Digital Transformation – Adoption Pull not Delivery Push?

In the first and second blogs of this series on how Business Change needs to adapt to be effective for digital transformation, we set out an agenda based on the ways in which digital transformation is different, and made a case for treating it as culture change not systems implementation. Both blogs stressed that what Afiniti is about is adopting different ways of working and changed behaviours, not really about getting people to use technology per se.  But what do we mean by adopting; what is it; and how does focusing on adoption inform Business Change activity and planning?  That’s what this blog is about.

We talk about adoption in many different domains.  Adopting a child is both a legal event, but also (I’d suggest) a process of settling into a new pattern of family – for adoptive parent(s) and adopted child(ren). But we also talk about adopting new identities, nationalities and behaviours; we speak of new processes and systems being adopted; and we even refer to individuals and groups adopting things such as fashions, chants / songs, or postures. What can we learn from this? Perhaps it’s that adoption is a journey undertaken as much as a single event,

If one of the things that distinguishes digital transformation from other change journeys is that the use of the tool(s) it provides can be optional (see our first blog), then successful adoption of new ways of working enabled by digital tools is surely a process involving both breadth and depth.  Breadth – what proportion of the group / organisation has taken on new ways of working by using the tool(s); and depth, to what extent (for how much of what they do) have they changed what they do by using the tool(s) – perhaps even how much of the potential for improvement have they unlocked.  And if our goal is the adoption of new ways of working, enabled by the technology, then adoption cannot be anything but a process – and a process that begins with the tools being made available, not one that ends at that point.

What might a process view of adoption, one focused on increasing breadth and depth, mean for Business Change?

First, we’ve found that it means the Business Change activity after a technology ‘go live’ will be at least as important as, Business Change activity before any ‘go live’. And, since programmes tend to come to their end relatively quickly after ‘go live’, this in turn means that much of the most important Business Change activity will not be programme-driven but will have to be delivered as part of business-as-usual. Whilst many organisations are beginning to recognise this need we see few that have successfully risen to the challenge.

Second, if adoption is a process of broadening and deepening, it’s difficult to see how it can be ‘delivered’ – or ‘pushed’ at colleagues within an organisation. Rather, we at Afiniti find, adoption is better encouraged and stimulated by building pull – creating the desire at a grass roots level to seek out new tools and adopt new ways of working. This means creating a programme team and champion networks that are sufficiently in touch with how and where ways of working are changing to spot examples that will be attractive to others in the organisation, and which can therefore be used to build ‘pull’.

We’ll explore in the next blog how perspective persona-based engagement and a strong ‘champion’ network can be re-thought and cascaded to accelerate this pull.

For now, though, how does this square with your experience – does this model of adoption as a process of increasing breadth and depth make sense?

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Sustainability and Business Change

Ah sustainability.

The watchword of business across the globe, plastered across everything from boxes of tea and packets of salmon, to organisational goals statements and marketing materials. But really, the contexts in which this all-too-often used word is placed seems to vary greatly, covering a range of meaning from ecological safeguarding, to fair trading and ethical practices, through to simply meaning that a business will ensure that it survives in the long term.

However, we only have to look at the political discourse in today’s polarising and highly charged media environments to recognise that there is clearly a disconnect between the individuals’ view of what is sustainable and the overarching organisational corporate or governmental view of what is sustainable. In recognising this, we are presented with a challenge from a change perspective.

How do we enact sustainability, when really we don’t actually have a firm grip on what it means!

Triple bottom line theory, or TBL for short highlights these views somewhat, putting across that organisations no longer can simply acknowledge only the fiscal factors pertaining to their survival, but the wider societal and environmental impact practices as well.

This existential ‘triple threat’, is obviously a massive problem to attempt to get a handle on, and is something that many organisations don’t know where to begin. In some ways the ‘fear factor’ alone of what will happen when the implications of calculating the societal or environmental factors are considered weigh large, causing a strategic and operational paralysis that results in these vital changes not taking place at either the scale or speed that is required.

A good example of this is the brave move by Puma to calculate environmental impact as part of its operating model (though it is worth noting they still have not included this in their annual profit-loss statements). Calculating the impact in 2015 as a whopping 145 million Euros per year. As a point of comparison, Puma’s 2018 net earnings were 187 million. Fear factor indeed.

Yet it’s easy to focus on the negative aspects rather than the implicit positives of getting things right. Organisational resilience is at its highest point when all variables are being considered.

Likewise the benefits of having a fully engaged and committed workforce is well understood. Disengagement costs alone potentially cost tens of thousands per disengaged employee, saving these costs in return for an investment in a truly open, meaningful program of work that benefits both employees and the business seems like a good trade to make.

As Ken Blanchard in his book on servant leadership says, look after your people, and they will look after your customers, which will look after your bottom line.

But let’s link in now to the change element. Clearly there’s a big piece to be considered here! Arguably this could be the biggest and most important change that organisations will need to make in this century to avoid the obvious repercussions stemming from social inequality & environmental destruction, but also technological disruptions, new business models and rising geopolitical uncertainty. In order to become truly resilient this needs a new way of viewing things, that requires looking beyond the box of the organisation and into the wider world in which that organisation sits.

So what do businesses need to look at to examine this in more depth?

The BSR (Business & Social Responsibility), a not-for-profit organisation, have an integrated framework that encompasses three main areas. The purpose of this article is not to cover their framework in depth, but at a glance, they are:

ACT – Creation of resilient business strategies, governance and management approaches that ensure the achievement of business goals.

ENABLE – Catalyze systemic progress by building mutually beneficial relationships and collaboration with stakeholders and partners across the entire value chain.

INFLUENCE – Promote policy frameworks that strengthen the relationship between commercial success and the achievement of a just and sustainable world.

These are useful pointers certainly, but this author’s view is that there is actually a wider issue at hand here. That of the inherent capability of the organisation to actually change, ie: their change readiness. This need exists not at a project level or simply a ‘piece’ of the business but a total sea change across all operating areas. The mind boggles at the cost, time and complexity that this change would require!

By this standard, organisations clearly aren’t ‘change ready’ in the majority of instances.

However, to make the impossible difficult, and the difficult manageable, we can break this down using the experiences we already have at our fingertips of what it takes to embed change across an organisation.

Underpinning this are the same change components which are utilised in effective change programs across the globe; people-focused culture shifts, proactive and meaningful communication and dialogue with key stakeholders, the establishment of effective learnings on how things should and could be done, and appropriately deployed technological mechanisms all ensure effective change management takes place not just at a project level but as a program and organisationally aligned initiative.

By looking at things in this way we can begin to gather an inkling of the step changes which can, and indeed must, take place over the coming years. Even small steps, when taken together can make big leaps forward! This is what good change management is about!

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Digital Transformation – Focus on culture, not using technology?

In our first blog on how Business Change around digital transformation should be different, we highlighted some of the ways in which Digital Transformation is distinct from other technology-enabled change, and set out an ‘agenda’ for the ways in which we think Business Change accordingly has to be different.  This second blog explores the first of these – the need to move from seeing this as ‘technology-enabled’ to a ‘culture change’.

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Digital transformation – transforming everything but business change?

Oh the (virtual) ink that’s been expended on what we think of as Digital Transformation over the past 20 years!  Understandably, given fast-paced and ever-morphing technology, what Digital Transformation means has changed over time too.

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Creating a great change communications strategy

Research and statistics show that communications strategy and planning is still an area that many organisations can make big improvements in. In fact, a 2018 research study and report by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co states that 60% of companies don’t have a long-term communication strategy!

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What is a learning culture and what’s it got to do with business change?

Change as the new norm requires organisational agility, an ability to capitalise on opportunities, deal with challenges, and disrupt rather than be disrupted. This is what we talk about in the business change world in terms of internal capability and change readiness.

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Afiniti Top 20 again for learning and performance solutions

Afiniti is excited to feature, for the second year running, in the Learning and Performance Institute’s (LPI’s) eBook of the Top 20 highest-performing learning providers 2019

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There’s more to Business Change than the business

Afiniti’s Change Readiness Assessment tool is built around six ‘levers’ that we see well developed in organisations that are change ready.  One of the levers outlines whether there are clearly understood business drivers for change.  That makes sense – we’re increasingly finding that those impacted by a forthcoming change want to understand not only what the change entails, but also why it’s being implemented at all.

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