3 comments on “Why ’digital empowerment of people’ still is a paradox in today’s world”

Why ’digital empowerment of people’ still is a paradox in today’s world

We primarily work in analogue ways, using digital tools,” is what a client just recently told me. It was part of the reflection on the current situation and the question of why things haven’t gotten better with the availability of new ’tools’.

In another mandate, I could observe how people struggled with the adoption of ’new ways of working’. It didn’t matter that the level of commitment was (or better, is) incredibly high and that everyone had agreed beforehand, that the cautiously evaluated way forward was the most promising option.

In a third instance (the initiation of a new project) I asked the question “what does internal communication mean in your place?”. The answers of the core team quickly tipped towards information overflow, a cc-culture for email driven by fear and uncertainty and the lack of clarity for standards, practices and a common denominator.

The limits to individual bandwidth

All of the above made me realise, that the result of digitalisation combined with a globalised business world is pushing the limits of an individual worker’s bandwidth to the absolute limit. If there were a particular focus and limit to things people could do 20 years back, there seems to be the expectation that digital tools extend that ability x-fold – which they don’t.

The circle of individual attention and the outer ring of common value and culture
Click for a larger version

Today’s business world puts so much on the individual’s plate that the day doesn’t have enough hours to cope with everything. The attempt to limit email use to business hours and stop people from burning out by being “always on” is only a symptom of that problem.

If there weren’t an insane communication overkill, there wouldn’t be the need to cut it off deliberately.

We need a different mindset to benefit from the digital promises:

Before we can indeed access what digital can offer us at the workplace, we need to change something…or better some things:

  • The way we use digital tools in the day to day work needs to be better agreed on a team level – we need to be more conscious for the common denominator for how to do things
  • Moving stuff to the next in line cannot be about ’getting rid of it’ anymore – we need to develop a more recipient focussed work and communication culture
  • Managers must accept that people don’t scale indefinitely, just because they are available – we need a culture that creates room for a life outside the email rat race (and no: enterprise social networks or persistent chat tools aren’t the answer)
  • The “weneeds to have room in corporate culture beyond mission statements and HR values – we need a more explicit emphasis on how we can drive things together (and no: a knowledge management tool or innovation community aren’t the answer)

Tools need to be part of the solution – not the answer.

Being asked, what my most successful project was so far, I had the answer straight at hand: a project, in which I was able to support a program team in developing a new way of staying coordinated and create transparency for what’s going on and what’s lying ahead.

Digital tools only played an enabling role. The success factors were a common language (terminology and structure) and a shared commitment to exchange and ’togetherness’ in the program. It was a human-driven solution that was only connected by tools.

  • Tools can create transparency for interested people.
  • Tools can scale capacities if people make sure that no one is left behind
  • Tools can bring people together, that care about being one team
  • Tools can make knowledge accessible and usable if people have the bandwidth to share and consume

Tools are never the answer.

Directives and functional training are not the answer either.

It’s a conscious agreement on how we will be doing things in the future, not just that we will be doing them. That agreement needs to be established, led, managed and be part of the future of work as much as all the digital nuts and bolts will be part of it.

0 comments on “Collecting insight for my workshop at Intranet Reloaded 2019”

Collecting insight for my workshop at Intranet Reloaded 2019

Make the workshop about “building a strong foundation” valuable by sharing your experience!

On April 11th, I will be facilitating a little workshop at the 2019 Intranet Reloaded Conference in Berlin. It will be about building a strong foundation for change for digitalisation projects.

The following chart is an outline of the topics I’d like to discuss with the workshop participants.

Key objective of the session will be an exchange on

  • Good & bad experiences
  • Things that really made a difference
  • Things, you’d definitely repeat
  • Things, you’d never ever try again (yeah, we’ve all been there)

Tell me what you think…

Here’s a little online survey to better understand if the approach goes in the right direction or if there are other topics you want to see on the list.

Please help me to make the session as valuable as possible!

1 comment on “Sharing: my framework for agile digitalisation & organisational development. Please challenge it!”

Sharing: my framework for agile digitalisation & organisational development. Please challenge it!

I’ve decided to put it in writing and out in the open: my personal checklist for digitalisation projects and programs.

Digital Sherpa Initiation Checklist

I am doing this for three reasons:

  1. to share my experience
  2. to seek your feedback
  3. to establish new relationships

I believe in sharing experience

In almost two decades in various industries and types of business, I’ve come across a pretty consistent pattern of challenges for digitalisation projects. There have been some differences from client to client, but more often than not, the same root cause had prevented previous success or was getting in the way of the newly initiated project.

This checklist is basically the deep dive into my previous article on “wittingly cutting corners”, that I published on Simply Communicate in 2018. It’s what I was referring to as the framework that puts an agile initiative (project or program) on a strong foundation.

Sharing this will hopefully get me some insight into what people think about my point of view and how my experience compares to that of others out there.

I’m always excited about feedback & exchange

What I’m sharing is my subjective experience. The best way to make sure that I’m on the right track is to find people who are willing to challenge my thoughts or complement them with their own. Through this, I want to add a little more objectivity to my point of view and increase the value that I can add to my client’s endeavours.

To everyone’s surprise, I’m keen on winning new clients

First of all, it still humbles me how many people have decided to support my new freelance adventure. They have put their personal trust in me, and for that I am very grateful.

After one year, I’ve decided to investigate the options of building entirely new relationships and “actively market” the Sherpa. So this is my first step in that direction.

Call-to-action…

If you like what I’ve shared today, and especially if you think I might have hit a nerve in your organisation, please get in touch.  Put me to the test and see if I can bring something to your team, something that makes the climb to the digital summit more pleasant.

1 comment on “Sharing my executive briefing on motivation, challenges & leadership for internal digitalisation”

Sharing my executive briefing on motivation, challenges & leadership for internal digitalisation

A couple of weeks ago, I’ve worked on an executive briefing on my experience with internal digitalisation in large corporations. Based on my work in industrial manufacturing, insurance, pharmaceutical and professional services environments, this is my collection of

  • Motivation for internal digitalisation
  • Challenges that companies experience along the way
  • The role leadership & management has to place in digital transformation

It’s important to say, that not all aspects apply to each company but it’s quite striking how many aspects of motivation & challenges a lot of companies have in common…

Change Management (Executive Briefing)
(click for larger version)

Download a PDF of the image here.

0 comments on “My interview with WYZE on “the state of digitalisation projects” (German/English)”

My interview with WYZE on “the state of digitalisation projects” (German/English)

WYZE Projects* recently conducted an interview with me to discuss my personal view on the current state of digitalisation projects. We talked about

  • The reason, why some digitalisation initiatives struggle to keep traction
  • The difference of digitalisation to classic business process initiatives
  • Where to find “digital leadership” within organisations

The interview was conducted in German. Click here for the German (native) and English (translation) version of the interview.


 

* WYZE is a consultancy for for particularly demanding and knowledge-intensive topics in the fields of transformation, change, positioning, and marketing. 

5 comments on “If you need a Chief Digital Officer, you’re probably doomed…”

If you need a Chief Digital Officer, you’re probably doomed…

Summary: I’ve deliberately chosen the title to be a little *smile provocative. Of course I don’t mean it literally but where’s smoke there’s fire. So this article is about my very personal angle on the role of a CDO…more or less.

Maybe I need to say that McKinsey Quarterly isn’t my only inspirational source. However, I’ve learnt to appreciate their triggers to summarise some of my experience and complement it with their almost academical angle on my little digital world.

Unfortunately we have to make you our Chief Digital Officer

One of my colleagues at Infocentric just recently forwarded me a McKinsey article on “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”. Reading the article I actually reflected a little on my perception of organisations that decided to install a CDO as part of their Digital Transformation strategy.

Let me make a brutal statement: Digital, Social, Transformation, Web… whatever Officer. Whoever decided to invent those titles gave in to two things:

  • Our DNA is not able to embrace the digitalising world and we need someone with an (compared to us) attitude and unorthodox behaviour
  • Our Shareholders need to believe that we do something about the danger of disruption – we need a change on board level without changing anything

Again, provocative…maybe it’s the core of my article and therefore its real purpose: I want to provoke!

McKinsey put’s the famous quote

If you digitalise a shit process, you end up with a shit digital process

(Thorsten Dirks, CEO Telefonica Germany)

into a different frame: “(…) Many companies are focused on developing a digital strategy when they should instead focus on integrating digital into all aspects of the business, from channels and processes and data to the operating model, incentives, and culture. (…)” (Source: “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”, McKinsey, September 2015).

Digital Transformation means to embrace digital in all its, sometimes even disruptive opportunities. Disruption is nothing but the merciless elimination of something that was pushed into “outdated” by a new eco system anyway. Sometimes it happens to entire business models. Sometimes “only” an IT, communications or customer interaction strategy will be affected by it.

If you need some bearded guy with thick rimmed glasses that wears suit and trainers to tell you that you need to address the new requirements to your business model or strategy, you might have not done your home work…per se. Like in: the people that are in charge have somewhat left touch with the outside world and how things are moving forward. That’s a pretty rough sign in general.

Learn to fail

Looking at my past years in Digital Transformation I can say with confidence that very rarely companies allow themselves to really (really!) learn from mistakes. Try, fail, try again, fail harder and then succeed, however, is something that some companies have used to re-invent entire industries. We know them as the “new economy”. And the old economy is traveling to them from all over the world to learn on how to do things differently.

Now, for doing things differently a lot of paradigms and “measures of success” have to change in the first place. “Doing things right the first time” is something that companies should strive for…when it’s about the core of their business logic. When it comes to change, transformation and evolution, well, you might need a couple of iterations. No matter if you’ve been in charge of process design for 34 years, if you hold three PhDs in science or if you have been a sales over performer in three consecutive years. Sometimes you just don’t know straight away.

The way out: “Leading” a learning culture

I suggest that leaders and top managers start to use the phrase “I don’t know, I need to find someone who does.” more often. Because in an organisation with more than 50 people it’s pretty likely that there is someone who at least knows someone how knows. If you run a multi divisional, multi regional company…well, you do the math.

If leaders allow for bottom up change (not only preaching it, but actually nurturing it) then the phrase “I don’t know” can be magical. Suddenly you get the bits and pieces of your own DNA that could be the starting point of your change if you let it. Sometimes this is called “incubation”…but even that is more of a fig leave in too many cases.

For me “I don’t know” stands hand in hand with one of Franklin Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people:

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

It does not stand for weakness, disinterest or lack of competence. It’s merely the acknowledgement that real organisational power is built from a combination of many perspectives on the same subject. Like with a tribe…

Advisors are a sign that you actually care to learn

Alright, this might sound a little like a sales pitch for my profession. Nevertheless, if I look at people that have told me: “I didn’t know, so I brought someone to our conversation that actually does know”, I immediately developed a lot of respect for them. And I am not talking about external advisors anyway. Imagine if board & strategy meetings would (at least partly) be open for the digital or digitally savvy portion of the company. If the own digital DNA (no matter how small in numbers or young in age) would complement the decades of business and industry experience to take the next leap. Complement, not replace or push out or compete with.

I have seen companies like Swisscom go on stage in a combination of HR leadership, experienced digital transformers and  trainees. They showed how they, united as a team, take a stand for the transformation of organisation and business model. It was impressive and motivating at the same time.

I strongly believe that the winners of today’s competition for digital dominance will be the companies that don’t extend the board but transform the board.

You don’t need a CDO. You need a “C-Suite that is infected by and passionate about digital“.