Within digital evolution projects, do the IT team lead or support? This issue (not surprisingly) comes up a lot. However, given the core driver for all these conversations are around people, their employees, clients, stakeholders etc, the process is ultimately a people-first approach rather than technology first. IT (of course) has its place at the table as evolution programmes are discussed and planned, due to their inherent knowledge about the business and current systems therein. IT departments understand how these systems currently work and how they can be developed and used to greater effect. Digital evolution projects run parallel with BAU activities and the BAU environment is a core part of that evolution discussion, as it is ultimately about improving on what you currently do.
IT departments hold a lot of knowledge and insights which should be included in transformation programme discussions, however, it is important to remember that IT departments will also have developed their own departmental road-maps surrounding their department's offering within the business and technology infrastructure. They may bring with them a technology first bias. While Steve suggests that there are opportunities to merge evolution projects (IT and the rest of the business), the imperative should always be to address the organisation and end-consumer needs.
Great transformation programmes require a partnership mindset, with input from across the business with sales and marketing often being the custodians of road-map, as they tend to own those client relationships and understand the pain points and opportunities. When asked about what makes the ideal mix of departmental disciplines, Steve suggests that from an organisational perspective, we need to break down the silo thinking within and that the three C's, (Culture, Collaboration and Coalition) are central to the success of digital evolution project development and the delivery of a truly, transformational road-map.
Watch the rest of this discussion below:
WES came to This is Milk at the tail end of 2019, to support in the development of their proposition but also to help create an online resource to support the female business start-up community. Whether owning your own business is a dream in your head, or you are already set in motion, this website is a library of knowledge to guide you in this journey.
When it comes to this website, content is paramount, so it was crucial that we identified user groups and created useable persona’s that would allow WES to create content suited to their needs.
Bringing on board Stuart Henderson, from Massive Fusion and Susan Cruickshank from Sumni Design we created the team that would see this project from idea to launch, utilising the This is Milk key spirit of collaboration.
The Women’s Business Centre officially launched two weeks ago and has been received well by both the start-up community and female entrepreneurial communities. It is definitely worth a visit and be sure to sign up for the newsletter if you are currently on your start-up journey, the content is well worth it.
Visit the WES Womens Business Centre
In our Three@Three web series this week, Al and Steve are joined by Kerry Freeman, the owner of Free Human. Kerry is an expert in FS culture change. Today we are discussing the 3 factors for success in delivering a change road-map.
Al kicks off by asking, what does a healthy culture look like. Kerry suggests that it's important to recognise that there is no one 'cookie-cutter' answer to the question of what makes a great culture. However, Kerry's favourite definition comes from Carolyn Taylor's 'Walking the Talk'.
Carolyn writes 'Culture, is the patterns of behaviour that are encouraged, discouraged and tolerated by people in systems over time.' Kerry suggests that culture is the personality of the organisation and like human personalities, no one is the same. Organisational culture is based on what the organisation has been through in the past, where they currently are and where they aspire to be.
While there is no one size fits all approach to culture, we can identify aspects that can help make the culture and organisation healthier and healthy organisations tend to be more successful.
Key aspects of a healthy culture:
Action + reflection means organisations can grow and encourage experimentation, which is itself a sign of a healthy organisational culture.
Attaining that ideal organisational culture can be difficult to achieve, the same things that hamper an individuals progress, can be the same things that hold an organisation back. Kerry states that as humans, we are built to be resistant to change and organisations are the same.
Kerry suggests concentrating on 1 thing at a time, as multi-tasking change in organisations does not work. You build a healthy culture, step by step and consistency and diligently until it becomes your organisation's pattern. Perfect doesn't exist when it comes to culture.
Steve asks Kerry, where does the culture start from and how do you go about changing that environment to embrace change. Kerry suggests that the leadership team has a huge influence on this, their individual authenticity and their strategy, have a huge influence and argues that there has got to be a compelling narrative for change. One that reflects where the organisation has come from and the teachings of the past otherwise you run the risk of alienating great swathes of your people. If people don't believe the 'noises' coming from the senior team, if it's not authentic and people don't believe it, it won't change a thing.
We ask how can experimentation facilitate that change and help move a culture within an organisation? Kerry suggests avoiding the 'from-too' approach. Instead identify all of your patterns of behaviour that you reinforce, what are your common patterns?
With experimentation, you are looking at your common patterns, either to disrupts unhealthy patterns or reinforce 'virtuous' and desirable ones. Experimentation can take the pressure off, it is not about the right and the wrong, it's about the journey. and requires a lot of observation and reflection. Steve suggests that the drive for organisations to 'get stuff done' (GSD) can interfere with that important observation and reflection piece and because of the 'GSD' mindset, organisations don't feel like they have the time to experiment. Steve suggests that rather than being wasteful, the reflection piece is incredibly important.
Kerry suggests that when you are planning an experiment, you need to let go of your expectations on what is right and wrong and keep your options open. As well as managing your experiment and consider the learning experience, to get the most useful data out of the experiment. The first step is noticing the patterns, which is the most powerful aspect of culture change programs. By identifying and writing down a cultural pattern, you take the power out of that pattern, purely by observing it. Start small with something safe and something that you can easily observe.
Watch the full video here
Top 3 tips when preparing for a digital transformation programme and why it's not always about new technology.
In this week's 3@3, Al and Steve discuss the things individuals and organisations should consider before embarking on a transformation programme.
Al kicks off with a hotly debated question in our sector, the definition of 'Digital'.
What does digital mean to your business?
The answer to this question is usually...it depends.
Steve stresses that the best way to tackle this deceptively tricky question is to first assess your organisation's digital purpose. Steve uses an example of a community trust organisation, where a client board or senior stakeholders defined the brief surrounding the DT programme, they believed that the organisation should be using the latest technology in the most advanced way to deliver the most compelling service for their clients.
However, when they drilled down further, to understand the requirements better, the board's assertions didn't come from within the organisation, but rather from their perception of how their competition used tech. By bringing the conversation emphasis back to the digital purpose, it was clear the organisational objectives could be fulfilled using their existing technology stack to its full effect.
Steve argues that rather than fancy apps and hardware, often the DT spend needs to start on more housekeeping activities or tech such as CRM systems (customer relationship management) and without proper setup and implementation of the more un-glamorous elements of business as usual activities, enhanced DT (addition of new technologies) can not progress and that the purpose should dictate the direction of the DT activities, more than any brief. And that by defining digital purpose, you can be clearer on how to drive value and interactions with your customers.
Al talks about market noise and the knee jerk reaction by some boards that see new or emerging 'shiny' technologies as the answer to transformation programmes. And states while aspirational technology is important and has a place in a DT roadmap, if it's not adding value then it probably shouldn't be looked at in the initial part of the change programme.
Al talks about the importance of visioning techniques when defining digital aspirations and the importance of shifting mindsets.
Al talks about where skills requirement training comes into the DT journey and suggests that mindset is key here (citing Carol Dweck's book Mindset). Businesses need a mix of fixed and growth mindset to get things done now but also to adapt to the future. He talks about the importance of bringing the fixed mindset employee with you to strip away worry and re-frame the new as an opportunity for the business and individuals alike.
They discuss the false notion that Digital Transformation automatically means a people are going to lose jobs and everything is going to be automated. And goes into detail how you might combat that fear, using real-world examples.
Jo kicked off the discussion, talking about the importance of senior management commitment to successful change programmes and with it, the need for a certain mindset that embraces mistakes and failures. Allowing individuals to fail while embracing the opportunities and insights, that those failures create, is paramount in helping organisations pivot into something ultimately more successful than what they planned for.
Jo talks about why the F word...failure, is not a dirty word and why, 'Failing fast but learning quickly', should be the mantra for all transformation programs.
We discuss why the method for managing the roll-out of organisational change, and the right change management tools, is so important. Agile working with self-organising teams, help the organisation manage the ensuing chaos in a way that waterfall methodology could never hope to.
The iterative nature of the Agile method and Agile skills generally, embeds 'learning from failure' from the outset. However, the cultural shift required to manage change does not come from the bottom-up and leaders can't underestimate the value of being comfortable with the uncomfortable.
On the question of what does a successful change programme look like and how do you deliver aggressive change programmes without being or becoming aggressive yourself, Jo suggests that from the outset, it is important to bring your employees with you, be clear on the purpose and vision for the change and be clear on the roles that individuals have to play in the project and the company culture post project.
By engaging hearts and minds from the outset during the pre-project stage or what the Lewin's change management model calls, the 'Unfreeze stage', organisations can greatly improve the efficacy of the programme and help pave the way for cultural change post project.
Managing Consutant, This is Milk