What Crash Diets And Digital Transformation Have In Common

Originally written by on October 6, 2016.

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Too often, both crash diets and Digital Transformation go for appearances at the expense of lasting results.

Today’s Digital Transformation case studies are mostly technology deployments, with some digital labs or hackathon sparkle dust thrown on top. Even efforts to redesign the customer experience fixate on the external face of the organisation. While important, this perspective does not capture the full scope and potential of Digital Transformation – which has significant implications for all aspects of how a company creates value, including the make-up of the organisation itself.

Connected experiences demand a connected organisation. If you don’t engage with the internal aspects of Digital Transformation, then you’ll find a dangerous gap between customer expectations and your ability to fulfil them. 

I recently spoke with 25 Heads of Digital and Human Resources at large organisations to learn how they were retooling the organisation in response to empowered customers, digital competitors, and product commoditisation. These executives – most at the coal-face of disruption – acknowledged the struggle. Today’s operating models uphold outdated norms of structure, work practices, culture, and leadership.

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It’s less of a problem when the Digital Team is centralised and (often) offsite, but most Digital and HR leaders said they feel the clash of mindset and behaviour now that digital is infiltrating the broader business. As one digital exec told me:

“There used to be handwringing around raising the digital acumen of our marketers. Now it is about how we raise the digital acumen of our entire workforce.”

As the lines of business take on more digital responsibility, we are not surprised to see increased interest the Digital Operating Model. But we’ve encountered multiple RFPs that call for creating and communicating this model in under 3 months. Executives who want a new type of transformation cannot let go of the muscle memory of classic change management projects.

The Quantified Org: How Change Becomes Routine

Just as a crash diet rarely works for individuals, so too do big-bang change management projects rarely enjoy sustained impact for organisations. Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini articulate this well in their work on building a change platform, not a change program. For change to stick, it must be felt throughout the organisation, embedded in daily workflows, and measured frequently.

So we must ask the practical question:

How do you translate your ambitious Digital Transformation aspirations into small, everyday actions, so that change becomes gradual and accepted?

To answer this question, we turn to behavioural economics and, more specifically, the concept of “nudging” to shrink change to manageable increments. One of the most successful and widely-known examples of nudging comes from the Quantified Self movement, in which people track their personal fitness data, and often unconsciously, make daily positive changes and become healthier. 

We believe you can adopt a similar method to managing your Digital Transformation efforts – tweaking, iterating, and shaping them based on measurement and feedback loops. We call this the Quantified Org approach, and we use it with our clients to break down massive change into weekly agenda items.

Putting The Quantified Org Approach Into Practice

At its heart, a Quantified Org approach draws from memorable story-telling and iteration so that, over time, you, your team, and your organisation embrace the adaptive ways of working made possible by digital and social. We’ve combed through current organisational theory, practitioner interviews, and our own client work to lay out this approach to help you:

  • Quantify the progress of your transformation journey
  • Prioritise the actions required to become more adaptive

People continue to crash diet because they want quick results, even when suspecting the diet ultimately won’t work. When it comes to transformation, a Quantified Org approach satisfies the need for immediate progress while also sustaining change actions over a longer period.

To read the full report, download your complimentary copy of Overcoming Barriers Of Digital Transformation.