Saturday, February 27, 2016

Digital transformation with business purpose: Leadership 2.0 required at all levels

Talking about digital transformation. Does digital come first or the business need to transform come first? 

Very often, digital evangelists (including intrapreneurs) embrace everything digital and excitedly introduce them to their colleagues, only to find out that their colleagues "really didn't get it". Typical responses are:
- We have always done it this way and it works, why should we do it differently?
- Does this replace what we are doing today? Does this make me/my team more efficient, so we can do more with less time/resource? How do we measure success? 
- These new digital tools are too overwhelming, does that mean I have even more to don more updates, communications to read? I am already overloaded.
- They are for my kids, they are for digital savvy people, they find it very easy, but I think otherwise. I am not good with digital, I feel inadequately equipped to go digital yet. 

The challenge does not stop here. The next challenge is what is this "digital thing" suppose to transform? Could it be: 
- adding digital to what we currently do ("Let's digitalise the training materials so they become elearning modules". "Let's digitalise the marketing message, so it is now published as a blog on the website").
- using digital to achieve efficiency savings ("Let's go digital and do what we do faster. Instead of sending email to target audience, let's blast them with more messages via multiple social media channels.)

Who ultimately make the decision on digital transformation? I would say the business with a digital mindset (and if in the transition period when a company is building up the digital capabilities, business with input from the digital transformation team).

Why do I mean?

There is nothing wrong for the business setting efficiency and cost saving goals. In the past decades, machines and computers have enabled automation which allow us to do  repetitive calculations or reduce labour. Most leaders can visualise what to expect. This is good, but perhaps not good enough.

What if business leaders start to ask "what if" digital can enble my business to doing something differently, rather than doing the same thing faster or a little bit better? What if business leaders start asking what are the possibilities and opportunities to use digital to fundamentally choange how we work and how we conduct business. What if business leaders start to ask what would the future or work / future of business / future of government look like? 

Digital transformation requires a deep understanding of the business, why the company exist, and the value it aims to create for the customers. It also requires a mindset shift, ie to face up to the digital challenge (when one will never be able to catch up with new digital products being rolled out every day) and learn to swim in it and try things out even though we do not grow up with them. It requires the leaders to learn to feel comfortable when one do not know it all and that one can trial and fail fast, and keep moving on. In a highly networked world and when digital content are exchanged at the speed of light, digital transformation requires business leaders to create the capability for employees and partners to collaborate and work with one another when new issues or opportunities emerge.

This new ways of thinking and working, with clear business purpose and delivering value for customers in mind, require senior managers, experts, designers to let go of our ego and start to listen, learn from our younger persons, people with less experience and with different perspectives, and all employees at all levels need to learn to better listen and learn from one another as we explore new uncharted territories. 

I call this leadership 2.0, and digital transformation (whether it is enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0 or customer service 2.0 etc) needs leadership 2.0 at all levels. Every employees, at all levels, need to change and embrace change, as change become the new constant. We all need to learn to have an open mind, able to learn and unlearn, have genuine dialogue across hierarchy to get there. 

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