Who’s Killing Your Digital Transformation?
You move around your company’s boardroom, searching the eyes of your colleagues. Who’s guilty? Who’s the inside hit-man?
Someone in your company is clipping short your digital transformation and innovation. A change “killer” is on the loose. Somehow, you’ve found yourself playing Clue.
Let’s set the scene.
There’s no Professor Plum with the candlestick in the office. Colonel Mustard doesn’t work for you — and there’s no billiard room in sight.
But in the disruptive universe of enterprise-wide transformation, it doesn’t take a wrench to hold back digital change.
The International Data Corporation calls “digital deadlock” a lethal phenomenon bringing down high-profile digital transformations. When a company gets hit by digital deadlock, it’s transformation efforts are mostly doomed.
Why? Because certain individuals are stalling change initiatives from achieving their true potential. Deadlock strikes when employees actively block and reject transformation efforts.
The International Data Corporation believes close to $1.3 trillion will be spent on digital transformation technologies this year.
Yet, McKinsey finds that 70% of these initiatives end in failure — and that failure has a steep price.
Now it’s your job to find out who’s killing your transformation.
Adopting innovation: From advocates to antagonists
According to the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, you can observe a ripple effect when innovation settles into a social system. Over a period of time, people in the business will embrace innovation through the actions of different groups on your team.
However, certain culprits in your organization are out to block your innovation change efforts. They’re hard to identify — not only because they look just like the rest of us, but because sometimes, they act in ways that oppose digital transformation without meaning to.
The digital transformation “murder mystery” is a complex case, because you have to locate the opposition when they may not even realize they are opposing it themselves.
Before we start our search, let’s take a look at the different groups of players.
The transformation heroes: Meet your innovators
The killer of your transformation won’t be among the first group — the innovators. These are the 2.5% that will be the first to embrace new digital tools.
Innovators are not change-resistant, they are change champions. Your innovators are the ones who genuinely support and advocate for your digital transformation. Their enthusiasm helps drive the diffusion of innovation theory and promote the spread of innovation across the organization.
Your change management leaders: The early adopters
The next 13.5% are the early adopters — and you’ll want them on your top team.
Early adopters are aware of today’s shifting digital business landscape. They’re primed for transformation, eager to not only adopt new changes but implement them in your organization.
The bulk of your organization is either an ‘easy buy-in’ or a ‘change cynic’
Most of your company is split between the early and late majority — accounting for 68% of your total workforce.
The early majority won’t be the ones leading your transformation initiatives. They aren’t the first to embrace change, but they aren’t resistant enough to kill your digital transformation.
The late majority — your transformation skeptics — look guiltier, though they aren’t necessarily the culprit. When it comes to the rapid-fire pace of change in the digital workplace, the late majority is hesitant. For them, it’s not enough to hear why transforming your organization can streamline business processes or boost customer experience, for example.
The late majority needs to see how others adopt the changes in your digital transformation first — and effectively. Then, they’ll (gradually) come on board.
Keep an eye out for your biggest suspects: The laggards
The remaining 16% of your team are active non-adopters; laggards of change and fearful of new strategies. This 16% is the toughest to convince — not just to adopt your company’s new strategy, but to understand its initial need.
The combination of lack of understanding and refusal to adopt can spell the demise of your digital change effort.
What are the clues you’ve got a transformation murderer at large?
Next, you have to look into how to identify who belongs to each group. Finding this out will allow you to determine who on staff is to “blame” for slowing your digital transformation.
The Classic ‘No’ Person
This employee recoils at the mere suggestion of change. Perhaps they are traumatized from poorly executed change management in the past. A victim of change fatigue will approach your innovative strategy as a fad — and dismiss it with no intention of altering their workflow, processes, or attitude.
No, I don’t like this. Why rock the boat? Everything has been going just fine. I liked how it was. No one consulted with me — and I don’t want to learn different processes now.
The classic “No” person will distrust and fear anything different from “the old way.” This worker craves familiarity — and needs a good change management leader to ease them away from the status quo.
But if this person is a leader on your top team, you may need to reconsider if that role is a well-suited fit. You can’t have a Classic “No” Person as a leading executive.
Digital transformation and innovation demand change-agile leadership. What happens to your business without a forward-thinking risk-taker at the top?
A “No” Person in the C-suite will trigger the demise of your digital transformation from the top-down.
When leaders lack commitment to innovating processes, you’ll fail to push change forward.
Instead of adopting an agile work culture, a leader who is a “No” Person will create a divisive tension among the rest of the team. Those who support change will feel suppressed by a leader who clings to the past.
An agile leader can challenge a “No” employee’s resistance. But don’t be afraid to let go of a “No” person at the top — or your transformation will be compromised.
The Silent Killer
At least the Classic “No” Person is a vocal threat — which means you can easily spot the signs. Your “Silent Killer” is a different story.
When the feeling of “overwhelm” strikes, it’s often silent. This employee becomes withdrawn and unmotivated to change. Even if that worker goes through the motions, he or she will be less productive.
“The Silent Killer” requires better communication. This person could be found in your late majority, which means there’s no need to lose hope. While they might be tough to rally, it’s possible to gain their support.
Feedback loops, regular check-ins with managers, and employee surveys will be critical to identify and “rehabilitate” your company’s “Silent Killer.”
This laggard is anxious about all of the “what ifs” change brings.
What if I don’t have the competence to achieve these new tasks under a new foreign system? What if we don’t have the right tools? Do we even have the right training to adopt all this technology?
These fears don’t have to trip up your transformation. Empower “The Complainer” with skills training to make digital transformation less intimidating and unlock digital adoption.
When “The Complainer” is able to use new organizational tools as intended — and to their fullest extent, this leaves a narrower window for resistance.
By opening communication and hearing out these fears, you can address these pain points — and implement a stronger transformation.
Are you the digital transformation and innovation killer?
You may be embracing the next wave of digital change — but you could be killing your own company’s transformation.
As an innovator, you might be the first to invest in new technology. But it’s one thing for you to recommend change, it’s another to effectively strategize and manage that change.
It’s not enough to desire digital change to help drive your new vision forward. Transformational change relies on your leadership support — to inspire and educate your team.
It’s time to take a hard look in the mirror. Are you equipped with the skills, know-how, and charisma to drive effective digital transformation? If the answer is no, you may be the one killing your own digital transformation and innovation.
Disarming the transformation terminator
How do you get the change skeptics and cynics onboard?
Peer-pressure in this context can be welcome. Laggards are more conservative and prefer to err on the side of familiarity than of change. However, if other earlier adopters evangelize the company’s new vision, laggards may inch their way on board.
Tell your employees the story of your company’s values and how these values demand a fresh digital vision. More importantly, show each individual how they play an important role in that story, and how their support is critical to overall business success.
When transformation becomes personal, even the detached and change-resistant will put away the rope.
Listen to your naysayers. Win over their support — and you’ll save your company’s transformation from the inside-out.
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