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Transformation, innovation and the critic

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Hywel Glyn-Jones, CEO, Opennetworks, examines how change management can enable the cultural shift that defines successful digital transformation in an organisation.
In business the purpose of digital transformation is to create a culture of innovation thereby enabling revenue growth in the new digital world.
Many established companies are engaging in transformation strategies in an attempt to reach online buyers and the almost 19-million smartphone users in South Africa.
However, not all digital transformation programmes that businesses launch are successful. Cloud technologies have the potential to enable startup businesses to grow extremely quickly and at a low cost.  Startups are often better positioned to capitalise on this new digital market because they can begin with a clean sheet. Conversely, established businesses may be constrained by legacy technologies but an even bigger challenge may be antiquated thinking within the organisation.
However, the culture of digital thinking can be very successfully catalyzed using modern technology platforms in an organisation. Technologies that enable natural collaboration, seamless communication and avoid daily frustrations are beneficial to employees and create a fertile environment for innovation.
Of course is not just about the technology – it is about the people, how they work together, and how they think. Employees who are scared, feel threatened or are consciously rejecting change for personal reasons, can quickly derail the transformation strategy. In spite of this,  investing, or even over-investing in change management is is almost guaranteed to produce a positive ROI resulting from the cultural change.
For any change management process to succeed, there are several factors that need to be put in place. Foremost, any call for change must have strong executive sponsorship. With key members of the C-Suite championing the change and executive management supporting and participating in the change, the chances of success are immediately and significantly improved.
Thereafter a series of tools and processes need to be implemented to ensure readiness, good communication, identifying champions, winning over critics, training and support during the change.
The drivers of change must consider key personalities that affect a change management strategy. Understanding these personalities, and their different needs can assist in transforming the culture within the organisation.
The champion is positive to work with when instituting change management and training. These individuals have drive and passion and bring energy to the business. They are often well liked and have the ability to collaborate easily and willingly. They will be excited about the change, endorse the project and try to positively reinforce the benefits of the technology with their co-workers.
The critic generally opposes change on principle. They may not be entirely fulfilled in their role or they do not like to embrace change of any kind. However, with focused effort and specific training methods, a critic can be converted into a a very powerful champion. When a champion says something is good, one can discount it because champions are happy about most things.  When the typically vocal critic says something new is good – ironically more people listen.
The victim is usually aligned with the business’ objectives, yet they may feel trapped in their role and have a low level of satisfaction. Their resistance to change is often fueled by fear of change, they are sometimes vocal and may attempt to rally support from co-workers. However, understanding and acknowledging their fears and teaming victims  with champions to provide an engaging experience can quickly assist in changing the victim culture to a new collaborative one.
The most challenging personality to work with is the bystander. These are generally employees who may experience a high level of dissatisfaction in their role and who proactively start disengaging even further once new technology has been introduced. While they may understand the reason and benefits for change, they simply won’t engage. In the case of bystanders, the executive sponsor can be a key asset. Once bystanders notice that “even the boss” has engaged in a new culture, they will usually follow.
For all the personalities the change management team must provide appropriate training, recognising that dynamics of the different team players can mean different types of training. Generally an interactive approach to training is most successful because employees are not learning if they’re not actively engaged. Often the critic’s training is done face-to-face, within the user’s actual working environment. Dealing with a critic’s daily challenges is not enough, to win over a critic, one must excite them with a big “win” or significant benefit that eclipses the need to criticise and replaces it with the need to talk (or even brag) about the win.
While different people like to learn in different ways, developing a culture of self-help users is the ultimate goal for the organisation. Users who are comfortable with video tutorials and happy to work things out for themselves form an important part of the new culture of a digitally transformed business. Teaching all categories of users to quickly find the help they need can be as easy as showing them how to use Google. Google reached 1-billion users on Search, Maps, YouTube, Android, Chrome, and Play without any training but simply by developing easy to use products and a culture of self-help users.
Emulating digital consumer style thinking inside the enterprise is one of the key aspects of achieving a digitally transformed culture. It can be a best case scenario from a cost, skills-retention and team satisfaction perspective and it creates an environment receptive to innovation.