5 Steps to Communicate Important Pivots in Volatile Digital Transformations

I really want hybrid models to be a long-lasting way of working that improves people's productivity, work-life balance, and happiness. I also hope employers will promote hybrid working permanently - not just as a response to retain employees - but as a fundamental way of doing business that yields better business outcomes.  

Digital Transformation - Communicating Strategic Pivots - Isaac Sacolick

Beyond adopting policies and technologies to enable hybrid work, this long-term change in the operating model requires business leaders to reconceive communication and collaboration strategies. One area to focus on is communicating digital transformation pivots in vision, strategy, and priorities.

Why Digital Transformations Require Pivots

If you follow my previous writing, you'll note that I recommend leaders start their digital transformation journeys by focusing people and teams on one big calling initiative. I recommend documenting and communicating a vision statement around the digital transformation and its underlying initiatives. Focusing on one calling creates alignment and helps in selecting a small number of people to get involved in the program's early days. 

That works for kicking off the program, but we all know digital transformations are journeys, and there are many reasons why leaders will evolve their vision, strategy, and priorities. Some pivots will come from external factors such as a crisis, new competitors, supply chain risks, changes in customer needs, or material changes in available technologies. Other times, leaders pivot digital transformations based on feedback from customers, employees, and stakeholders - and these often drive new priorities, requirements, process changes, or team structures.

Beyond Town Halls: Pivoting Digital Transformation

Now, if your team is small, you can gather everyone on a Zoom and communicate the pivots. With smaller teams, you can also observe their changes and whether they are adapting to the new vision, strategy, or priorities. 

Communicating pivots and observing adaptation is not so easy when working with multiple hybrid working teams. So here are my recommended five steps to communicate changes and pivots in digital transformations.

  1. Standardize, centralize, and version your visions statements - Vision statements should have scope and target timeframes. They can be versioned when visions need updating. Digital transformation leaders should standardize their formats and centralize access to them, thus creating a single place for teammates to consult when working on their objectives.  
  2. Communicate in multiple forums - We still have pictures of town halls and now virtual town halls to communicate with multiple, geographically dispersed teams. While that's still useful, Digital Trailblazers know that top-down communications are just the start. Share additional communication points with product managers, program managers, and delivery leaders to reinforce how pivots impact their teams' release priorities and backlogs. This often requires communicating pivots in layers, first with team leaders, then with teams, and then broadly as an organization. Leaders may also need to use one-on-one meetings, especially if detractors hold onto the status quo
  3. Ask for feedback - It's too easy and common for people to return to their day jobs and what they were working on pre-pivot. Leaders should go out of their way to capture teammates' feedback and adjust their strategies. The key is to ask for this feedback and take steps to engage teammates for it because it's less likely that all will volunteer their reactions and contributions.
  4. Review metrics for early indicators - Once an updated vision or pivot is announced and feedback captured, leaders should seek early indicators on where and how agile self-organizing teams adjust their priorities. Leaders can't afford to wait for sprints and releases to see how teams adjust to the updated goals, but they can use metrics from agile tools for early indicators. Organizations practicing StarCIO Agile Planning should look for increased prioritized planning cards and a decrease in delivery user stories. The added planning should reflect the new goals and priorities. 
  5. Develop transformation cadences - There are times when a crisis or externally driven event requires leaders to stop and pivot. Other times, we can bake transformation cadences into our digital transformation roadmaps as periods when we update visions, review release targets, and adjust team assignments. My recommendation: review twice yearly, once after budgets are approved and again halfway into the fiscal year.

I hope you find these steps useful because digital transformation pivots and changes happen more today than we could ever have anticipated. Please reach out to me if I can help

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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.