When it comes to discussions about how the rapid rate of technology advancement has overhauled the way businesses operate, digital transformation is top of mind — with no signs of slowing down. Digital transformation is so popular, in fact, that it has become an often-overused buzzword.
Organizations are eager to embrace new ways to increase efficiency to stay not just relevant but on the cutting edge of their industries. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicted in April that companies worldwide would spend $1.2 trillion this year to build and implement new information technology (IT) systems that enable data-driven decision-making and drive digital transformation.
There is no denying that the pace of the world has changed, and leaders and employees are tasked with staying on top of what’s next. In many cases, it can feel as though we are all playing a constant game of catch-up.
These efforts include the usual suspects: agile practices, self-managing teams, faster iterations of new products and a “fail fast” mentality. In embracing these changes, organizations must learn new ways to work while also unlearning what is no longer serving the organization and its employees. Here are some specific issues many organizations encounter:
“Flavor of the Month” Technology
New technology may be easily understood and integrated into the IT department, but it doesn’t always ring true for the rest of the employees, who may not be as tech-savvy. This disconnect can create frustration and communication breakdowns between IT teams and the rest of the organization. When people are frustrated with technology, they tend to give up entirely, or they don’t use it in the way it was intended. This (avoidable) behavior usually spells doom for the investment you have made.
Fear of the Future
When organizations introduce new technology, especially technology that improves the work employees do every day, misconceptions run rampant. Workers fear their jobs will be automated and that, in turn, they could be out of a job. The impact of this fear can range from a distrust of the organization to boycotts of the new technology.
Agile teams have their own unique vocabulary and practices, which can make it difficult for them to share projects, challenges, goals and solutions with the rest of the organization. When this kind of bubble is formed, it can be hard to penetrate, and the team can be out of sync with the rest of an organization. Educating and communicating about the “why” and “how” of agile is key for everyone — even members of teams that aren’t using the discipline — in order to create mutual learning and understanding.
Often missing in these transformations are the core conversations required to move at a rapid pace successfully. People crave connection (no matter their generation), and if they’re going to take the time to learn and grow, they need connection for that learning to stick in the long term.
How do you achieve that connection? Organizations that equip teams with the skills to connect personally, problem-solve quickly and communicate effectively cross-functionally are the ones that succeed during a digital transformation.
The best ways to enable your employees to tackle their toughest challenges? Here are a few suggestions:
Communicate Early and Often
If there is a change on the horizon, announce it as soon as possible, well before it will take effect. Explain clearly what it will be, whom it will affect and, perhaps most importantly, why the change is happening. By clearly articulating the desired outcome, you can help employees understand the reasoning behind the change and then embrace it.
Train Protocols and Frameworks for Communication
Whether it is a one-on-one conversation, a team brainstorm or a confrontation, there are specific frameworks that teams can use to quickly move a situation forward. Invest in the time and the training to help them use them. Many leaders will say that there isn’t enough time, but the truth is that you are wasting your time if you do not train. We don’t expect technical skills to magically appear. Why do we expect other skills to?
Provide Ample Opportunity for Questions
When communicating a change, be sure to allow time for both public and private Q&A. Provide office hours throughout the weeks leading up to a big change, and be sure to answer any email questions directly and in a timely manner. If you receive the same question or concern again and again, address it broadly, as the individuals who reach out are likely not the only ones with reservations.
Carve out Time for Connection
New teams working together? IT playing a bigger role? Host a happy hour or an offsite event, and encourage one-on-one meetings to help establish connections both within and across teams.
Implementing the change isn’t the end of the process. Continue to follow up with people directly and, if possible, consider a quick survey on how things are going. It’s a good idea to have a pulse both immediately after the implementation and in the coming weeks and months.
Digital transformation helps us transform as individuals, too. The better we are at quickly and skillfully talking about what matters, the more everything transforms — in both a human and digital capacity.