Digital Transformation Is Taking Over. Should You Be Worried?

It’s all changing: the way we work, the company strategy, the way we lead, our employees’ skills, the work environment and so much more.

What does digital transformation mean to you?

Looking ahead, and as the tech space continues to evolve rapidly, we not only will need different skills as leaders, but our employees will also require different skills. One significant piece in solving some of this uncharted territory is to drive change strategically and focus on workers’ relationships with newer technology

In some cases, the weak spot in corporate digital transformation is found in organizational change. Management doesn’t always recognize that merely orchestrating and allowing access to new digital tools – without proper training and employee support – can be a recipe for disaster.

One of the best industry-related quotes I have ever heard relates to the importance of ensuring you take the time to carefully transition your employees into the digital transformation process. Eddie Smith, Director of Operations at Kuhn Krause, told attendees at a Connected Manufacturing Forum Event in Austin, TX last July: ” You can’t feed steak to a baby. You have to transition them from milk to steak over time .” The employees have to be ready for the change and it is up to the executive team to ensure that happens.

With this in mind, leaders must realize that the most challenging facet of the digital transformation process isn’t just learning how to master new technology; rather, it’s managing the change that comes along with it. And most importantly, convincing employees to embrace it.

A recent digital readiness by the Center for Creative Leadership reported that the biggest challenge companies face in digital transformation efforts is insufficient internal skills. In another survey, by Principal Analyst Brian Solis, the 2018/2019 State of Digital Transformation Altimeter Report , 26% of respondents said cultural issues “pose notable difficulty, with entrenched viewpoints and resistance to change.”

What do these statistics reveal? The majority of organizations don’t have a clear direction on what their workers need to know and do to be viable moving forward.

Be A Change Agent: Encourage Your Employees To Start Walking Toward Change

When your digital strategy is not supported by employee-ready practices, problems can arise.

Leaders must view digital transformation as it relates to the entire organization, and new work must be implemented to hold the model in place. In other words, consider how your staff might be offered the opportunity (and be expected) to step into new behaviors.

The ultimate goal should be less about how your organization is going to change and more about how you can convince your employees to navigate change and come out successful on the other end. This also means an emphasis on change management that focuses on priorities, habits and systems.

While some leaders may hesitate to dive in head-first – perhaps thinking employees may be unwilling to adapt to or learn new processes – they must take a concerted top-down approach with digital transformation to build cultural change as part of the overall plan. Management must avoid thinking that traditional organizational plans, like those that are focused on reactively bandaging pain points as they arise, are adequate – they aren’t.

So, where do you begin? For starters, rethink your organization’s leadership model, as well as your culture model. As a leader, ask yourself what this model needs to look like as it relates to the core behaviors that you want to focus on for ultimate success.

Also, concentrate on fostering a risk-taking mentality through your leadership strategy. Don’t be afraid to let your people fail forward. Encourage them to take risks – possibly fail as a result – and learn from those experiences to grow.

Here are several other areas to keep in mind:

* Rethink your organization’s overall leadership and culture model. Define what it will take to be successful and “hire to it, fire to it and develop to it.” Concentrate on communication, collaboration, change management, relationship building, business acumen and innovation.

* Foster risk-taking and an experimentation strategy. Leadership development programs must be interdisciplinary and focus on new product and service innovations. Encourage risk-taking and experimentation, so workers develop new skills. Most importantly, make risk-taking and failing safe for employees.

* Ensure your leadership model/culture model includes change management. This is one of the most essential skills for leaders, and it is commonly overlooked. Become a change agent and immerse yourself in this area of knowledge. It doesn’t matter what model you choose to use as your backbone; it’s more crucial to make change management a priority in your overall business strategy.

* Incorporate a technology strategy (outside of an ERP).

* Institute a growth mindset. Focus on solutions instead of problems. Stay open and determined instead of anxious and defensive. Get motivated by negative emotions instead of feeling derailed by them.

Change Is Hard, So Have A Plan

At the end of the day, digital transformation is about cultivating the talent necessary to steward your organization through the journey.

Rather than being constrained by traditional models and roadmaps, digital transformation requires a more ambitious approach, in which a company can ebb and flow as the vision evolves. The more significant obstacle to overcome is what type of organizational change employees can or can’t handle.

The ultimate goal should be cultivating and fostering a workforce that not only can adapt quickly, comfortable with change and collaborative, but also consists of motivated workers who are not afraid to take risks moving forward.


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