Taking on a digital transformation project is a big undertaking. Ensuring that you are set up for success is critical. To lead a successful digital transformation requires a good sense of humor and these 11 characteristics. Take some time to get to know these characteristics and integrate them into your planning.
- Believes in the change. You should fully embrace and understand the need for and value of the envisioned change. Your passion and excitement will shine through in all that you do, and you'll easily ignite these same feelings in others through your authenticity.
- Helps leaders to believe in the change. Take time with leaders (even the technophobic ones!) to build their understanding of the digital transformation project and how it will help the organization -- and them. Although they might have "signed off" on the project, they might not truly grasp it as a change effort and/or they might feel intimidated to ask questions if they don't feel digitally savvy. Empower them to own and feel comfortable with the effort so they become your biggest advocates.
- Collaborative. Plan and execute change management activities with key staff from across the organization. Change messages should come from a variety of people, in language that the people they work with most frequently can easily understand. It's also important that messages come from people at all levels of organization so that the initiative isn't perceived as being purely top-down. After all, the majority of people who will benefit from digital transformation are not on the leadership team. As you get underway, designated or informal internal champions will be critical allies to build and sustain momentum and help new information and behaviors reach every corner of the organization.
- Communicates early and often. Plan in advance the who, what, when, and how for communicating about the change effort. Provide lots of interactive, open forums for discussion along the way, such as lunch-and-learns and online Q&A forums or discussions where people can freely ask questions. When crafting more formal communications and announcements, put yourself in others' shoes to anticipate the kinds of questions different audiences will have. And once launch is in the rear-view mirror, the drumbeat of promotion and encouragement should continue until the new tools or ways of working become second nature to all.
- Empathetic. Make it a priority to understand the needs, challenges, and desires of people involved in your planned change. Understand that poorly executed change efforts can adversely affect people's morale and health -- really! So, listen deeply to what people share and ensure that your effort responds to them on a variety of levels. Being a good listener is more than being quiet while others are speaking. It involves asking good, and sometimes hard, questions and then being open to considering viewpoints that differ from your own.
- Understands, before designing. Don't design solutions in a vacuum. Get out and see how people work. Understand the problems people are trying to solve. Simply put, co-design a solution together with end users that truly addresses the problem as others see it, which may differ from how you see it.
- Works openly. Be comfortable with carrying your work in an open and transparent way. Make meeting minutes available to everyone. Create a suggestions/questions box. Share frequent updates, even when there have been mistakes or setbacks. Mistakes are inevitable in large change efforts, so own them and let others know how you're applying the lessons moving forward.
- Realizes there is more than one way to learn. Accommodate the different ways in which people take in new information, from watching videos, to reading short narratives, to taking part in hands-on trainings. Ensure everyone has a solid start on using their new tools so they can fully embrace new ways of working without barriers.
- Nimble and patient. Understand that organizational change is not a linear process and that it should not be rushed. Wherever needed, slow down to revisit your course of action, validate assumptions, and make necessary adjustments -- especially when conditions in or outside your organization change.
- Has fun! Be sure to inject fun and creativity, from games, to launch parties with giveaways, to producing fun video shorts or having users submit their own. Digital transformation can feel heavy and serious so help lighten the mood and make it fun for people to get involved in the effort.
- Acknowledge yourself for doing the right thing. If you're doing all of the above, you're at the top of the heap when it comes to digital transformation leadership! Bravo! And no matter what, don't let the inevitable naysayers get you down. They are there to remind you to be humble and listen to everyone, even your biggest detractors, and to never stop trying to be better.
This fall, we launched Dx Advisor — a first-of-its-kind support suite for digital transformation leaders. Your Dx Advisor subscription will provide everything you need to lead a successful digital transformation project, with exclusive access to specialized resources like this knowledge article, and more. This includes:
- Unlimited access to a dedicated advisor, who will serve as your strategist and guide
- Access to the Dx Advisor playbook: A vast collection of field-tested tools, templates, and step-by-step instructions for leading digital transformation
- A personalized dashboard to track and manage your entire digital transformation journey