Digital Transformation Success Depends on Agile Approach to Change
Digital Transformation – The principles and practices of the agile movement are quickly moving beyond the IT department and into how firms run their day-to-day business. This new way of organizing and running business gains further impetus by the headlong rush to use digital transformation to gain competitive advantage, which often requires changing a company’s operating model through many iterative steps known as a journey. Using the agile approach, they minimize risks and can validate that their efforts are meeting the desired outcome as they move forward on their journey. Unfortunately, many companies see these benefits of an agile approach, but they struggle to do that. What are they missing?
A key element that many firms miss is the necessity to change their corporate culture to support an agile environment. At the heart of this cultural change is the long-standing practice of penalizing failure. In traditional organizations, executives and managers are not allowed to fail. They are given targets, held accountable to those targets, and failure is not tolerated. This understanding is deeply ingrained in business psyche.
In an agile environment, we hear a lot of talk about failing fast and failing forward; however, organizations don’t allow failure in projects. True digital transformation can only be accomplished in an agile framework, so experimentation must be allowed.
One of the keys to navigating through the unknowns of the deep change that most digital transformation demands is the willingness to experiment to learn and test. Failures – doing things and finding they don’t work or don’t work as well as we had anticipated – is part of how we move into the unknown, and much of the details of a transformation journey are unknown and evolve on the journey. Failure, or at least some level of dissatisfaction with results, is often the norm.
The Danger Of Not Taking An Agile Approach
With the ambiguity of big business model change at the heart of most ambitious digital transformation efforts, the organization must build a foundation of learning to build the conviction that the change is worth the effort and that it will lead to the needed results. This foundation can only be built through an ongoing series of experiments that must risk failure to absorb the learnings.
Here’s an ironic fact – in companies with a culture focused on meeting objectives and never failing, executive often proclaim these experiments and pilots as victories even when the actual results were not a success. In effect, the organization lies to itself and builds its confidence and learnings on false facts and experiences. Often, executives question these assumptions, but they are intimidated or ignored. Once momentum builds behind well-funded projects that are backed by senior executives, it becomes politically untenable to be seen questioning or resisting them. The transformation initiatives then move forward on flawed foundations and incorrect learnings.
Consequently, companies build their digital transformation on a foundation of lies and over representations or misrepresentations. This is particularly troubling in digital transformation, where companies need tightly coupled components that could interact with each other seamlessly toward a great customer or employee experience.
Here’s a common example.
This article originally appeared on forbes.com To read the full article, click here.
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