WARNING! This is a long, but necessary article……
‘Digital Transformation’ is the latest Industry buzzword. Nobody really knows what it is, but everybody wants it, and they want in now! Your organization is probably using the ‘Transformation’ buzzword too. However, various reports suggest ‘70% of digital transformations fall short of their objectives‘, and that is certainly what we are seeing. Recognize this? Read on.
This article looks at the state of Digital Transformation and the state of the ‘union’ of all the frameworks and best practices that are used to support and enable all of this transformation ‘stuff’.
We will reveal common reasons for failing as discovered in our global business simulation workshops, global ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) workshops, and confirmed by findings taken from various Industry reports, to help you avoid experiencing these failures.
However, If you already recognize some of these failures we provide links to articles giving tips and suggesting actions you can take to improve your transformation success.
Transformation is an enormous undertaking. This article looks at, in particular, the IT transformation and the importance of training, and developing the right sets of skills, the article will finish with 10 suggestions relating to your training initiatives.
Buzzword bingo! We see the term Digital Transformation also being used to describe Digitization of existing ways of working (Conversion) or Digital optimization to improve existing ways of working (Reorganizing). If we look at the dictionary definition of the word we can see where the confusion is coming from.
1. a marked change in form, nature, or appearance.
Change, Alteration, Modification, Conversion, Metamorphosis, Evolution, Mutation, Reorganizing, Rebuilding….
When you look at all of these transformation-related words then you have to conclude that everybody is right when they label their latest IT investments as Transformation. However, often what we end up with is a ‘Mutation’.
Various reports suggest ‘70% of digital transformations fall short of their objectives‘. (See reports below). One of the key reasons for falling short is because we have never defined the purpose (Why) and the outcomes we are hoping to achieve. The key word here being ‘hoping’ – This is important shortly when we explore the frameworks we adopt.
Transformation becomes the goal in itself!
Whilst we may not know what we mean by transformation, what we do know is the following:
Considering where many IT organizations are, and where they need to be, perhaps we’d be better off calling it a ‘Metamorphosis (The process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages).
I use the word Metamorphosis as it shows that the change takes place in stages. The majority of IT organizations need to transform from a traditional ‘Service Provider’ role through ‘Trusted Advisor’ to ‘Strategic Partner’. Needing to build Trust and Credibility in order to be seen as a Strategic Partner. Many want to skip over the ‘Trusted’ bit and leap from where they are now to be a Strategic Partner and have a place in the boardroom, and then they wonder why it doesn’t happen. Read on to find out why.
We also see the distinct stages of Metamorphosis occurring in terms of the frameworks and practices being adopted in organizations to support and enable these ‘new ways of working’:
This is where a number of organizations are – they are trying to scale up and scale-out.
Many others are stuck in the middle ground of adopting agile and DevOps. (Which is still primarily DEV focused).
An additional challenge that organizations become aware of as they extend the scope of these end-to-end value streams (‘Feature-to-Code’, ‘Code-to-Deploy’. ‘Strategy-to-Execution’) to finally become ‘Idea-to-Value’ is that part of the Value also comes from the Service Management side of the equation (‘Delivery-of-Product’ to ‘Managing ongoing Service’). They then start complaining that ITIL is slowing everything down. Enter another new framework ITIL4 which also embraces value streams.
In order to achieve this Metamorphosis, we need to manage this process of transformation from stage to stage which takes time, patience, and effort and is usually never right the first time so it needs to be iterative.
Yet business executives expect the Metamorphosis or Evolution to occur rapidly. Too fast in fact for many organizations’ ability to evolve. Perhaps another reason that 70% are falling short.
Not only is it too fast, but we don’t have the necessary skills to manage the evolutionary process.
The Organizational Change Management (OCM) skills to manage change and the Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) skills to manage the transformation of the culture. (70% declare that changing culture is their biggest challenge).
Where are we now? What are some of these common areas for failing? I started off with findings from our global business simulation workshops with hundreds of organizations struggling with their agile transformations. I then compared our findings with various Industry reports such as The State of DevOps report, The State of Agile report, The Inaugural report from the Value Stream Consortium, Gartner research ‘10 essential Practices for success in implementing the Scaled Agile Framework‘, the 6 essential success factors for Digital Transformation success, from BCG ‘Flipping the Odds of Digital transformation Success‘ (70% of digital transformations fall short of their objectives), The McKinsey findings ‘How to mess up your agile transformation in 7 easy (mis) steps‘, and my own analysis of Global Competence Quickscan results from the Devops Agile Skills Association in the article ‘Skills to remain relevant in 21st century and enabling High-Performance Digital organizations‘. And finally, I have included this MIT Sloan Management article from 2018 as experience seems to show it is still very relevant ‘No one knows your strategy, not even your top leaders‘.
Don’t PANIC! You don’t need to read them all, I will sum up key findings here (From my own Biased viewpoint relating to Training and Attitude, Behavior, Culture).
Below are some of the common challenges, each with one or 2 supporting statements from some of the sources listed above as well as a conclusion and a link to some learning examples.
Conclusion: In the MIT example, these are the very same leaders who all insist that their features have the highest priority, and in the example above IT is HOPING that what is built and delivered adds business value! There is a lack of knowledge and skills in the effective Governance of Enterprise IT (Making the right decisions), and lack of an IT focus on the ‘Value’ in all of these IT initiatives aimed at building end-to-end Value streams. (See learning example: ‘Improving IT and business Value with serious play‘. See also ‘What has the business got to do with IT(IL)‘ These are two examples of changing business mindsets and behaviors and learning to focus on value.
2 Common cards chosen in ABC Workshops (You can see how long this has been going on. In the Queen of Clubs the technician is holding a floppy disk. This has been the top-scoring card chosen in global workshops 15 years in a row!)
Conclusion: These 70% failure rates and lack of business & IT alignment (see conclusion 1) have been challenges for many years, it would appear that Leadership roles do not have the right leadership skills, styles, and behaviors to lead the ‘Metamorphosis’. (See learning example: ‘Why courage is a core DevOps requirement‘) See also ‘Is your organization fit-for-the-future‘. These articles contain management discoveries and insights into required behavior change.
2 top scoring ABC cards chosen consistently year-in, year-out
(Skills relating to technology, new ways of working (e.g. agile, DevOps) and, more critical, skills in managing organizational and behavior change).
Conclusion: Despite the massive investment in training in the latest frameworks and certificates, critical skills are still missing (see conclusion 2, 4 & 5). Our global surveys (GamingWorks) also reveal lack of effort and energy is spent on translating theory into practice and the transfer of learning into new behaviors. 70% do not measure ‘behavior change’ or ‘value and impact’ of their training investments. (See learning example: ‘ITIL Foundation Business simulation – more than simply gaining a certificate‘). See also the whitepaper ‘The 8-Field Model‘. See the article ‘High performing teams….the Industry buzzword‘).
2 top scoring cards, although the cartoons were made for ITIL they equally apply to other frameworks.
(An open, safe, collaborative culture embracing continual experimentation, learning and improving)
Conclusion: There is a lot of talk about changing ‘Mindsets’ (Attitude) and a lot of talk about the need to ‘Foster a new Culture’ But not enough on changing the Behaviors (ABCofICT). There is a need to translate new cultural values and principles into behaviors. (See learning example: ‘Translating principles into behaviors‘). See also this article for the CIO ‘Sim-Sala-Bim! Culture change‘. See results of 15 years’ worth of failing to address ABC ‘Don’t let an ABC Earthquake destroy your organizations Transformation ambitions‘. This last article shows many top-scoring ABC cards in the last 15 years relating to ‘implementing’ new frameworks).
2 high scoring ABC cards. The blame culture which can kill ‘experimentation’ and an ‘open, trusting culture’ and ‘them and us’ representing the need to break down SILOes (between business & IT and between Value stream delivery teams – See section ‘The Union of the frameworks’ ).
Conclusion: There is still lack of awareness on this being a core organizational capability, and core cultural value in order to realize the ‘Metamorphosis’ and to maintain agility in continually delivering value. A capability that is both top-down (Strategic to Operational) as well as left-to-right (end-to-end collaboration). In our global surveys (GamingWorks) 70% do NOT have this as a core strategic capability. (See learning example ‘From slogans and buzzwords to behaviors and value‘). See also ‘Assessing behavior flows through the organization‘.
Union: ‘…association formed by people with a common interest or purpose.’
In order to support and enable these agile transformations, we adopt the latest ‘new ways of working‘ as mentioned above ‘agile, Lean, DevOps, ITIL4’ (to name but a few) and expect them to work in harmony, or form a union. If we look at the definition of union we see an additional challenge: ‘people with a common interest or purpose’. We already saw at the start of the article too little attention on the ‘why’ question – the common purpose.
The above can be confirmed by the top-scoring challenge in the State of Agile report which was ‘42% Inconsistent processes and practices across teams’, closely followed by ‘Organizational culture at odds with agile values‘ (which organizational culture? As mentioned often Dev teams have different Cultural values to Ops teams). Third in the list of challenges was ‘resistance to change‘ (understandable considering the above) closely followed by ‘lack of Leadership participation and management sponsorship’. More reasons for the 70% falling short.
It is clear from many of the conclusions above that despite the massive investment in training in the latest frameworks and practices that the current approach is not enough. Below are 10 suggestions to review your training approach. (not including recruitment and hiring practices).
There is a clear need to extend training to include:
And finally. After reading all of this, and recognizing many of these challenges and need to change, the question is ‘What will YOU now do’? You may be the only person in YOUR organization reading this. Here is another top-scoring ABC card.
Not my responsibility. It is always somebody else’s responsibility. This is about personal leadership. As Gandhi was attributed as saying ‘Be the change you want to see….’ Here is a final thought on Leadership ‘Leadership starts with you‘!
Written by Paul Wilkinson