Digital Transformation: structured program or social environment?

The first in a series, by Ian Buttery

In the first of a series of blogs, change management advocate Ian Buttery, founder of Clear Consultancy Services, highlights the importance of providing a social environment for digital transformation.

How organisations cope with business change is a common topic in whichever sector you work, but particularly in technology-driven businesses, where there is a tendency to approach digital transformation as a technology-enabled project along with the expectation that change management can fit into the project fzplan as an “activity”, often with a “milestone” for completion. 

But in the world of work today and more significantly, tomorrow, should change fit into a structured digital transformation program?

In my view, the majority of change management approaches adopted by organisations today may not be fit for purpose for tomorrow. These long-established change models are more aligned to “planned” rather than “emergent” change.

Although these change models may have served a purpose during the industrial age, I would argue that in today’s digital age, they’re less relevant. Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze approaches as developed by Kurt Lewin as far back as the 1940s have stood the test of time, but now appear dated in their ability to support the challenges of today, where you could argue that nothing ever reaches “freezing point”, but maintains a constant state of fluidity.

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With technology developing quicker today than the speed at which organisations are able to transform, the ability to continually change at pace will become the norm.

Businesses of all sizes need to have the right people, with the right behaviour, in the right environment, building and nurturing a community to deal with continuous disruption, whilst sensing the external environment in order to remain competitive in their markets. In short, organisations need to prepare to disrupt, or face being disrupted.

Larger, more established organisations may have a disadvantage compared to organisations who are smaller and agile (typically start-ups) where in the latter, the idea of adopting and embedding an environment for change isn’t necessarily perceived daunting or complex.

Organisational leaders and sponsors need to bring change to the top of their agenda, not include it as an after-thought to support the implementation of technology.

Providing a social environment in which capabilities are nurtured and data is used to innovate, rather than solely to protect the status quo, will be key to success. A high-level of communication through smaller, agile focus groups is encouraged, where people can make data-driven decisions when the market demands them, if not before.

The biggest value in the digital age, in my opinion, will be the ability to bring people and data together optimising both intellectual and data assets, where data informs human decisions, whilst humans determine the most relevant data that adds the most value to their business.

Removing the need for a structured digital transformation program

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Ian Buttery                                                                                                            

Ian works with Comma Group to help redesign the capabilities of people to deliver digital transformation success. 

Comma Group helps organisations assess their current level of maturity and build their future people and technology capabilities, in order that the value of data and how to use it is understood to gain the utmost competitive advantage for the business.