard, but it takes enormous strength to achieve it. “The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.” - Lao Tzu

Toughness and Kindness: Due to the complexity and ever-changing business dynamic with frequent disruptions, digital leaders today need to display the tough character, hard skills, and core professional competencies in order to become the effective business executive and strategic digital leader. It takes mental toughness to lead today’s complex business for managing orders from chaos, staying cool under the turmoil in the dynamic business ecosystem. However, the “command and control” type of toughness gradually lose its steam because you can control people’s behavior to a certain degree, but not their mind. The unprecedented convenience brought by digital technologies significantly change how people think and do things, as well as the style of leadership. Being tough is neither about rude nor about arrogance, it is about grit and resilience. Being a kind leader means to have the right mix of high IQ and EQ, apply positive thinking and professional attitude to make effective decisions and drive the business forward, not backward. Being kind doesn’t mean you cannot be tough, and being nice doesn’t mean you should compromise all the time. In fact, the mental toughness enables leaders to be kind with consistency, without losing the character or the very core of leadership - setting the right direction to make the progressive movement. To go broader and lead deeper, digital leaders need to manage multi-layer business relationships and play toughness and softness accordingly and master the art and science of modern leadership effortlessly.

Going digital is a tough journey. There are many curves and bumps on the road. It's important to create a structure that continually delivers what the business needs and maximizes the digital potential of the company. The digital transformation is not a single dimensional effort to applying the cool technologies or focus on short-term profitability only, but a multidimensional pursuit to strike the right balance, embed digital into core organizational processes and build differentiated business competency to ensure long term business prosperity.


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