Succeeding in digital transformation

October 22, 2017

Paved with digitally literate people who make individual efforts

The digital generation wants real-time experiences that inflexible production units cannot provide. No matter how good the digital division is.

Imagine the businesses of the industrial revolution had set up “efficiency departments” to deal with the demands of the new era. What strikes us as ridiculous in historical hindsight—clearly, efficiency and automation were goals that required businesses as a whole to take action—seems to be perfectly adequate when it comes to meeting the challenges of digital transformation. Far from it: Such an approach is not workable.

When we talk about (digital) transformation, we talk about organizations that are changing as a whole: They are transitioning from the age of optimization to the age of customization. In real time, that is—lest things become too easy. In order to get there, two parallel modi operandi are required: control and creativity. There have to be standardized processes on the one hand, and a clearly formulated purpose and agile structures on the other. What is needed in between is people who have the skills and the courage to constantly decide what is required. And executives who encourage and enable this agility.

Somebody is working on a tablet
Digital transformation causes the change of the whole organization in real time. Foto © CC0 License

From a culture of zero defects to experimentation

The loss of control that comes with experimentation is painful for many executives who cringe when they hear “fail fast, fail cheap”. The culture of zero defects, which Austria is particularly fond of, guarantees, first and foremost, one thing: zero room for variation, experimentation, testing and thus learning. Entrusting subordinate social-media departments with managing the golden opportunity to connect with communities is consistent with this philosophy. That said, interacting with current and prospective customers and potential employees is THE chance for businesses to constantly put out feelers in their communities. They can reach out to them with a view to learning and putting solutions to the test. Moreover, they can stimulate interaction and demand by providing impetus. It goes without saying that, in doing so, businesses have to treat their communities as equal partners. In this day and age, designing holistic customer experiences, rather than just developing products, makes all the difference when it comes to winning the race for customer attention and, ultimately, to achieving business success.

New structures for the age of cooperation

This is precisely why it is no longer enough to have a digitally literate communications department: Businesses cannot tap into (communicative) opportunities in real time unless there is cooperation across silos. These new structures will give businesses the agility they need to cope with the enormous pressure for change, making it possible for them to not just re-act to disruptive phenomena. New leadership skills are needed for the big vision that is the age of cooperation to become a reality. Without too much respect for the complexity of this day and age, each and every one has to make an effort to tap into the new opportunities. A lifelong commitment to honing one's leadership skills is part and parcel of this process: The first step is to gain a clear understanding of one's leadership drivers and enrich them in a focused manner so as to become able to take situationally appropriate action. A solid basis for this is provided by non-violent communication, which is about expressing one's needs without introducing judgment or evaluation, and which does not overlook the individual (as is, alas, the case with, for instance, holacracy, a currently extremely popular approach). The next step is to develop one's leadership style with a view to being able to provide leadership during all the different stages of the rapid process of change.

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