The one and only constant in life is that there will always be change.
Yet, we bet if you could think of something that will cause an entire office to launch a series of eyerolls and questioning, introducing something new or different would top your list.
What makes change so scary? Why do many of us freeze in the face of doing things differently?
Now that we’re in the reconstruction phases of the COVID-19 whirlwind, that very well-known and well-avoided truism above is up, close, and personal for everybody – and many of us are left with “How will we adapt?”
Change is inevitable – there’s nothing left to do but face it.
Interestingly, the pandemic placed an even brighter spotlight on the need for digital adoption, with transformative culture at the helm. –Yes, transformation in more ways than one. What an ask?!
Yet, before organizations can entertain the possibility of either, openness to change must be a thing.
In this article, Principal Strategist of Digalyne Consulting, LLC, Ajia Allen, and Principal Consultant of KAVO Consulting, LLC, Karl Binns Jr., hunker down to spotlight two precarious hurdles that hold organizations back from becoming transformative – or at the very least – innovative with digital: lack of understanding about the purpose and poor change management.
Understanding the Purpose of Digital Transformation
When we hear the term “transformation” it can be misleading. It sounds more like a huge intimidating process rather than a strategic plan to fix something and add value. In truth, limited understanding for digital transformation is the precursor to disaster – and there have been plenty of disasters in transformation efforts to prove it.
On the flip side, learning and becoming comfortable with what “transformation” means lends itself to valuable outcomes for organizations of all sizes. Simply think of transformation as its three key components – problems, people, and processes. Here is what we mean by that:
Problems. You’re looking at the core internal and external problems that impact your organization, your departments, and your customers.
What challenges are consistently undermining business outcomes? What service areas are your competitors beginning to outpace? What are your customers’ frustrations?
People. You’re considering the people involved in day-to-day activity and interactions with your products and services.
What challenges are reducing innovation from your employees or teammates? What can add value to your customers’ experience?
Processes. You’re thinking about the functional and experiential areas that connect internal stakeholders to one another, to external stakeholders, and customers to products or services.
What areas lack efficiency? Is there centralization in data and analysis? What can add strategic value for the team? The organization?
Understanding how to view transformation in critical parts helps you determine the purpose of digital transformation. Purpose can start with any one of the three Ps and work its way outward.
You may be wondering what “people” have to do with digital anything, and if so, take another look at what we’ve determined transformation to be.
People are the cornerstone of transformation initiatives. Digital is merely a helping hand to deliver valuable outcomes faster, with precision. We hope by now you also recognize its value at all organizations, from small business to large enterprises, from team to team.
Let’s look at some examples:
Suppose your organization wished to reduce customer churn. A digital transformation initiative may invest in the build of a proprietary customer retention model or integrate a third-party SaaS product into your marketing stack.
Suppose your organization sought to gain new, fresh ideas for innovation to keep a leg up over the competition. A digital transformation initiative may look like the implementation of a cross-functional employee intranet that streamlines product or service design.
Digital transformation can start in small, but impactful ways. The key is to ensure that everyone understands its purpose, and there is a firm grasp on its holistic business value.
Notice emerging technologies do not have to overwhelm the start of digital transformation for there to be one.
So, what’s the big deal then? Why does it seem so difficult in the real-world?
The answer (at least one of them) is fear of change. It is critical to have a change management process that fosters stakeholder transparency and bridges understanding in purpose.
How to Implement Effective Change Management
"Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear the most.”
- Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Organizations, like people, struggle with the process of change. We sometimes see organizations as monolithic entities that operate in a sphere far above that of the average person or group. However, this initial assumption will make a change management process ultimately less successful.
There are three simple questions to ask before embarking on a change management process:
Do we as an organization acknowledge that change is necessary?
Has a lack of change shifted us away from our core mission?
Has a lack of change negatively impacted how we are serving our customers or end-users?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then it’s time to gear up!
Follow These 5 Critical Steps for Organizational Change
There are many different versions of the change management process. These five (5) critical steps are fundamental to all of them and will alleviate some of the stress and confusion when implementing transformation efforts or other major organizational changes.
1. Achieve buy-in at every level, from CEO to the front-line worker.
Buy-in starts with your organization’s leadership to encourage and reinforce enterprise-wide accountability – and then it continues to everyone else. Every level of the organization should gain the opportunity to engage in the change management process and provide input. It may feel cumbersome, but the old adage of, “going slow to go fast” applies here. Accountability is established when your stakeholders feel heard throughout the process. Open forums, town halls, short-term websites for anonymous commentary, and lunch and learns are great avenues to explore for this critical step.
2. Include corporate culture in change management strategy
Taking a deep look at corporate culture provides insight on how things really work in the organization particularly when it comes to implementing something new. Jack Welch of GE implemented one of the best examples on this to date. Welch famously engaged the Six Sigma Black Belts to utilize the Q x A = E function, where the Quality of the approach by cultural Acceptance equals the Effectiveness of a change process. Welch tasked his Black Belts to focus 50% of their time on cultural acceptance because that is just how important understanding corporate culture is to the change management process. Some organizations use anonymous or targeted questionnaires to gain accurate and honest feedback about organizational culture.
3. Position new behaviors at the forefront
Target a handful of primary changes you want to accomplish and take every opportunity to reinforce them. Your strategy should help stakeholders begin to see “the change” in multiple formats and in multiple places. Avoid “change fatigue” where employees feel like you are moving from change to change with no direction and lack of clear communication.
4. Identify Change Champions
Think of the people in your organization who are charismatic or influential. Every organization has someone or multiple people who others find it easy to rally behind. Those people are essential to the change management process.
Brand Ambassadors. People who live and breathe your organization’s values and are inspirational enough to encourage others to do so as well.
Town Criers. People with an amplified voice in your organization who often spread word of what is to come.
Data Reservoirs. People who are always “in the know” or possess unique roles that curate a lot of your organization’s information.
5. Evaluate and Evolve
Surprisingly, a study by The Katzenbach Center showed that many organizations fail to properly evaluate the effectiveness of change management processes before moving on to something else. Remember what we’re talking about here: overcoming the fear of change. Change is tough – for people and organizations in total. It takes time and adjustment. Avoid being too eager to claim victory in your strategy and take the time to gain proper feedback. Evaluate the true and tangible impact of change management for your employees, processes, customers, and other areas to evolve the process as necessary, instead of shifting to something different at whim.