Leading Digital Transformation: Finding the right velocity in driving organizational change

I was recently asked, "Isaac, what keeps you up at night?" My answer is simple. In transformation programs, going too slow can lead to your business being disrupted. If your competitors are putting out great experiences, are more competitive winning business by leveraging data, or are demonstrating strategic business impacts with AI, blockchain, or IoT then your business is at risk. Here's a quote from my book Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology
Going too slow can also be very detrimental. It can lead to business failure and disruptions to entire industries. -- Isaac Sacolick

I then go on to tell the story of the newspaper industry that fell off the digital disruption cliff starting after the 2001 internet bubble burst. They simply couldn't adjust their business models fast enough to digital disruptions impacting how they serviced readers and advertisers.

Going too fast cast can burnout and alienate the team

So as a digital transformation leader - which can anyone in the organization leading or participating in a digital transformation initiative from the CEO, the CIO, the CDO, the CMO down to leaders on agile teams - going too fast is also an issue. In a previous post, I shared three signs you have overloaded your digital transformation program. Pressure to take on too many initiatives may bottleneck the overall program and burnout participants.

So what keeps me up at night is striking the right balance. Going fast enough so that the organization is leading digital transformation versus their peers and competitors but going steady enough so that teams don't burnout along the journey.

What it's like leading transformation programs

This leads me to another question that I'm often asked, "What is it like to lead transformation programs." Here is how I answer it

Leading transformation programs is like wearing a huge target on your back with people ready to shoot arrows at you. On one hand, their is pressure from the executives to get more done faster and without making their worlds difficult. On the other, there are detractors to digital transformation in the organizations that want to stand on the sidelines and prefer that old business methods remain intact. There are select members of your team that might want to run in a different direction, or slow down, or speed up, or implement things differently than the strategic direction. Finally, there are colleagues that may be envious and want to be the anointed leader of the transformation program.

It's not an easy task and I share some of the challenges leading transformation programs in Driving Digital. But here are three things that can help leaders avoid getting an oversized target on their backs

  • Communicate early, frequently, and targeted to the audience

  • Champion early adopters who are willing to lead and teach the larger organization

  • Pick the right battles. Consider your values before jumping into every debate

It's a journey. Make sure you lead efforts so that you're there for the whole ride.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.