A lot is being written about ‘digital transformation’ at the moment, making it hard to pick out the helpful insights from the hype. One essential insight that we and our clients are finding extremely helpful is that: technological change is exponential whilst human adaptability, and therefore organizational change, proceeds more slowly. Managing the widening gap between businesses’ rate of change, individuals’ adaptation and continued technological innovation is one of the key leadership challenges of the future.
The widening gap
Source: Deloitte University Press (2017)
Technology itself is not the constraint – it’s how quickly we can encourage our people to:
- adopt the technology that meets our business objective and
- change their ways of working so that it is fully absorbed into day-to-day business and
- be ready to adapt to the next opportunity that technology brings
To do this, we should always start with the business goal we are trying to achieve for our internal or external customers, then consider what technology might help us meet that goal – and then how to support the individual and organizational changes required.
For example, to increase ease and reduce cost of remote collaboration and communication, many businesses have introduced online meeting technology (e.g. WebEx or Skype for Business/ Microsoft Teams). For individuals this has usually meant a quick online tutorial on how to use the tool. Few have truly learnt to use it effectively to create high engagement and participation online.
When your organization introduced these tools, did you communicate the business goal of adopting the technology relentlessly (or at all), did you systematically train people to use it and make sure even late adopters were pulled into using it? Did you then cut your travel budgets and change your corporate culture to reinforce remote working rather than travel and face-to-face management? Successful digital change is far more than implementing the technology.
At an organizational level, the technology has to be made available everywhere as a standard tool – but also old aspects of corporate culture like presenteeism also need to be addressed.
We helped one global FMCG roll out WebEx as a part of a larger programme to improve virtual working. In the first video-conference board meeting, when one of the Directors dialled in online, the President of the Board immediately said, “oh I see you didn’t think this meeting was important enough to show up for”. We expect he will show up in person next time and the investment in technology will have been wasted. As managers and leaders we have to think through the cultural changes required and how to provide positive alternatives for the things technology will replace – in this case the visibility and social/ community aspects of face-to-face meetings.
Reminding people of the benefits to them and their internal/ external customers; and keeping the focus positive rather than scaremongering will help us all build a curious mindset about new technology, and fast track our ability to develop the new skills we will require.
To find out more about how to rewire your culture and skills to thrive in a digital world, download our new digital white paper here.