June 11, 2017

Ignore digital disruption at your peril


The pace of change is relentless. The pressure on organisations is more than ever before. Companies have to keep up with the acceleration in workplace technologies, employee demands, and customer expectations. How do we meet these needs? Digital transformation is key.

Let’s look at three converging factors creating this pressure.

  • First, internet enabled business models are disrupting business as usual. Businesses like Amazon and Uber are having a huge impact on their categories, creating new ways of doing business.

  • Next, millennials, who have grown up with digital, expect a digital workplace equipped with tools that are as slick as the ones they use to run their personal lives.

  • Finally, artificial intelligence, automation, and robots are causing many to face redundancy, with a small elite calling the shots. A new business order will reward the agile and the efficient.

Creating the right conditions for change

In the race to become a digital business and reap the benefits of a digitally-enabled marketplace, failure is common. The pace of technological change is faster than our ability to adapt to it. Not just billions, but trillions, are wasted on unsuccessful initiatives. The need for agility puts great expectations on people who need the right conditions to effectively change.

Change is undermined and resisted when people are not sufficiently empowered and mobilised. Consider how proposed changes will impact workloads and skillsets. The people side of change needs to be prioritised as much as the technical.

To create successful conditions for change we need to recognise how the brain works and how mental states affect peak performance. It is far better to involve people in the change process than impose it on them. Involvement breeds ownership, which fosters accountability. Far better to take the time to engage your people than start without their support.

Change needs a strong story if it is to mobilise the troops. This requires a leader with vision who sets clear expectations for collaboration. This behavioural expectation can be reinforced by workplace design, company values and new ways of working with collaboration and agility at their heart.

Cultivating desired behaviours

Desired behaviours can be cultivated. Academics at Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab have codified methods to creating habits. The Fogg Behavioural Model discovered behaviour to be the result of three essential ingredients: motivation, ability and trigger. Behaviours become habits when the right formula of motivation, ease and incentives are achieved. In the workplace, putting the right triggers in front of motivated people is key.

To help organisations become more agile John Kotter updated his 8-Step Process to leading change. It advocates creating a horizontal army of voluntary change champions within existing hierarchies. Sprint methodologies, like Google Ventures Sprint, based on design thinking are also relevant to foster and embed the cross-functional collaboration needed to develop products and services fit for the digital age.

In closing, by paying attention to the people side of the business, digital transformation efforts have a much greater chance of succeeding. The reward will be employees who are enthusiastic brand advocates and a thriving, nimble organisation that shapes the future and is prepared for anything coming our way, including the robots.

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