You are not selling ice cream during digital transformation

To change your organization on a technical level by implementing new systems or technologies is definitely a challenge. This process is usually more expensive than budgeted and gets delivered slightly later than planned, but so be it. Entrepreneurship means taking risks and you probably won’t win the popularity contest – as Steve Jobs said, “if you want to make everyone happy don’t be a leader, sell ice cream.” All things considered, transformation in the long run is worth it.

When does change become transformation?

Suppose that some new laptops are introduced into an organization with a new operating system and specs that the other suppliers could only dream of. When you inform your employees that they will have to hand over their old MacBooks or Lenovos, you had better wrap them up in cotton wool. Even if the new product functions ten times better, you will still encounter resistance as change, no matter how small, stirs up people emotionally. Consider then implementing a new architectural choice, a new organizational structure or a new CRM system and the stress meters are going to start blinking red.

The difference between a new laptop and a new CRM system is comparable with the difference between a change and a transformation. Therefore, you must also manage them differently within an organization. That is certainly feasible on a technological level, and you can also redesign the processes and procedures to enable this. But, don’t expect the entire company to blindly go along with everything. People thrive on security and predictability. Change is scary, and transformation can be terrifying.

Digital transformation is unavoidable, so get planning

Organizations must go beyond just repairing errors in their IT infrastructure and further than digitizing their current processes. Leap frog over today’s technology to the future and make your business digital. It’s a costly, but necessary way of remaining relevant for your audience.

Based on the knowledge that people within your organization will chain themselves to the gates when they hear about change, here’s some tips for managing change:

  • Be clear about the fact that the change is coming. A company is not by definition a democracy and this means that, from time to time, bold choices must be made. Entrepreneurship means taking risks – you don’t have to win the popularity contest.
  • It is essential to embed a sense of safety and predictability as much as possible thoughout the transformation process. For this, methodologies such as Lean, Six Sigma, and Agile can offer help. These all contain useful handles for managing far-reaching changes and even transformations. Meet regularly to discuss what is going well and what could be improved with the process and create an open culture so that people know where things stand and what lies ahead of them.
  • Where possible, divide the transformation into steps. Give people the opportunity and the time to adjust to the new situation, even before this new situation becomes the new standard.
  • Be sure to assemble a good team around you to offer you support. This is not only your own team, but also indirect colleagues and superiors. You need help, constant feedback on what can be done better, and an ear to let out your frustrations on from time to time.
  • This is not a sprint (although we do everything in sprints), this is a marathon. You cannot carry out true transformation management purely by focusing on quick wins.

Soft but essential tips

There are a few ´soft´, but in my opinion essential, tips. Keep an eye on your energy level. To truly transform a company, you must dedicate yourself every day to understanding and explaining things in a positive way and to pushing the organization in the right direction. Go home, relax, unwind, recharge. The game starts again tomorrow, and quitting is not an option.
Most importantly: never give up. Without perseverance, no change will ever become a transformation. For that reason, I also refer to transformation management as perseverance management.

If you do it right, you will reach the collective conclusion that the transformation serves the greater good, and you will win over a large portion of the organization.

I wish you all good luck with your transformations!

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