Everyone has heard of IT projects that go “off the rails” and massively exceed budget, timeline or — in extreme cases — don’t deliver anything of value. A common reason why this can happen is that too much time is allowed to pass between major check points or deliverables. Fortunately, digital transformation programs allow for short project cycles — we’ve discussed the importance of this before.
So far in this series — which is sponsored by Expert360 — we have looked at a range of elements that forge a successful digital transformation program. We started by looking at the change imperative and moved on to how to get started and progress as a leader in the age of digital disruption.
In this, the seventh and penultimate part of the series, we look at how to maintain momentum and avoid “change fatigue”.
Don’t lose the discipline.
Short-cycle discipline is analogous to a sailor racing in a small boat on a blustery day. The sailor is constantly evaluating if they have the right sails up, if they have the right tension on, whether it’s time to tack and whether a competitor is about to take their wind. In today’s digital world, the dynamic, fluctuating nature of modern technology means you have to be on your toes, so act like this sailor. Be constantly vigilant and refine your settings on a realtime basis.
Fresh ideas & perspectives
Regularly introduce new insights and perspectives to your digital transformation program. Invite people from outside your organisation to share their experiences. They don’t need to analyse what you are doing — their value is in sharing their experience of managing change, of motivating teams, and of responding to an unexpected circumstance. These people may be from other industries or even different walks of life.
Think of some of the most challenging, real-time management situations you can imagine. An example of a person from an unrelated industry who might be adept at handling difficult management situations is a conductor who specialises in outdoor concerts. This conductor will be constantly battling with a number of factors: the size of their orchestra, the tuning of instruments, the direction the wind is blowing and the acoustics of the space they are in.
Trust your people to be smart enough to make the relevant connection between the messages of these disparate experts and their own project role. Being able to make these connections will keep them fresh and inspired.
Include more people
As your program grows, you may need to bring in fresh faces as a matter of course. However, even if you don’t, consider swapping people in and out of the team so that new team members can bring a fresh perspective.
Clearly, a balance is required here: you can’t afford to be constantly retraining, but a balance of new members with fresh perspectives and established contributors with project experience is likely to refresh employee motivation.
Bear in mind that if people move off the digital project back in to a line role, they will naturally be propagating the digital message and hence contributing to organisation culture change as they do so.
Change culture through language
Many organisations take the stance that they will be “mobile-first” or “cloud-first”. This is perfectly reasonable and sensible. However, introducing such language needs to be calibrated to the level of staff understanding and the how closely it matches their experience — whether they are a customer or an employee.
Let’s consider the notion of cloud-first as an example. If the benefits of cloud-first are explained to staff, these employees will become advocates for change technology. These benefits could include the fact that it is easier to access corporate information anytime, anywhere. Cloud technology might also reduce the amount spent on IT servers and physical infrastructure, which allows re-investment in improved technology for staff. Employees will quickly become supportive as they experience and understand things that create change for the better.
Conversely, even if introduced initially as an aspiration (as many governments have done), unless your people have been educated on the basics and how it benefits both the organisation and their job, organisational level mandates can be perceived negatively. This is the quickest way to kill momentum in a change program.
Refine people’s performance goals
Reward and recognition must be aligned to the new digital modus operandi. As an example, if you have contact centre staff who have traditionally handled voice calls only, a shift to online channels will necessitate a change in your expectations of how they perform their role. Depending on the rate of change in the business, you may decide that the expectation of the proportion of online inquiries they handle rebalances by ten per cent every six months until a new equilibrium is reached.
As with any major change program, it’s hard to over-communicate — particularly from the top. Whatever the most appropriate means for your circumstance — chat forums, WhatsApp groups, physical noticeboards, weekly email, CEO video blogs, and so on — never under-estimate the importance of consistent, credible communication. Importantly, always remember that non-verbal, observable communication is at least as important as your words. If your workplace is going paperless, the first place that needs to be observable is in Board and senior executive meetings.
If you maintain perspective and stay in touch with the most important stakeholders in your change journey — your customers and your staff — the suggestions above should be self-evident. So if you consistently exhibit the sorts of disciplines listed above, that’s wonderful.
Experience shows there are many organisations that don’t, and then find their programs bogging down part way through as fatigue sets in and momentum is lost.