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Managing Change: The Real Digital Transformation challenge

Microsoft says:

What should you focus on during #DigitalTransformation? In his Forbes article, “Digital Transformation Is Not What You Think It Is,” author Jamie Notter makes the case that culture should be your top priority when your organization starts their digital transformation. Read the full article and contact Invero to learn how we can help your business get there the right way.

The Invero perspective:

Change is an ongoing process, a mindset. Rarely is technology a solution to a problem. Technology is the tool, and solutions come from knowing what you want to solve and asking the right questions to uncover the necessary knowledge.

Why might change fail? A lack of clear purpose for the change, employee resistance, a failure to learn or apply the new skills, and the need to adopt new behaviours are some of the factors. These aspects must be intelligently and sensitively acknowledged, supported, and reinforced.

Some will resist change

All of these made sense to you at one time – but change is inevitable. Use it to your benefit.

Change can seem like a threat because people distrust and often fear the unknown. Even when the situation is subpar, the devil you know seems more appealing than the one you don’t. We frequently justify situations, behaviours, and habits in this way.

Companies should remember this, and think from their employee’s point of view. A devoted worker who legitimately cares about the company and wants to do best by their employer may be conflicted by fears around their own security and survival.

Yes, survival. Maslow’s pyramid tells us that if our base needs are threatened, it is difficult to perform at a higher level. It can seem irresponsible to eschew previously fruitful ways of working. “This is how we’ve always done it,” offers a sense of security. It is important to have empathy, and to take care not to disempower those folks.

Other fears may include:

  • Will technology replace my job? (Or, more vitally, me, at my job?)
  • What if I can’t learn this, and I look dumb in front of my boss or peers (and/or then lose my job)?
  • What if I need support but don’t want to ask (see prior point), or incur cost to the company?
  • Being “upstaged” by workers who are more intuitive with new tools and methods of working. Discovering that your tried and true methods are (becoming) obsolete can be hard on the ego – and cause people to become defensive.

When people become stubborn, usually there is something underlying their resistance. Take time to reflect on what that could be, involve that person in creating solutions, and support them throughout transitions. There are a lot of feelings involved when change is afoot, and most of us are trained not to show those at the office.

Others are change keeners

Others will be gunning to go and the challenge may be to ensure that they are fully skilled in the new technology and methods in order to maximize its potential. Too often, limited understanding (in spite of well-meaning enthusiasm) results in lost opportunities. This links back to understanding the business strategy, and the problem which digital transformation endeavours to solve.

Leverage these people’s energy to support and encourage those peers who are less convinced or confident. Let them be champions to change – but perhaps don’t brand them as “change agents” unless that kind of parlance legitimately suits your vibe. Find a tag that’s meaningful to them and to those around them.

Nurture those assets! Plants, like people, have varying growth needs.

Change takes time

Change takes time and can sometimes feel like a setback. The costs to a business may be real for a period of time – but done correctly and for well-thought-out reasons, it becomes an investment that is ultimately recouped.

While rhetoric about embracing change is all well in principle, it is much harder in practice. In real life, change can be terrifying – even for those relatively comfortable with the notion.

It is integral to ensure that the right supports are in place, on an ongoing basis, so workers feel confident in making change, and feel secure and successful in their new remit.

The biggest challenge in digital transformation is understanding how your culture needs to change, not to enable “digital,” necessarily, but to enable deep organizational success.

Jamie Notter, Co-Founder and Culture Designer at Human Workplaces.

Leadership needs to embody and communicate vision, confidence, and a clear and reasonable road map – despite any fears they may privately hold. Understand that there will be reticence for a variety of reasons; these can be overcome. Appointing a professionally trained change manager can provide meaningful support across the process.

Without organization-wide buy in, change faces a high, if inevitable, risk of failure. But adoption will happen in different ways and timeframes for different people. Plan for this with sensitivity, and create a structure that supports all workers in the ways they need. After all, your biggest resister can become your greatest champion. Embrace their energy and find a way for them to feel empowered!