The Digital Leader

“You must be the change you wish to see.

Change is our new normal. And whether we like it or not, Digitalisation has become synonymous with change. Digitalisation is not only the super glue but also an integrator to weave all-important change elements such as people, strategy, process, procedure, and information technology seamlessly. It is a cornerstone that can make multidimensional change sustainable for the long term. The implication for leaders is clear; you must lead the digitalisation of your organisation. You now have a better opportunity than ever to take advantage of the Enterprise Ireland Funded Digital Discovery Grant to help your company get started on your Digital Journey.

1. Reflection and evaluation practices

The purpose of digitalisation is to make a significant difference in the overall levels of organisational maturity. It is important for Leaders to reflect on Digitalisation strategically; is IT there to “keep the lights on” only, or is it of strategic significance?
There are many questions:

  • Does it stretch, challenge, or interrupt the status quo?
  • Can it expand the zone of possible change and innovation?
  • Does it drive team-building and organisational learning?
  • Is it a high-involvement process to make the digital paradigm shift?

Evaluate the manageability of IT in your organisation. Include innovation, competency, and IT as core pillars of your strategy.

2. Deep listening practices

The digital age brings empowerment. Listen to feedback. Involve people in both change management and process implementation in order to gain insight and to demonstrate empathy. If you do not listen, you will lose the goodwill of collaboration.

Listening and communicating are critical in dealing with change, constructively advocating fresh viewpoints and building trust. Be aware that you are in a position of authority, you have lots of opportunities to tell and lots of leeway in how to do the telling. But change as a management process does not start with “how”. To truly engage and encourage empathy, one must often first figure out “why”.

3. Team inception practices

Change leaders should cultivate an open nature within the business, striving to break down the overly restricted business hierarchy and multilayer of organisational silos such as silo mentality, silo information or silo processes. This is the first step towards building holistic enterprise change competencies.

Most of the emphasis today is on process and control. Management puts emphasis on compliance with results, and people forget to think freely. However, to drive change and innovation it is important to develop a working environment in which people are encouraged to think independently, share unique insights, and harness collaboration.

4. Dynamic facilitation practices

Change is about figuring out a better way to do things. If you try to turn it into an obligation, you will cause an equal and opposite reaction. Many well-established organisations are struggling with changes because of overly rigid business processes, legacy technologies, inflexible management disciplines, or command-control management styles.

To rejuvenate a culture of change, it is important for leaders to adopt coaching or mentoring styles, and apply dynamic facilitation practices to develop high-performing and creative teams.

5. Cross-functional communication and collaboration practices

Many Digital leaders are technology specialists or tactical managers who may not understand the business. Experts must communicate, collaborate, and integrate. It is the responsibility of leaders to break down silos and realise the common goals or strategies which are far more important than the personal or departmental goals.

6. Feedback-Feedforward practices

Either for improvement or innovation, feedback is always about how to improve performance, so it is always about the future. Feedback needs to be expansive and dynamic rather than static. If you want to create a great future for the organisation, teams need to be responsive to feedback.
Feedback does not focus on the past; it tells you what is happening so that you can adapt. Feedback needs to be continuous, as close to real-time as possible. This not only helps people to act but aids to feed forward to manage change. Feedback should always be genuinely proper, precise, and substantive. These feedback-feedforward practices are important to improve change effectiveness.

7. Managing change systematically by taking a framework approach

Successful leaders are the ones who have learned when change is needed and what must change. It is a systematic effort – change cannot be just another thing that needs to be accomplished. It must be woven into communication, process, and the actions of the organisation. A Change Management framework with clearly-defined stages, decision-making parameters, performance thresholds and metrics is required.

8. Amplifying the change effect to the organisational scope

Digitalisation and IT will drive a large proportion of change in the future. They will orchestrate changes to processes, tools, products, or services that organisations use. This will affect the business transformation from strategy to deployment, from change assessment to measurement.
Digitalisation will not only change its own role, but it will also influence the entire organisation and the business ecosystem. It takes strategic planning, methodologies, and practices to make change happen and to sustain that change to achieve the expected business results.

9. ‘Every individual as a stakeholder practices

Lack of accountability is often one of the biggest obstacles to getting things done or causing change inertia. Digital organisations can close the accountability gap through open-door listening, cross-functional communication and collaboration, transparency, and empathy.

When digital leaders are equipped with the ownership mentality, they can run businesses boldly and provide the digital leadership style to inject enthusiasm which is infectious and catalyses changes. The challenge is to set digital principles, encourage self-management, enforce accountability, and adapt to changes depending on the company’s ambition and situation.

10. “Walk the digital talk” practices

Leaders must envision not only where a company believes it is going, but how it will get there. They must expose opportunities because of limitations on the understanding of disruptive technological trends, information flows or knowledge updates.
Walking the digital talk requires a well-prepared and business-focused journey. Digital is no longer just about numbers and algorithms; it has an opportunity to be a significant catalyst for passion and a tool for encouraging changes.

11. Make change deliverables continually

Digitalisation requires tools, training, and practices for participants to feel comfortable that the service level they provide will continue to improve with the same or reduced effort. To adapt to the increasing speed of changes, organisations must become nimbler in updating technology and making change a regular deliverable.

12. Outcome-based measurement practices

Organisations consist of people. And it is the change in the behaviour of those people that brings about change in the organisation. Leaders must have the desire to change a company and they must define the “why and what” of the change outputs. When the collective outcome is the focus, the silo walls collapse. When individual and departmental outcomes are measured, the walls go up.

Digital organisations are living things with the ability to continually change as the world changes and evolves. Digitalisation is at the centre of changes; leaders must develop technology-driven change practices to reach the next level of business maturity.

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This post was written by Gene Leonard, CEO, LBSPartners.


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