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6 Levers to manage Change in the Digital Age

"People exist without Companies, but companies can't exist without People!" (Or at least not yet)

In the era of digitalisation, digital has been a driving force of change and digital transformation programs are happening across almost all companies. In addition, digital technology is evolving in an unprecedented pace.

The challenge for organisations is to successfully run digital projects as part of their digital transformation programs as well as addressing the changes required for their leadership, talents and employees to embark and support their digital journey.

Change management is always a major component in addressing the issues of managing the resistance and discomfort experienced by employees within digital projects, making them feel comfortable to embrace and realise the benefits of the digital transformation.

Experience and research shows that Change management is by far the most enduring bottleneck to digital projects and transformation.

To address these challenges, senior management has to fully engage with change management and change must cover company's organisation, practices and culture. I will share with you based no my experience and research the key levers to address these challenges and what senior management should ensure and implement:


1- Lead with Culture:

Conventional change management asks to secure executive mandate for change, starting with CEO. With multiple digital projects running in parallel and short timescales, sometimes there is a temptation to adopt pure top-down approach for leading change. However, this is proven not to be effective or productive. Change management in the digital age will need senior management to lead by example and start by conveying and living the culture they want to achieve by their digital transformation. For that reason, senior management should:

  • Provide a combination of digital and face-to-face interactions across the organisation regarding the need for change and personalise the culture they are preaching about.

  • Use storytelling to gain employee buy-in and organisation traction for digital initiatives. Narratives about digital should be studied carefully to ensure the context and delivery is fitting with the culture expected.

  • Utilize all physical and virtual channels to amplify their presence and digital commitment. Senior management should lead by example by practicing engagement. For example, simple comments or "liking" employee posts on internal Social networks is very powerful way to show their support for teams.


2- Involve Every Layer:

For successful change, all stakeholders need to be involved from the start. Involvement doesn't mean being informed only but they need to be able to actively contribute to the creation, adaptation and implementation of digital projects. Therefore, senior management should:

  • Utilize methods such as design thinking to ensure all employees are involved as well as understanding the different roles and stages employees might be at during the change life-cycle.

  • Empowerment of employees to be able to express themselves, contribute and get involved. The employees need to feel the change is a shared purpose and this is identical at all levels of the organisation.


3- Engage, Engage, Engage:

With rapid change comes an absolute requirement for transparency, clear and open communication and continuous engagement with the entire organisation. Therefore, senior management should:

  • Create an online community to allow everyone see what's happening, when and why.

  • Ensure digital projects are not decided on by pure technology but as a way of employee enhanced interaction with each other. Remember that even though employees might interact with relative ease with similar digital technologies in their personal life, this differs hugely in a work environment.

  • Create a learning repository including self-documenting area to allow everyone contribute to the lessons learned and best practices along the digital transformation timeline.


4- Break Silo's:

The "silo mentality" or the "not invented here" syndrome is so prevalent now-a-days. This definitely does not suit digital transformation which relies heavily on openness, transparency and collaboration. Therefore, the senior management should:

  • Bring the commitment among leaders across the entire organisation. Senior management should understand that "baby boomers" or "Generation X" many times lack the digital expertise which consciously and unconsciously cause these leaders to not understand change, get confused and has difficulty to understand it.

  • Implement what some people call "co-design" or "co-creation" into the organisation as a whole. This means that the senior management should drive alignment on a local and global level on what needs to be done but then allow the employees to come together and put their ideas and resources in best way the fits their environment to drive digital change.


5- Lead outside the lines:

Senior management and their first line reports sometimes believe they have to oversee, manage and monitor themselves the entire change management and lifecycle for their responsibility. I even experienced senior management not allowing communications to go out without their sign-off. This is quite dangerous and destructive in the digital world where the channels of interaction, communication and engagement are ever increasing and boundaries are disappearing. Therefore, senior management should:

  • Put in place a community of change agents or what some call "pride builders" that can facilitate the change process, distribute knowledge by ensuring those who get stuck get the help they need and ensure collective energy are spent towards the digital transformation journey.

  • Empower this community to collaborate with all employees, be able to formulate plans, make joint decisions and be able to self-organise. This will ensure the decisions are closer to where the decisions are most effective.


6- Demonstrate progress:

With digital transformation, their are technological enablers that allow you to better measure, assess and improve decisions made quickly and easily. Therefore senior management should:

  • ensure the strategy of their digital transformation is clear and communicated along with their view of what "success" means.

  • ensure the tools are available to document, measure and share "success" and make it available to everyone to see what everyone else are doing.


So for the next 100 days, what can you do in your organisation to improve your change management activity?

  • Simply and quickly assess if your change management activities have any of the levers above.

  • If not, STOP. Even though you might be pushed in the short term to achieve productivity or cost measures, digital transformation without a proper change management will reduce your entire organisation productivity for the future, impact your leaders and employees acceptance to the digital tools and process and it will cost you more in the long run as you will spend more cost and effort to re-engage with your employees to acknowledge and embrace your digital tools.

  • Define a lean change framework on a program level and ensure the above levers are in place. The details for each project will automatically follow and you will be surprised how each project will adopt these levers accordingly.

The above is not complicated nor time consuming. If you do it right, you will make your digital transformation journey easier, quicker and more successful as everyone in your organisation will be engaged with it.


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