How has your organisation fared in terms of digital transformation efforts in 2021, and what can be improved?
COVID gave every organisation a firm turbo boost kick in the posterior and proved that digital is critical, remote working possible, and that employees can be trusted to perform even when you are not watching them. We all had to improvise, adapt and overcome. And our digital transformation efforts definitely moved forward and benefited from this imperative.
But since then, the vast majority of business leaders I have spoken to recently are both amazed with how far they have come – but also still feel disappointed with where they are today in terms of digital transformation. While some things will never be the same again, not as much progress as they hoped has been made.
To help you assess what progress you have made, and identify some ways you can accelerate the journey, here’s a simple scorecard for you to rate where your organisation is and what you need on focus on more in 2022.
8 key questions to self assess your progress
1. Digital transformation is a top 3 business priority, visibly driven by the CEO, & cascaded to every leaders scorecard. (Note, a Chief Digital Officer may have day to day responsibility, but your CEO’s explicit presence and focus is still critical).
2. There is a vibrant and compelling vision of the digital future of the organisation and a shared language & understanding of the digital world.
3. There been some form of ‘learning experience’ or journey to develop a cadre of digitally savvy change champions to help drive transformation at every level of the organisation.
4. There is an explicit and continuous promotion of experimentation culture & building of the ‘test and learn’ muscle throughout the organisation.
5. There is space, time, emotional support and psychological safety from our leaders to not just allow, but even encourage multiple forms of prototyping & experimentation.
6. There are new ways of working being explored, developed or deployed: for example, new ways of running meetings, using data to make decisions, making prototypes instead of powerpoint.
7. There are (at last the beginnings of) new and supportive leadership models, values, HR policies & processes, & performance management, to encourage & support experimentation and new ways of working.
8. There are multiple & varied learning & engagement opportunities for everyone to touch, play and experience digital no matter where they are in the organisation. Making digital so pervasive that we cannot not be part of the transformation journey.
The probability is that you have been so busy with business survival in 2021 (or hyper-growth depending on your industry), that you have not had time to fully consider and plan for the 8 factors above. But here is the good news. There is a simple way forward, and it is never too late.
Since I first took the risk to experiment and pioneer the DBS Bank Leadership Hackathon & Digital Mindset initiative back in 2014, there has been one consistent truth in every company I have worked with or consulted in the last 7 years, irrespective of industry, country, or state of digital maturity.
The more, and the earlier, they invest in developing ‘Digital Mindset’ and getting everyone from their leadership team on downwards, not just curious, but actually excited about the ‘Digital World,’ the faster the transformation occurs.
This means that if you have not already, you need to quickly put into place some form of learning experience for the top team. To make sure they are truly aligned on what the desired future state should be, but also are digitally savvy enough to be able to visualise the opportunities and threats.
Defining Digital Mindset
First let me define ‘Digital Mindset’ – how well can your leaders:
1. Speak intelligently about the business models of the big tech players & non-traditional disruptive competitors? From Apple, Amazon, and Ali Baba, to NetFlix, TenCent & Zappos?
2. Speak intelligently about, & be able to explore the application of exponential technologies transforming the world, society and your industry. From AI, AR, and blockchain to the Internet of Things, the MetaVerse, and VR.
3. Speak intelligently & be able to deploy the models, tools & frameworks of the digital players. From Agile & Design Thinking, to Kanban, Scrum and Digital Twins.
Mapping your Leadership Team
Right now, on the back of a napkin, do a quick stakeholder map of your CEO and their direct reports. Now rate them on ‘Digital Mindset’ from 1 – 10 on how digitally savvy they really are.
The CEO should be an 8 or above. The Chief Digital Officer (if you have one), a 9 or 10. Your Chief Technology Officer may actually only be a 6 or 7, as their career may have been focused on legacy technology, (but this is fine, as long as they are eager to learn). But overall, what’s the average?
Results and next steps
Honestly, If the average is 5 or 6, I would be really nervous as these leaders are deciding the future of your business based on a new world they do not really understand. You need to rapidly develop a series of programmes for the leadership team, top talent, and HR, to get them knowledgeable enough and confident to really drive this change.
If the average is 7 – 8, you are on the right track. Now, it becomes a matter of cascading that mindset, curiosity, and confidence, across the whole organisation and making sure that everyone gets ‘touched’ by some form of digital world experience as soon as possible to maintain the momentum. You also need to make sure that HR is updating everything to align and support these new expectations and behaviours.
No matter where on this spectrum your leadership team is, taking action on strengthening & cascading Digital Mindset is the single most powerful thing you can do to accelerate digital transformation across your entire organisation and prepare to win big in 2022.
By Laurence Smith, Chartered Fellow CIPD, and a thought leader in digital mindset and transformation.