It’s been widely reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation efforts across most industries.
Organizations have had to move fast. From the scramble to get work-from-home measures in place once the virus really started to spread back in March, to retailers quickly shifting everything from customer service to e-commerce to digital, the word agile has been top-of-mind. Adoption of technologies like AI, automation, and the cloud has flourished so that organizations could meet these demands.
We’ve covered pandemic-related/adjacent DX efforts in sales, cybersecurity, retail, manufacturing, digital communications, and those of Indigenous communities. One KPMG survey from August reported that “59% technology executives surveyed say that COVID-19 has created an impetus to accelerate digital transformation initiatives.”
A new IBM study of 3,800 global C-suite executives in 20 countries and 22 industries — titled COVID-19 and the Future of Business — found that nearly six in ten respondents have accelerated their digital transformations due to the pandemic. 66% reported completion of initiatives that previously faced resistance.
The study goes deeper, looking at what these leaders need to do to keep on track with these now-inevitable DX efforts.
Barriers to progress
With agility and speed being so important, it’s of little surprise that leaders reported “traditional and perceived barriers like technology immaturity and employee opposition to change” were no longer in play.
If there’s one thing that became painfully clear to many companies throughout the #pandemic, it’s that the old way of working is over.
— IBM Institute for Business Value (@IBMIBV) September 30, 2020
At issue? “This sense of urgency needs to carry over to any company’s most valuable assets—its people—as the users of that technology,” explains Mark Foster, Senior Vice President of IBM Services.
“We found that even as companies have rushed to adopt the technologies necessary not only to survive but thrive as business enterprises, too many of their employees feel stressed and even overwhelmed,” he elaborates.
Executives are well aware of this: “They reported that employee burnout, inadequate skills and organizational complexity are their biggest hurdles to progress today and in the next two years.”
The problem is that there is a disconnect between what leaders say they are doing and what employees report.
For example, the report found that:
- 74% of executives surveyed believe they have been helping their employees learn the skills needed to work in a new way, just 38% of employees surveyed agree.
- 80% of executives surveyed say that they are supporting the physical and emotional health of their workforce, while just 46% of employees surveyed feel that support.
“It’s one thing to nimbly retool and modernize the workplace,” wrote Foster. “It’s quite another proposition to expect workers to quickly adjust to the upheaval in their lives and livelihoods.”
Steps towards ‘surviving and thriving’
The study concluded that there are three steps leaders and organizations are taking:
- “Improving operational scalability and flexibility”
- 94% of executives are planning for platform-based business models by 2022, as well as “a 20 percentage point increase in prioritization of cloud technology in the next two years.”
- “Applying AI, automation and other exponential technologies to help make workflows more intelligent”
- AI will be a major priority
- 60% say they have accelerated process automation
- 76% plan to prioritize cybersecurity
- “Leading, engaging and enabling the workforce in new ways”
- Simply put, people should be first. The regular workday and office is gone, and stress and uncertainty are high. “Employees now expect that their employers will take an active role in supporting their physical and emotional health as well as the skills they need to work in new ways.”
- According to IBM’s recommendation, “empathetic leaders who encourage personal accountability and support employees to work in self-directed squads that apply design thinking, Agile principles and DevOps tools and techniques can be beneficial.”
5 types of leaders who can get in the way
From the saboteur to the capacity monster, these personalities can hurt grassroots support for your digital transformation.
Successful digital transformations require support from almost everyone in the company and in particular, from other leaders. You can have the best playbook ever produced, but it won’t matter, if you still lack that leadership support.
Leaders are so critical because they influence the attitudes and perceptions of the people on their teams. When they resist the change, their people will resist – and that paves a long and difficult road for the transformation. If they’re excited about the transformation, their support enhances your efforts and builds the momentum you need to succeed.
CIOs who navigate their colleagues’ different leadership styles and give the struggling leader what they need, without compromising the core goals of the transformation, will clear the path to a successful transformation.
In practice, we see five types of leaders who can stand in the way. Navigate their personalities and push back to move the transformation forward and (hopefully) bring them along with you.
Every good spy movie includes a saboteur. Saboteurs appear to be on the team, which gives them access to information: But in reality, they work to subvert good efforts by collaborating with the villain. The hero of the movie eventually finds them out and “eliminates” them.
Identifying the saboteur and guiding them to support the mission requires more finesse in the real world. They resist behind the scenes, in conversations with the people they lead, and in everyday decisions. However they appear supportive in conversations with you.
To spot them, do some sensing in their organizations. Leaders reproduce their attitudes in their organizations and saboteurs betray themselves through their team(s). While you do your sensing, ensure you remain respectful and avoid becoming a saboteur yourself when discussing the situation with people on their team.
Be mindful that not every saboteur sabotages intentionally. They may not realize their own resistance and certainly, most lack malice. However they still resist the effort. Your mission: Discover why they resist and eliminate that challenge for them.
HiPPO stands for “Highest Paid Person with an Opinion.” HiPPOs share their opinion with anyone willing to listen. They announce it in lead team meetings and they declare it to their team. Each moment offers an opportunity to actively resist transformation efforts.
Identifying a HiPPO is easy. They know they resist and probably already told you 10 frustrating aspects of the transformation that are “wrong” or “doomed to fail.” However they create collateral damage for the transformation very quickly, so get ahead of them as soon as you see one coming.
HiPPOs may be intimidating, but winning them over is often critical to your efforts. To resolve their concerns, sit down with them in a one-to-one meeting with an intent to learn. They probably have valid concerns and adjusting your transformation strategy to alleviate those concerns will not only win their support, it will strengthen your transformation strategy.
One other reason to win a HiPPO’s support for the effort: HiPPOs who support the effort can evangelize the transformation effort. In fact, winning the support of a HiPPO in early stages bolsters support for the rest of the transformation.
Remember Eeyore from “Winnie the Pooh?” The pessimistic donkey dragged his feet on adventures and shuddered with fear during storms. Change scares him simply because it means something will be different.
Your digital transformation requires changes that frighten the tail off Eeyore. You stand in front of the room excitedly casting vision while they sit in the corner making a list of reasons the transformation will fail. At the top of that list? “It’s different than how we do it today.”
If Eeyore’s people are onboard, you can maintain the course. However, if they remain reticent, you need to win them over directly or win Eeyore’s support, which will help secure everyone’s buy-in.
Winning the support of an Eeyore requires empathy. As an IT leader, change drives your entire world and you adjust quite easily. However, Eeyore sees the flood of new information coming at them and turns away in fear. Spending time viewing the world from their standpoint and feeling the pressure and fear they feel provides perspective to ensure you capture important details, while showing Eeyore you care about their ability to make the change.
In reality, Eeyore rarely derails a transformation because everyone already knows they lag behind, which sadly causes their opinion to be dismissed by others more easily.
The Lukewarm Buzzkill
Some leaders (even visionaries) cannot see the vision you cast for them. You stand in front of the room, cast vision for the transformation (you nail it!) and everyone is onboard, except one person who just doesn’t seem to get it. They’re lukewarm at best and they can drain the excitement from the room.
You can spot a Lukewarm Buzzkill by their lack of support. In normal circumstances, they voice support and cast their own vision for new initiatives. In this case, they disengage or they quietly wait for more information because they’ve heard the buzzwords and they’ve heard the theory, but it’s not real to them. They’re not afraid of change. They just can’t see where you’re headed. Gain their support and you get a teammate that naturally casts vision to everyone around them.
To help them, change the way you communicate. Instead of using charts and diagrams, make it tangible for them. They must see it to grab hold of it and become ardent supporters. Consider enrolling a designer to bring the transformation to life (app mockups, tool designs, etc).
A note of caution: When you show how an app might work or what the new customer interaction will look like, you create a risk. If they disagree with your theoretical execution, you create an uphill battle for yourself. To mitigate the risk, tell them the mockups represent ideas and then invite them into the brainstorming and more fully enroll them in the transformation process.
The Capacity Monster
Some leaders and their organizations lack capacity to play a key role in the transformation.
When you ask for their help these “capacity monsters” push back, talking about other priorities. Sometimes those priorities represent an unwillingness to change, in which case you need to address them as an Eeyore. Other times, those priorities build the business, and respecting them produces better business results.
When their reasons are truly mission-critical, win their support by investing transformation efforts more heavily in their direction. Consider addressing their current bottlenecks or finding tangential opportunities to help them create capacity. Either way, give them support in their mission-critical work.
While you’re helping them, strive to over-deliver and develop a case study. Eliminating their bottlenecks and helping their high-profile work succeed gives you an easy success to share, which can win support from other leaders for the transformation.
Enrolling these five types of leaders builds a critical front for pushing the transformation forward. Doing it well multiplies your efforts across the entire organization, enrolling not just the leaders, but the people they influence. When you do that, the entire company will soon be bought-into the transformation, setting it up for success and building the organization’s capacity to tackle future change efforts more eagerly.
This article originally appeared on The Enterprisers Project under the headline: Digital transformation: 5 types of leaders who can get in the way. It is republished here with permission.
Mary Anne Moser aiming to put Calgary Science Centre in global top 10
Mary Anne Moser is passionate about creating experiences that make science accessible to mainstream audiences.
Mary Anne Moser is passionate about creating experiences that make science accessible to mainstream audiences. As President and CEO of TELUS Spark Science Centre, Moser is leading Spark’s rejuvenation and her vision is to compete with science centres on a global scale.
[LISTEN IN AT 1:27] “[Spark] has a reputation for being a gym among families in Calgary,” Moser told CollisionsYYC host Tyler Chisholm in a recent interview. “I took the job about a year ago to see if we can expand the audience and really help Spark be more relevant to what Calgary wants to do as a city [and its] innovation agenda.”
To get there, Spark has big plans. In its roadmap for the 2020s, the organization lays out an ambitious plan to become one of the 10 most-worth-visiting science centres in the world by 2025.
Spark has set itself up as both a destination and an organization that seeks a constant infusion of new ideas in order to thrive in an environment of continuous change. In addition to engaging adult audiences, the organization also aims to support the creation of new ventures, jobs and economic opportunities.
Perhaps not what one would expect of a science center.
Raising the bar
As Moser and Chisholm discuss early on in the CollisionsYYC podcast, Calgary remains an under-the-radar destination for tourism and commerce. One of Spark’s goals is to build a facility that’s by Calgarians for Calgarians, as well as a world-class attraction.
Moser has done it before.
In 2013, Moser and science broadcaster Jay Ingram co-founded Beakerhead, a registered charity that works to advance education at the crossroads of art, science and engineering. Beakerhead runs annual education programs and a fall festival named Spectacle that ranked 12th on Bizbash’s Top 100 Events in Canada list in 2019.
Moser says that in order for Spark to “do the heavy lifting that it needs to do for Calgary” and contribute to the city’s economic transformation, the science centre must draw in tourists.
“It’s that tension between being perfect for here and only doable here, and relevant for anywhere on that kind of global scale.”
[LISTEN IN AT 11:04]
The vision to be world-class takes a lot of work and collaboration. Moser believes direct feedback and the attitude of raising the bar would help Calgary’s science and tech communities contribute to a positive future for the city.
“I think setting expectations and holding each other up to them is really important,” said Moser. “If we just cheerlead each other and say, ‘That’s awesome,’ but really, it’s not that awesome, it doesn’t help anyone.”
Honest feedback – coupled with an openness to receiving that feedback – will push standards higher for everyone and help Calgary compete in a global context, says Moser. “It means, when you’re talking to each other, looking behind you and seeing whether or not this would hold up in a global context. It’s so easy to be talking to ourselves but is it a conversation that’s interesting on a global scale?”
Creating space for collisions
The pandemic has thrown up a few roadblocks, but Moser believes it has also shown that Spark is on the right track.
[LISTEN IN AT 4.26]“It’s amplified the need to do what we need to do,” she said. “They say if you start a business when times are really tough, you build a super-strong foundation. For the mandate that I feel like I’ve been given, it’s a test to do what we need to do now in this environment. Failure is not an option, and so it will be that much stronger.”
Strength comes from collaboration, and Spark’s role in the innovation ecosystem is to create opportunities for different fields to interact.
The centre, which closed in mid-March due to the pandemic, recently reopened with a “re-imagined visitor experience” that includes timed tickets and other safety measures. It’s not yet business as usual, but Moser encourages potential collaborators who have ideas for projects, programs, or events to get in touch.
Spark wants to help Calgary’s scientists and technologists communicate about their work in ways that people can understand and get excited about.
“Our doors are not just open – they are wide open, and we are warmly welcoming these conversations, especially with Calgary’s tech sector. We’re there to help build that future.”
The irony of industry disruption and digital transformation ROI
Clearly, return on investment continues to be challenging for most industrial companies.
This post originally appeared on ARC Advisory Group’s website here.
Over the course of the last two years, digital transformation ROI is probably the topic I have been asked about the most. Clearly, return on investment continues to be challenging for most industrial companies.
There certainly are many reasons why transformation ROI is so elusive. Organizations continue to experience missteps with digital transformation strategy. Often, struggles with culture change lead companies to ignore the much more challenging human side of digital transformation.
Most of the examples of poor transformation ROI are really just symptomatic of a tension that prevents success—some industrial companies still have transactional leaders that are too focused on requiring their employees to prove out-of-the-gate ROI on something that has never done before.
This failure in leadership is preventing their employees from accruing the digital wisdom necessary to learn how to successfully transform.
To achieve transformation ROI and sustain digital successes requires a work culture where experiments are not just supported but required. These digital experiments are laboratories where wisdom is gained and core competencies identified and integrated so the organization can become digital-first in its thinking.
Ironically, these transactional leaders now find themselves in the midst of their own unknown and are having to learn along the way.
The total industry disruption brought on by COVID-19 is a mirror (not identical, to be sure) to the uncertainty of transformation. They’ve not seen anything on this scale in their lifetime. They can’t predict the outcome or totality of the financial impact, nor can they define the timeline for return to stability. In fact, they are engaged in their own experiments, trying to determine the best way to drive and sustain success in an environment that requires them to set aside what they used to know and, instead, figure out how to learn along the way.
Now, many of these same transactional leaders are being given leeway, understandably, on short-term earnings projections due to the uncertainty they face. Yet, they never extend that hall pass to their own employees who are struggling to learn what they need to be successful in demonstrating sustained digital transformation ROI.
Too often, these transactional leaders make decisions that put them on the innovation sideline, squelching the very ability of their companies to learn how to respond at speed to market conditions with more agility than their competition. Each time they do so, the implications of their decisions ripple exponentially and negatively, moving them further away from the curve.
To be fair, there are some industrial companies with very good, forward-thinking leaders that understand innovation requires organizational maturity and the relentless pursuit of digital wisdom.
The market bears out the difference between those that seek and grow digital wisdom and those that do not. Every new industrial disruption grows the performance gap between those with leaders committed to change and those that dither by clinging to outmoded ways of decision making. Both will struggle with transformation, of course, because it is a complex and non-linear cultural, technological and economic overhaul of the business and the markets it serves. However, the former will learn how to achieve digital transformation ROI while the latter will stumble along wondering why mistakes, false starts, and dead-end investments are so common with digital initiatives.
What type of leader do you want to be?
This post originally appeared on ARC Advisory Group’s website here.
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