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“Going Digital” – Challenges for Leaders and Individuals!

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HolacracyIn the last post on “IT Organization Design for the Digital Era” we suggested that, for organisation’s to be effective in the Digital Era, they need a different way of looking at Organisation Structuring.  That the traditional “hierarchical” structure, with the “command and control” culture that it embodies, is going to need to change going into the Digital Era.  In its place will be a “spider web” of Roles that are combined into small, cross-functional, empowered and self-organising teams to deliver a specific “product”, and then disbanded with the members moving to other teams.

To succeed, this is going to need a significant mind, or culture, change on the part of both employees and leadership – and I use the term leadership rather than management very specifically.

From a leadership perspective, IT leaders in the Digital Era are going to have to:

  • Include the people who drive the work, in setting and refining the strategic direction of the team, department and organization
  • Provide frequent feedback and coaching that enables and empowers people to work autonomously toward their team outcomes and deliverables
  • User customer insights to model, pilot, launch and iterate on new initiatives and business models
  • Frequently and systematically evaluate initiatives and decide whether to ramp up or shut them down
  • Empower the people closest to the work to have the authority to make decisions that affect their day-to-day activities
  • Have processes in place that support fast decision-making and open sharing of ideas and knowledge
  • Have standardised and common ways of doing things like running meetings, work processes, and policies that enable quick and efficient execution of day-to-day activities
  • Manage teams through fast cycles of development, testing and learning based on the principle of “minimum viable product”
  • Measure team performance on cross-functional business metrics, targets, and outcomes that advance the organisation’s strategy.
  • Innovation is encouraged on the basis of “fail quick, fail cheap, fail often“ – mistakes are treated as learning not discipline
  • Embrace “Servant Leadership” – influencing through coaching and development rather than hierarchical authority
  • Encourage proactive identification and pursuit of opportunities to develop new initiatives, knowledge and skills
  • Move people, vertically and horizontally, between roles and teams, based on their individual strengths and career goals
  • Create a technology environment that integrates seamlessly with key processes and is responsive to changing business needs.

From an individual’s perspective, the challenges are equally testing.  Individuals in the Digital Era need to:

  • Understand that the concept of a “job” has changed. Going forward you will be employed for a Role rather than a job, and you will be deployed in a variety of different “teams” in that Role, and the Role is likely to shift over time.
  • Take responsibility for your career and development. As jobs become more fluid, it is the Role that becomes important.  Individuals will need to keep an eye on Roles as they develop, and ensure that they develop the competencies necessary to progress their career.
  • Develop your competencies, don’t focus on a job. As organisations adapt to the new Digital Era, job titles are becoming more and more “creative” – so it’s the competencies needed for the role that become important.  Understand what competencies are needed and make sure that you develop those competencies.
  • Become Business / IT people, not just IT. A key to working in an Agile environment is the development of knowledge and understanding between IT and business.  There’s little room for true specialisation in an Agile world.
  • Understand that Lifelong Learning is not a slogan – it’s a practice. If you don’t do at least one new and different course each year, you’re likely to fall behind.  And don’t think it’s the organisation’s responsibility to provide that training – it’s your responsibility to understand the skills needed to progress your career, identify relevant courses and INVEST IN YOURSELF!!!
  • Get used to moving around. You’ll move from one team to another.  You will need to work with different people from different disciplines on different “products”.  You will need to be able to function effectively in many diverse and challenging environments.
  • Keep up-to-date – with what customers want, with business, with IT development, with the world around you.
  • Be change resilient. Change is now the “norm”.  Get used to it, embrace it, enjoy it, and thrive!

These challenges – for both leadership and individuals, are not going to be easy.  Far from it.  It is going to take a concerted and deliberate effort.  Culture change is always a challenge for organisations.  And Digital Transformation seems to be really pushing the boundaries of this new “culture”.

Although many organisations seem to have some Change Management capability, from my experience, this is not pervasive in the organisation.  Change is not “done” to someone, change needs to be introduced and is generally a “top-down” initiative.  So if Change Management is not yet pervasive in your organisation, start planning for that now, or else your Digital Journey could be fraught with obstacles and take longer than necessary.

In our next article on the Digital Journey, we will look at how “going Digital” is going to impact on Talent Management practices.  This will be interesting to both HR and IT Management, so don’t miss it.  In the meantime, if you would like to discuss your Digital journey with us, please drop us a line.