Over the last weeks we discussed that most companies know they have to adapt and evolve to compete in a digital economy and that the very mention of the term «digital transformation» creates fear and apprehension among the most seasoned managers and business leaders.
There’s no doubt that the notion of digital transformation can be daunting — but it doesn’t have to be. We also discussed that digital transformation is based on a common set of elements, #1 being to envision the digital future of your organization, #2 closing the gap between designing and delivering a strategy that works and #3 invest big in digital initiatives and skills.
#4 Lead the change from the top
Top-level vision rarely translates to local-level action unless reinforced through top-down communication and governance. Consistent engagement, backed with appropriate coordination, KPIs, and incentives, make the difficult process of transformation possible.
Communication is arguably the most important part of leading through transformations. It can also be the hardest. Without being able to educate, inspire, and persuade, you will have an incredibly hard time getting them on board with your objective. Your change management plan needs to include a strategy for communication. The communication needs to start even before you implement your change management plan.
When you’re communicating about the change, you need to emphasize on the following questions: What the change is going to be and how it’s going to impact the team? How is it going to make the organization stronger, how it’s going to benefit your team and what are the steps to implementing the plan.
Effective communication is one of the most powerful ways to build a happy team. It shows them that you care about how they feel. It can also help you ease some of their fears. When you’re planning for your change, make sure you include a communication plan.
But Communication isn’t just about talking to your team. It’s also about listening. You need to show that you’re willing to receive feedback and suggestions from your team members. You can’t lose sight of the «human» aspect of the change. Understand that some members of your team will feel certain emotions through the process. Some of them will never buy in. As the leader, you need to know that most people fear change. Fear will be the reason for much of the resistance that you will experience.
Transitions are hard. People want to cling to what they have always known. Your team needs to know that you are there to hear their concerns. Invite their feedback. They may even have helpful suggestions that can help with the transition. Having a collaborative and empathic attitude is the key to earning their trust.
One more thing…
Many strategy execution processes fail because many organzations don’t have anything worth executing. The strategy consultants come in, do their «work», and document the new strategy in a lengthy PowerPoint presentation and a weighty report. Town hall meetings are organized, employees are told to change their behavior, balanced scorecards are reformulated, and budgets are set aside to support initiatives that fit the new strategy. And then — nothing happens.
One major reason for the lack of action is that «new strategies» are often not strategies at all. A real strategy involves a clear set of choices that define what your organization is going to do and what it’s not going to do. Many strategies fail to get implemented, despite the ample efforts of hard-working people, because they do not represent a set of clear choices.
There are usually different ways of doing things, and there is seldom one perfect solution, since all alternatives have advantages and disadvantages — whether it concerns an organization’s structure, incentive system, or resource allocation process. We often resist change unless it is crystal clear that the alternative is substantially better. For a successful strategy implementation process, however, it is useful to put the default the other way around: Change it unless it is crystal clear that the old way is substantially better. Execution involves change. Embrace it.