[ANTI-] TRANSFORMERS: Teammates in disguise
Digital Transformation (DX) according to Wikipedia “is the novel use of digital technology to solve traditional problems. These digital solutions enable inherently new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhance and support traditional methods.”
Seems pretty good eh? Not an unfair ambition? Not an unrealistic “north-star”?
Then why the fudge do so many transformations fail?
Data from Forbes suggest it’s something like an 84% failure rate, whereas other research suggests it 50%. Either way; not great numbers. But why?
The wish to digitally transform is a power for good in businesses and something we all inherently understand. From my experience, it is often stakeholders and their behaviours within businesses that become the biggest blockers and demonstrate the most destructive attributes to those trying to embark on a digital transformation journey.
I am always interested in the cultural and people barriers and this blog I will be exploring some of the character types that I have identified over the years and some of the battles I have needed to overcome.
With no better genuine link between the word “Transformation” and the 80s cartoon “Transformers” being quite similar (I know I am forcing these comparisons now…. but I ain’t stopping), I would like to explore the villains that have plagued the wise and righteous objectives of the “goodies” the Autobots.
Let’s talk about the Decepticons, who have some amazing similarities to certain business personas I have encountered over the years.
For those that don’t know, the scourge of the honourable Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots; the Decepticons time-after-time battled the forces of goodness and progress. As with any good kids’ story, the “goodies” won in the end (which should give hope to transformation professionals) but some of these adversaries encountered along the way certainly didn’t make these easy…
Let’s Meet the Decepticons [Anti-Transformers]:
Our first adversary comes in the form of BARRICADE. The ultimate bad-boss! He was known for public dressing down of people, standards that were so high they could never be met, a deceptive persona (he pretended to be civic-minded police car) and willingness to turn every conversation into a fight.
Having experienced leaders with this toxic leadership and bullying approach personally, it is simply not conducive to strategic development and transformation. It causes business culture to retrench into BAU-type decision making and an unwillingness to ‘stick your head above the parapet’. Watch out for barricades!
Breakdown has an acute case of paranoia. He genuinely believes that things, both living and inanimate, are watching him. He doesn't like to stand out in a crowd and dreads being different and garnering attention. He actually wished to be a human so he could ‘lost in the crowd’.
Cautious progression and optimism through small meaningful steps I totally get. Big gut feel leaps into the unknown is not the way forward! However, leaders who fear change, fear ambiguity, fear standing out and dreading the perception of others will strangulate the braveness, creativity and intrapreneurial ‘gusto’ to drive businesses forward.
For FRENZY it's not about any quantifiable cause, or goal, or purpose at all. It's about violence, fear, destruction, and mayhem. Frenzy lives to fight. He lusts to destroy with an intensity that borders on insanity. War is his fuel, his oxygen.
The classic team terrorist: disagrees for no reason, challenges for no reason and in a way the goes beyond professional. We all know a Frenzy. Frankly, they are the ‘floating turds in the transformation swimming pool’. No amount of polishing, rolling in glitter or even trying to mould them will change what they are. Avoid at all costs.
The last “villain” on display today is the wonderfully named SHOCKWAVE. Unlike the others, Shockwave held a very senior rank in the Decepticons and was held in high regard by many: feared and revered in equal proportions. Described as “deadly efficient with a cold devotion to logic.”
Now I would struggle to argue that efficiency and logic aren’t important tools for business leaders and are also necessary when driving forward digital transformation. So (I hear you cry) why have you made him a villain?
Firstly, with Shockwave his efficiency and logic were blinkered to the extreme. All he looked for was evidence to support his ambition and a ruthless desire to get to his outcomes. This won’t work in transformation. The perspectives, inputs and shared experiences of all is needed. A strong north star and single-minded objective is key, but without the collective lived experiences and shared wisdom of the core team: you will end up focused on the wrong thing.
Secondly, logic is brilliant – I am an accountant so I can’t avoid thinking this way sometimes – but sometimes transformation and disruption needs a different and non-linear perspective. Creativity, looking at things from new angles drives genuine step change….if Apple hadn’t created the iPod the logical progression today would be CDs that would the size of 5p pieces!
So, watch out and never forget - even the evilest of corporate enemies has the ability to make a chameleon-like change unassuming and unthreatening part of the office décor! When you are embarking on a transformational project or journey – big or small – find the right transformers to collaborate and work with you.
Be self-aware of your own behavioural impacts on transformation
Build small and aligned teams
Complement your team with external stakeholders/experts that increase the drive and alignment
Externally; when looking for the right partner to achieve your transformational goals look for a team who:
Has experience of driving change
Makes small meaningful steps
Has a human-led approach
Is a critical friend and adviser
Makes positive and collaborative input