Computers & Internet

Go Digital: Make technology suit you - #techsuitDNA

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Synopsis

How can digital change be managed effectively?

Most companies around the globe aim to excel in the digital world, but few succeed. So what makes those successful companies stand out above the rest?

What they all have in common is that they realize that successful transformation is about organizations, processes, technology, and individuals.

In this practical guide you will learn how to:

- Create a matching mindset among teams and team members
- Follow 5 clear pathways to effectively maneuver digital change
- Stop thinking in solutions, but start thinking in empowerment
- Develop your own "make technology suit us" DNA (#techsuitDNA)
- Decide where to focus in order to change your own processes and operations

Allow this book to guide you and your organization to the right transformation pathway. You will learn a lot about fundamental technologies, gain insights on proper digital change management.

You will also learn a lot about yourself You'll find inspiration in some remarkable people in history like Helen Keller or Henry Ford.

This unique take on the digital world provides you with a broad picture of how to be successful in digital transformations as an organization, and as an individual.

Module 1 - How to get started

Introduction

All around the world, millions of people, teams, departments, business units, and whole enterprises are busy every day digitalizing work. Their foremost goal is “digital transformation.” But what does this mean?

Salesforce, a global enterprise software company, defines “digital transformation” as “The integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and delivering value to customers.” Scholars have added buzzwords to this discussion, including “culture,” the evolution of new “management concepts,” “organizational structures,” and even “society as a whole.”

Digitalizing work is not just about engaging with new technologies; it’s also about creating structures where technology helps us prosper, in both our business and private lives.

But does this goal come to fruition?

Most of us engage with technology every day, for several hours a day. Some of us are engaged with technology for the majority of the day. It is certainly “integrated” into our lives and has “fundamentally changed” how we operate. But does it “deliver value”? Does it make us better, or more productive?

Take a step back and consider what technology does for you—then consider what you do for technology. You’ll find it is not a one-way street, and the intensity of this engagement increases[1]  both in our private and our business lives.

We apply technology to improve processes and achieve goals that would otherwise be impossible. For more than ten years now, I have driven and designed organizational change in a number of diverse industries. Many of these projects delivered outstanding results. Some did not. When I analyzed the difference between the projects that were successful and those that were not, I quickly realized that a simple—but powerful—motivator guided all these success stories: “How could technology suit us?”

“Us" did not refer to the project team, but to the organization as a whole, including the processes within it and, more importantly, its people. A project was successful if we were able to find a balance between technology, organizations, processes, and people. The ones with the most success developed a deep, ingrained system around these different aspects. This is what I call the “tech-suit DNA,”[2]  and this is what determines whether or not an organization will be successful in going digital.

Aside from my personal experiences and insights, a number of diverse studies also support this. For example, according to a Forbes study[1],[3]  a global media company who focuses on business, investing, and technology, only 16 percent of digital transformations are successful. This means that more than eight out of ten companies fail to successfully “go digital[4] .” Forbes concluded that the vast majority of companies were not prepared for such a demanding organizational change.

Unsuccessful companies focus on technology and strategy only, disregarding a necessary change in culture, processes, and mindsets. Does this sound familiar to you? Have you experienced similar pitfalls in your organization? [5] 

Digital transformation is about technology and strategy, but it is first and foremost about a tremendous change in mindset, structure, and process. Yesterday, long-term solutions needed to be determined and developed; today, dynamic, rapidly evolving solutions are key. There is increased demand for flexible and adaptable organizations. This change, which is driven by technological possibilities, requires completely different management and mindset.

We are urged to find a way to handle, apply, and control technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics effectively. However, to do so, we need to rethink the way we request, develop, deliver, and apply technologies. We also need to rethink our individual roles and the way we lead our organizations. To really benefit, we need to find a way to balance technology, processes, organizational structures, and human beings. Only then will we successfully “go digital.”[6] 

Technology certainly offers potential, and with the right application, it can also offer real power and a huge advantage in business. We are entering an era wherein we can reduce administration, production, and indirect office costs significantly. Our overall productivity can be enhanced dramatically, if we find a way for technology[7]  to augment our capabilities.

This book will help organizational leaders create the “tech-suit DNA” needed to master digital change. In this book, you will learn from impressive personalities how to start the engine of transformation, how to accelerate change effectively, and how to handle that change in the aftermath. Achieving an overall balance between technology, processes, organizational structures, and humans is the ultimate goal. Such balance eliminates the friction of organizational change and enables you to create outstanding business performances.

 

The scope of this book

This book addresses the interrelations of four major ingredients of digital transformation: organizations, processes, individuals, and technology. Bringing these together effectively is crucial to any successful digital transformation. The modules in this book are designed to empower you in this new journey.


Figure 1: Scope of ‘Go Digital’

The four modules in this book will outline how to achieve a balance between technology, organization, individuals, and processes. Figure 1 illustrates this focus on connecting patterns and finding solutions. These are showstoppers in digital transformations. First and foremost, you will learn the key controls and levers needed to introduce, undergo, and manage digital transformation within your organization. Fundamental in doing so is your own individual mindset[A8] .

 

How to use this book effectively

This book provides some useful tools for you to get a grip on all the facets of going digital. Each of the four sequential modules highlights major patterns and provides a summary at the end so you can easily capture key insights.

Every module is also linked with a guiding story. These fictional stories are about real people who lived, like we do, in historical times of tremendous technological change. Each of these people influenced a period in the United States when engines, electricity, and telecommunication revolutionized the lives of millions of people around the globe. These people were Helen Keller, Henry Ford, and Alexander Graham Bell. (Figure 2 provides some brief biographical information.)

Overall, these guiding stories highlight two important things:

1.      Even in disruptive times, you can grasp the feelings and circumstances of change.

2.      Storytelling is one of the oldest and most powerful communication tools of mankind [9] and can offer much-needed insights we cannot get through plain information alone.[10] 

 

[11] 

Figure 2: Overview of the historic characters in the fictional stories

They all knew each other quite well, Helen and Alexander in particular. Many real quotes are included in the fictional stories to reflect their opinions, mindsets, and behaviors, thus providing remarkable insights into their lives and key learnings in disruptive change.

Overall, this book uses a lot of practical and theoretical knowledge from diverse sources like scientific articles, studies, [12] blogs, biographies, panel discussions, and other publications. However, the concepts, recommended processes, and estimations for the future in this book are based on practical summations rather than strictly scientific investigations. They are a set of inspirations and guidelines designed to encourage and empower you to find and develop your own way. This is the ultimate goal that guided me throughout this project. [13] Without further ado, let’s start up and “go digital”!

 

Module 1 – How to get started with your tech-suit DNA

 

Helen[14]  learning to express herself

Anger. Pure anger. This is what she felt in these moments. She needed to scream, to shout, to throw her arms and body, to hurt herself—or someone else, or at least hurt something to make an impact. She needed to express herself. Helen was at a grand table in the middle of a large living room with her parents, relatives, and friends. All of them were staring at her, and although she couldn’t see them, she felt their eyes on her—their questions, their inability to deal with her, their judgements, everything. It was intense.

Helen knew she ought to stop, but she couldn’t. Too much freedom was flushing through her veins. Though she remained sunken in a sea of silence, these moments of free independence felt so amazing to her. She experienced stimulating body vibrations that reminded her she was alive[15] —and reminded the world around her, too.

It all started when Helen became fatally ill at nineteen months old. This illness resulted in her becoming deaf-blind, a disability that forced a little girl full of energy into a life of isolation. How could such a young human deal with this? It would be shocking even today, but in the early 1880s in Tuscumbia, Alabama, it was worse.

In the scene in the living room, Helen was six years old. Her tantrums were typical behavior for little Helen, and the reactions from her family, relatives, and friends eventually changed from understanding and sympathy to frustration and impatience. However, her mother, Kate, never lost faith in Helen. She was convinced that Helen could live a normal life.

One morning in 1886, Kate woke Helen up at 5:30 a.m. Helen instinctively pushed her mother’s arms away, wanting to stay in her dreams. Usually this worked, but not this time. She needed to get up, get washed, and put on her clothes. That day, the clothes were not the old muddy ones she was used to on her skin. They felt different—warm, soft, and light. Helen was thinking about what this new feeling on her skin could be when she found herself rocking and rolling on a coach headed to Washington D.C. There, Kate sought to discuss with Alexander Graham Bell, an active supporter of the deaf, what she could provide Helen with to improve her future.

Kate was full of optimism that they would find help for her daughter at the Perkins Institute for the Blind, if Bell supported it. [16] The students there learned to read and write. They could graduate from high school. Kate believed Helen could do the same, but even if Helen could not, she at least deserved the chance to do so.[17] 

Kate’s girl fell asleep on the seat of the coach, looking like a butterfly in its cocoon. Kate believed Helen was just waiting for the right time to break through the boundaries and experience the full beauty of life.

A few days later, Kate and Helen were triumphantly on their way home. The journey was an outstanding success. Helen got along very well with her consultant, Alexander Graham Bell, and though there was no short-term solution or healing in sight, he gave a lot of helpful advice. Alexander assured Kate that Helen deserved a chance, and that a braille teacher could help her handle her daily life, express herself, and learn similarly to all the “normal” children.

[18] [19] [20] [21] The support Perkins offered was tremendous: They sent Helen a private teacher. On March 3rd, 1887, twenty-year-old Annie Sullivan arrived at the Kellers’ home. T[22] hough Annie had no formal experience or training in teaching deaf-blind children, she was adept at braille and the manual sign language alphabet.[A23] 

Annie’s mother died when Annie was ten years old. As her father was not able to take care of Annie and her brother, they were sent to a poorhouse, where they shared a room with mentally ill people, criminals, and prostitutes. Young Annie gradually lost her vision to an eye disease, and at the age of fourteen, she successfully begged officials to send her to the Perkins school. There, she learned braille and manual sign language. Finishing best in her class, Annie was given the opportunity to make her own destiny as a teacher. [24] 

The first few weeks Annie spent with Helen were full of fights. Helen’s will was strong, and she was not used to be taught in such an intense way. She did not recognize Annie’s actions as teaching, and perceived her writing symbols on her hand as some sort of boring game. Annie soon realized that she and Helen needed to separate themselves physically from the rest of the family in order to work more effectively with Helen. They would have less disturbances and could work on creating a close relationship. [25] Kate and her husband agreed to Annie’s proposal, and thus the two moved to a small house on the Kellers’ property. This move paid off on Tuesday, April 5th, 1887.

That day, Annie took Helen outside their home for one of their daily morning rituals: getting water.[26]  Helen couldn’t hear the water flowing out of the pump and into her mug, but Annie had a solution. She turned the spout so the water flowed onto Helen’s arm instead of into the mug. While Helen’s arm was suspended, Annie spelled “W-A-T-E-R” time and time again on Helen’s right hand. Then, suddenly, Helen shrugged. Annie continued to spell “water” while tipping it over Helen. A new light came into Helen’s face, and Annie sensed a fundamental change. She understood! Filled with a mixture of disbelieving enthusiasm and joy, Annie started laughing. It was a breakthrough—not just for Helen, but also for Annie. They could communicate! Together.

On their way back to their small house, Helen touched many things, and Annie spelled the names of these things into her hand. By the end of the day, Helen had learned thirty words. And at the end of that summer, she had learned 600! Annie reported the progress to the director of the Perkins Institute, and over the next few years, they regularly traveled to the Institute to attend courses and meet with other blind, deaf, and deaf-blind children.

As she got older, Helen dreamed of attending college. She successfully finished high school[27] [DA28]  in 1900, and at the age of twenty, Helen was accepted as the first deaf-blind person at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her dream had come true, but it was only the beginning of a long and famous journey for Helen.

What we can learn from this is that our personality matters a lot. Helen needed to get to a point where she recognized who she was. She needed to accept her personality and find a way to channel her energy in a more controlled and productive way. Annie did not lower or restrict Helen’s power and energy; she helped her channel it. Annie helped Helen improve her personal life and become a role model to not only the deaf, blind, and deaf-blind people, but to all those willing to change their lives for the better.

Of course, Helen needed guidance to get there, like from her mother Kate, who was not willing to accept that Helen couldn’t live a successful life. And from Annie, who had the experience, talent, and will to bring the best out of her. And from the Perkins Institute for the Blind, who provided her with the support she needed. And from Alexander Graham Bell, a great supporter of the deaf.

Being a deaf-blind girl in the late 1880s was a huge challenge. If we compare the struggles Helen overcame to the hurdles most of us face nowadays, we can see that the help we require is much less than the guidance she needed. However, all these positive guides would never have led Helen to such an impressive development without her being ready, accepting, and eager to change. [29] She needed to change all on her own before her life could be changed through the help of others.

For many of us, it is common to think about our why—our goal, our reason for starting our journey (as Simon Sinek, best-selling author and expert in effective leadership, likes to remind us with his “Golden Circle” explained below). [30] However, before we engage with our why, we should start by considering the who.

 

Imagine if Helen started with her why, her goal of [31] graduating from college to live an independent life from her parents. Do you think it would have led to something valuable if she hadn’t found herself first? You may say that Helen was in a completely different, extreme situation—which she was—but we can use this extreme to outline the general need for considering the who. [32] What kind of person is she? What is important to her? These questions had to be answered before she could move on to solidifying her personal goals.

For example, in my youth, I dreamed of being a soldier in the military. I was fully convinced that this was my life’s path, and found dozens of suitable whys to do so. However, I was finding the right whys for the wrong who. I did not consider my strengths, my weaknesses, my faith, or my personality when deriving my whys, and they were totally misaligned. Always consider your personality before creating your goals and starting your journey.

>> To effectively start with why, know your answer to “Who am I?” <<


Your mindset

Finding an answer to our who is crucial to finding success in digital transformations.[33]  Our who is not limited to us personally; it also reflects upon how we treat others, how we fit into our organizations, and what role we will take within the process of change. Figure 3 outlines the personal mindset of the “tech-suit DNA” [34] strand. It contains a string of guiding questions to help you find a successful mindset.

 

[35] 

Figure 3: The Mindset - DNA strand (own illustration)

Who am I?

Asking “Who am I?” will lead us to our why[36] . It is as simple as that. Simon Sinek teaches us that having a why is crucial for successful people. In his view, all people who were able to repeat success had a why created from a solid who. In other words, they were conscious of their core beliefs and the reasons why they were doing the things they did. Sinek stresses that organizations also need a why in order to be successful. He created the concept of the Golden Circle (Figure 4). In his Golden Circle, the why is in the middle, followed by the how and what.


Figure 4: The Golden Circle by Simon Sinek

In terms of businesses:

-         Why is the core belief of the business and why the business exists.

-         How is how the business seeks strategically to fulfill that core belief.

-         What is what concrete actions the company takes to fulfill that core belief.[37] 

To find its why, an organization needs to be very conscious about its who. The same goes for human beings. You need to be very sure that your why fits with your who. To find the answer to “Who am I?” you need to go beyond your core beliefs to consider your strengths, weaknesses, skills, experiences, behaviors, and mindset.

Simon Sinek would probably argue these aspects are already considered in his definition of why; however, I believe it is necessary to make this aspect explicit to ensure individuals and businesses really consider who they are.

Thus, when starting our journey of going digital, we initially need to consider ourselves, as individuals and as an organization. This means focusing on who we are, not who we want to be. [38] What are we like? Why are we the way we are? What do we exist to do? What core beliefs do we have?

I learned in my doctoral studies that “the truth” is all about perception of reality, meaning that what we call “truth” is actually determined not by facts but by how we perceive those facts. It sounds strange, but it is crucial to think these things through in order to understand your mindset, which defines the way we perceive opinions and behavior of others.

If we believe there is only one truth, only one truth is acceptable to us—so, when there is another truth, or a different perspective, we deny it. For someone with such a strict mindset, it feels impossible—like breaking one of Newton’s laws—for a different opinion to also be true. Because working with other opinions is key in business, we need to accept multiple truths from various perspectives.


How do I see and treat others?

We need to acknowledge the perspective of others. [39] Reality can be perceived from different angles and perspectives, and each of those can show a different truth. We must acknowledge that others see the same reality but from a different angle, and thus come to a different conclusion. If we are conscious of this, we can learn from these different perspectives.

The keyword here is inspiration. Do we let other perspectives influence our inspirational process? Do we use other perspectives to learn and enrich ours? Or do we just deny other perspectives as fallacies and abandon the people who hold different opinions?

Dealing with other perspectives is a major precondition to getting inspired. [40] This is a hurdle to a majority of mindsets, and we need to accept that everyone in the world is willing to contribute positively. Thus, we need to possess a philanthropic[41] , positive picture of humans. Everybody wants to make a contribution, from the smallest child to the oldest woman or man. All people want to make a positive impact. Sometimes their impact is not what we would call positive—sometimes it seems to be negative or destructive—but there are always reasons behind this. That is a fact, and it needs to be part of your worldview—part of your DNA.


Where can I find inspiration?

Often, when thinking about themselves, people talk about things that inspired them. The nature of inspiration is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, "the process of being mentally stimulated to do something creative.” As a process, inspiration takes time. It is not one incident, occasion, or situation. People, things, and happenings may impact, enrich, or stimulate our process, but these happenings do not represent the whole of inspiration. This means we are our own main driver of inspiration. [42] Recognizing this fact is important, because inspiration is often seen as something created externally, but the main part of it is internal.

You inspire yourself. This is important to understand when transforming yourself or your surroundings. It means that you matter. It means that you can influence your inspiration and personal growth significantly—like Helen did. Her energy and will to be inspired by Annie were tremendous. One could argue Annie was a source of inspiration, but without Helen’s personal, intrinsic inspirational process, Annie’s input would never have been a success.

Thus, there are two distinct ingredients for inspiration: first, your personal mindset and will to be inspired, and second, your surroundings—such as the people around you or the organization you are in.


Do I fit into my organization?

Your surroundings are an aspect of your inspiration—and by surroundings, I mean the kind of organization or family we are in. The main difference between the two is that we have a choice and influence when it comes to the organization. Thus, let us focus on the organizational part that we can influence.

I often hear people saying, “These people are not willing to change.” Project management tools teach us to identify resistance to change. In many cases, certain people are identified by project managers as “risks for change,” as it is assumed they are not willing to change—but in fact, most of the time, they are willing. Management education authority and inventor of the management by objectives concept, Peter Drucker, once gave an oversimplified example on this: “Good people leave when management is bad; bad people leave when management is good.”

This is very simplified, but true, because it is all about the question, “Do these people fit in this setting?” [43] The question above should really be reworded to, “Well-fitting people leave when management is bad; nonconforming people leave when management is good.” It is all about making people fit into the current or future setting[44] .

We need to consider mismatches, and understand they are not bad people, just willing people in the wrong setting. Simon Sinek once met the same hotel employee in two different hotels. In the first hotel, the employee was not satisfied with his performance, but in the second, he was [45] happy. The difference was not the employee himself, but the way in which the hotel managements treated their staff. Setting has a huge impact on our performance, and we need to honestly ask the question, “Do I fit into my organization?”

In times of continuous change and technological disruption, the answer should not only be applied to the current situation, but also to the prospective future. A change in projects always changes the setting, and in these times, due to digital transformation, the settings change significantly. Keep in mind that even if the current setting does not fit, the prospective one may.


Should I be afraid of digital change?

If you adapt your mindset as recommended, you should never be afraid of any change. Rather, you should be excited, and use it as the next step to make further contributions. If we believe in making an impact in our current settings, we realize that we could make even better contributions in settings[46]  where we feel that we fit.

For example, in one of my interim projects, I had a manager on my team who had worked nearly forty years in the company. Before I joined the company, he was seen as a poor performer by the management, likely to be replaced. [47] However, in the new (changed) setting, he was one of the greatest performers and drivers of change—so much so that we decided to promote him at the age of sixty. His simple explanation for his change in performance was, “It feels natural now, even though it is digital. I am convinced that this is the right way to do it.” That is a great insight for our mindset. Natural settings make better contributions.


What does digital transformation do?

As highlighted in the Introduction, one major facet of digital transformation is that these are predominantly tools to empower us[48] . It is not about getting rid of “customer-effective” people, but rather it is about [49] empowering these individuals to deliver better value to customers and improve business. They need to be able to customize their delivery and performance to the customer. These customer-effective people see these situations as a chance to fulfill customer needs better than they can today.

If a hairdresser just follows written instructions that were developed by indirect staff without considering the individual customer, you could imagine what the result would probably look like. Hairdressers have the training, skill set, ability, and willingness to create the best haircut for each individual customer. Digital transformation can similarly help employees improve their skills to deliver individualized customer experiences.

Digital transformation can help to empower employees at the customer interaction point to be much more customer-effective. Empowerment, and being able to focus on being customer-effective, means to augment people’s capabilities with technology—for example, automating repetitive tasks through robots. When robot intelligence increases in the future, humans will be freed up to work creatively. Overall, digital transformation is about increasing customer effectiveness to deliver customized value at the lowest cost. [50] 


What will my role be in the future?

You need to first realize that you really can make contributions, and that you can make even more contributions when augmented by technology. The barriers that  affect the product or service your company offers [51] are much lower as a result of the empowerment pattern, which means each individual contribution matters. [52] [53] With a big impact in mind, the overall setting can be changed for the better. Thus, you should see your colleagues and customers as partners in creating value.

Unfortunately, customers are often perceived as objects of flow from a Lean perspective—where it is common to focus on waste reduction instead of value creation. In service companies, the Lean theory [54] and tools like value stream mapping consider customers as raw material. Never treat customers like raw material to a finished product. This neglects the potential of customers to co-create the value. It is important to rather perceive the customer as a potential source of value. All customer interactions are complex partner experiences, not boxes on a checklist.

Developing your mindset toward the above-mentioned criteria would be a wonderfully valuable starting point for the transition journey toward achieving a full tech-suit DNA. Thus, I would encourage you to carry on with the next section.


About the author

David is a proven expert in transforming organizations. As a freelance interim manager, he's gained remarkable results in a wide range of organizations. He holds a doctoral degree in Business Administration. He's helped dozens of organizations and countless individuals to improve their performances. view profile

Published on July 26, 2020

50000 words

Genre: Computers & Internet

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