New Year’s Resolution and Digital Transformation – Journeys of Change… Or Not
It’s that time of year again, when New Year’s resolutions are made with the best of intentions. People (myself included) make a list of things that we are going to do to better in the New Year, in an attempt for self-improvement, achievement of success in work and personal life or financial gain (or stability), to name but a few. For many, New Year is a time to begin a major life change. This is a tradition that continues year after year, even though most people fail to achieve their resolutions year after year. Not unlike the process of digital transformation for an organisation.
New Year’s resolutions have a lot in common with digital transformation. Both have the intent to take a person (or organisation in the case of digital transformation) on a transformative journey of improvement, aiming to change for the better.
Intent is not the only thing they have in common. The failure rates are startingly similar – the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80 percent, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Given the similar intent and failure rates, it is worth looking at what else digital transformation and New Year’s resolutions have in common and see if we can work out how to succeed in achieving both.
- Uncertainty about where you are
For any form of transformative journey to be a success, there must be an understanding of where you are starting from. You need to know your start point to be able to plan – a resolution without a plan is just a dream. A classic resolution that relates to this would be to be debt free by Easter, an admirable intention. This might be realistic but to understand that, you would need to know how much you owe and to whom. Either denial about the current state of debt or a total lack of awareness of the scale of the problem means that this would be a bad resolution to make. Understand where you are before you commit to making the change.
In organisational terms this generally translates as a lack of understanding of how people and processes are working today within the company but still persisting that a change needs to happen. If you do not understand your start point, you should not be looking to begin the change journey just yet – take the time to understand where you are today before you move on to tomorrow.
- Unrealistic Goals
If you do not know where you are starting from, it is very difficult to set a plan for achieving something. I can certainly declare on the 1st January, a goal of running a sub four marathon on 1st February but that does not make it a realistic goal. I would be far better taking an understanding of what my current ability to distance run is (non-existent!) and setting a goal that is relatable and achievable. This is not to say that I will not ever run a sub four marathon, just that I need to be realistic about my current ability and the time and effort it will take to achieve that goal.
The same applies to setting goals for digital transformation. Setting a goal of transforming your entire system within 12 months, migrating all data to the cloud and putting all your telephony over Skype is simply not realistic. Understand where you are, understand what your requirements for change are and use this to set goals. Having goals that are achievable increases the likelihood of success.
- Trying to do everything at once
Too often people start the New Year with a list of things that they are going to achieve, and they are going to start them all now! I might make a list of 10 things that I resolve to do in 2020, including for example learning to play the guitar, piano and trumpet, when I have no previous musical experience or ability. This is a recipe for failure; trying to begin or change six new things are the same time will just result in chaos and confusion. This is especially true if you do not have the right skill set to begin with and are bringing in new ideas, concepts and things to learn. It is far better to plan the six things over the course of the year, understanding what can be achieved more quickly or easily, what things take longer and understanding fully what I need to do to and what skills are required.
This is true for digital transformation as well. Plan what you are trying to achieve, making sure you have the requirements right, understand what dependencies are in place across the organisation and externally and make sure you have the right skill set in place to deliver.
- Not tracking your progress
So, we have considered the first couple of impediments to achievement and now know where we are starting from, what our realistic targets are and made a solid plan for how we are going to achieve our resolutions. So how do we know we are achieving them? If my New Year’s resolution was to lose 100lbs, I may track weight loss using a scale on a weekly basis to check that I am on the right path and continuing to make the right choices to ensure I am on track to achieving my target. If I do not track my progress, how do I know if I am sticking to my plan and on course to looking great on the beach this summer?
This applies equally to a transformation process. There must be intermediate goals or performance measures that can be realistically tracked throughout the process, letting you know what you are still on course or flagging a failure to meet a goal. Setting these mini goals can help in a variety of ways; encouraging flexibility and adaptability to ensure things stay on track, the ability to direct effort and resource where it is most required, as well as enabling you to satisfy the desire that everyone has to see progress. If you cannot see progress, you are more likely to be lose motivation and drive to continue with your efforts.
- Lack of Support
It is difficult to stay motivated when you feel that you are alone. While that may sound an overly dramatic statement, the phrase ‘strength in numbers’ does really ring true for a lot of people. They feel motivated and supported when there are other people working towards achieving the same goal as them. In terms of New Year’s resolutions, this frequently translates into joining a club or team that are aligned to the same goals that you are, maybe a slimming support group or a running club.
Clubs do not exist for digital transformation (maybe they should!) but what organisations do have is their internal team. To drive towards success for digital transformation, ensure that your team is bought in to what the organisation is trying to accomplish, understands the goals and what their role is in achieving that. Company culture plays a huge role in the speed and effectiveness of digital transformation in an organisation; research by McKinsey (The People Power of Transformation, 2017) suggests that for their transformations to succeed, organisations need buy-in at all levels, consistent communication, and better people strategies. Support across the organisation is key to the success of digital transformation.
These are just a couple of parallels between New Year’s resolutions and digital transformation. There are lessons that can be learnt that apply to both setting a resolution for yourself and your organisation to achieve in 2020 and beyond about being realistic about making a change, setting achievable goals and the importance of planning. As part of this, remember to take the opportunities to learn from failures and celebrate successes.
Wishing you success in whatever your endeavours and a Happy New Year from the Athensys team!
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