By Iain Campbell, Principal Consultant at Freethinking
Time to conduct a Digital Impact Assessment?
… Digital is disrupting work and the workforce, and the traditional role of change management in the future of work needs significant review. It appears to be creating a more humanised experience in terms of “How” typical change management work is organised and delivered, breaking change management practitioners free from traditional, rigidly defined change jobs and the organisation of change-related work. Digital is providing the potential to enrich and radically augment change management work in terms of “What” is or can be performed. It also tends to democratise the workforce and therefore determines “Who” performs the work and the employee experience. As a result of all of this, digital change leaders need to transform the process of “How” work is led and managed by orchestrating networks, encouraging experimentation, and integrating diverse talent.
Do you understand your environment and stakeholders well enough to lead change and transformation in this shape-shifting landscape?
Consultants like to hold forth on topics such as 2 speed, bi-modal, and a long list of other lauded “consultanese” words (i.e. the use of a catchy word or two to oversimplify, while trying to sound clever) to describe complex systems and work environments. Here are some classic examples.
But the reality is that organisations, their environments, and the underlying systems are often uber complex. Taking the time to understand your (or your clients’) universe in order to adapt your plans and make decisions with speed and agility to the circumstances at hand, is absolutely critical. (More about Adapt-Agility in a future blog.)
So what does it all mean and why have we needed to learn about Agile change and digital transformation by doing?
Imagine any large South African financial services provider (FSP) with a bold and long-term digital orientation agenda, linked to a business strategy, and centered around customer needs. Also, let’s say this business has an “Agile” digital software delivery capability that stacks up to global gold standards when it comes to developing amazing software, and a culture to match.
Like most large and established FSPs, this forward thinking giant might be hampered by a number of significant digital challenges: an ancient technology infrastructure (in the modern context); a predominantly federated way of thinking and culture; lines of business that are very excited to become digital but have not adopted lean/agile ways of working or have the people, process or design for digital excellence; and front office staff that are not digital natives in the sense of using all the products on offer by the FSP*.
Understanding agile ways of working while managing the change of significant digital disruption and product delivery: a multi-dimensional change challenge with a few lessons and scars to prove it!
We have found ourselves grappling with the concept of changing ourselves. (Who knew how hard this could be for a change manager?) So we realised that in order to try and design a better way of working that aligned to an agile / devops / digital / product delivery superpower (go “consultanese” go), we had to jump in boots first, taking a learning-by-doing approach. But before I go into some of these lessons, I want to say at the outset that the basic change management theory fundamentals are critical.
They have proved themselves still absolutely relevant in our digitally disrupted client environment; perhaps even more so than before. The concepts of recognised change gurus, such as Dr. John Kotter of www.kotterinternational.com, have been as relevant in our client’s world of Agile as I believe they were when outlined in Dr. Kotter’s 1996 bestseller Leading Change.
Taking the time to understand your (or your clients’) universe in order to adapt your plans and make decisions with speed and agility to the circumstances at hand, is absolutely critical.
So then to some of our lessons…
Firstly, we have found it critical to simply apply some of the leading lean / agile thinking tools to the change basics – creating a culture of small experimentation and validation of these change management concepts, putting value at the front and centre of everything you do. Practically, this has meant using a few critical lean/agile tools and processes in the delivery of our change management. Our current Kanban board reflects a prioritized backlog, relevant to the strategic Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) we have set ourselves for the quarter (the so-called Google secret sauce to be discussed another day), work being done, and work being completed.
Each of the cards on our board reflect one of these jobs to be done or being done, and have been weighted in terms of economic value in the context of our OKRs. We have used a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) concept to determine this economic value in the context of our strategy. Essentially we look at the cost of delay of an activity relative to the job size of such action. So for each 3 week “sprint” or delivery period, we can track our planned vs actual value delivery of our objectives over time. Have a look here for more insights.
Secondly, if you’re working in an agile environment where digital products are being developed, understanding the intricacies of that environments’ release train or devops process, and your role in every step of the process, is critical. In our current client world, digital financial services products get discovered and delivered rapidly. One of our key roles in this agile delivery process is to assess whether the business area or channel that might own or support this digital product has a truly digitally enabled business model from a people, process and technology perspective. And if it does not, then one of our roles is to advise on this digital change enablement.
Often the impact on these sometimes rather staid (in a traditionally federated and old school industrial era banking sense) areas and the subsequent requirement for real digital change is HUGE. And the change needs to be managed in 3 sprints (9 weeks!). The big lesson for us was that you clearly cannot deliver accelerated digital change management at the speed of development unless there is some level of maturity in terms of the digitalization – see the Gartner Digital Maturity Assessment below.
So in reality you have to accelerate your traditional change effort; see John Kotter’s XLR8 (accelerate) for more details on this topic. Create and blueprint your change management or enablement efforts in alignment with the technical release process, test, evaluate (retrospectives) and improve your velocity while maintaining your quality of value and output.
However, the most important lesson has been the need for us as the managers of digital change and transformation to create strategic assets in our “change armoury”. These are assets that build and enable the digital maturity or capability of your stakeholders as individuals, and their business environments, models, channels and processes. Without these longer term strategic assets, the back office legacy becomes a potentially very costly burden and blockage in the digital journey. For example, you may have a 20-year-old call centre agent trying to help a customer navigate a complex digital financial product or platform such as a bank’s’ online share trading APP, which is linked to the usual mobile banking platform, but used by the customer via a Bluetooth connection to their smart watch.
Now the call centre agent may not even have a smartphone let alone a watch, and almost certainly won’t have traded a share online. It’s very unlikely that the agent has vehicle finance or a home loan, having just started out on her career. So in this analogy of creating digital change assets, providing a fun and engaging (via a free and open Wi-Fi network) “Digi Room” in our client’s call centre environment, with Android and iOS phones, tablets and watches, loaded with mock service environments for all the available products, was a no brainer. Now we don’t have to spend hours teaching the abstracts of share trading and digital vehicle finance origination. These digitally savvy and now enabled youths have taken two minutes to figure it out for themselves by playing in this environment!
Learning these lessons has taken an open mind and the grace to fail fast, but has simultaneously equipped us with the knowledge to rebound with a better and more elegant way of doing the business of digital change. How’s your digital transformation going?