When companies seek to adapt to the digital tranformation, “leadership” is usually the first item on the to-do list. Hire a new CTO, CIO, CMO, Chief Digital Officer, the amount of possible job titles goes on and on. But while leadership is obviously essential for going from point A to point B, it can often be the quality that displaces other legitimate contenders to help a company land on safe digital shores. We believe that you also need to mold a new corporate philosophy where digital is accounted for in every decision.
Digital has to be a mindset for everyone in the company, an idea that is naturally weaved into every service, process, implementation, and interaction with customers and vendors. Everyone has to be on the same page – just because you hire (or promote) someone to be your digital visionary doesn’t mean the other employees will automatically begin to think from a digital-first perspective.
Digital disruption is a big deal not because it sounds so scary, it’s a cause for concern because it is scary. Otherwise impenetrable businesses and business models can be toppled overnight. This type of rapid ascent and descent hasn’t happened before. That’s why companies can’t rely solely on the conventional strategy of hiring a single handpicked hero to lead them into the digital promised land.
We believe organizations should first draw a line in the sand and declare their digital philosophy. “How will our products and services align with today’s digital mindset? How will our product and technological development align with digital behaviors?”
Once a company decides who they want to be from a digital standpoint, they should assure that leaders across the organization, across every division, foster this philosophy. Digital must be a belief. The mindset has to be cherished among executives and the board of directors. Sending employees to mandatory training, or purchasing new equipment, will not create enthusiastic buy-in of the new approach.
Of course, this is all easier said than done; it would nice to wave a magic wand and automatically have this philosophy in place. Break the task down into manageable, realistic chunks. First try to assign each division with a champion, someone who’s the most “digitally literate” and can embrace both the challenges and opportunities of the digital transformation. Having a small team of individuals (say 6 or 7) will be a lot more effective in implementing a philosophy than giving one person the thankless job of convincing the unconverted. It’s power in numbers. Not only are there more voices, the variety of their voices will give more legitimacy to their claims.
Whatever you change, be sure to not overwhelm people with too much of the new all at once. Adjust things slowly and carefully over time, and allow people to embrace the digital mindset without them feeling like it’s being forced upon them. On that note, get feedback – ask what’s working, what’s not working, what can improve. The more you get others involved, the more they’ll want to contribute to the effort.
By default, companies are averse to major changes. There are too many investments, there’s too much on the line. They don’t want to get caught up in fads. Historically these are all legitimate defenses. But the digital transformation is not a mirage. Actually, it’s almost redundant now to say “digital business” – today, most business is digital. Start the change now. And start by developing a digital philosophy.