Where and how to begin Digital Transformation?

Coach Alba Helps One Step At Time

Last week I shared my secret sauce for a successful digital transformation. It starts with the leaders' change and commitment to lead the journey. Many leaders feel they are drowning with different alternatives, solutions, and pressures. Many feel it is so overwhelming that they may shut down, take a position of wait and see for their competitors, or where the storm carries them.

You may be familiar with PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Adjust) which was made famous by W. Edwards Deming, the father of modern quality control. It starts with planning, and every so often, the tendency is to jump into doing with the impetus of taking action and making decisions.

Once a leader knows (s)he is ready to get going; the big question is where and how? At this time is when the planning comes into play. It sounds trivial and straightforward, beginning with the strategy. The strategic phase is to understand the competitive landscape, integrate the executive team, and conduct a series of strategic planning sessions to define a vision and plan for digital transformation. The digital transformation strategy must be in full alignment and integration with the organization's overall strategy.

While this strategic process is happening, the leader needs to start with Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate to the organization the importance for everyone to be part of the journey. Communication is what allows people to feel informed and included to gain their buy-in to what they will start to see and experience. I am sure you have heard, "culture eats strategy for lunch." That may sound clichéd; however, it is absolutely a fact.

A Wikipedia definition for Culture is "the way of life of groups of people, meaning the way they do things." To please my curiosity and confirm my belief, I googled two phrases:

  • "digital transformation and culture” delivered 133,000,000 results

  • "digital transformation fails because culture is ignored" delivered 18,200,000 results

A leader may have a vision, and the executive team may develop the best strategy, but if the workforce is not engaged and on board with that vision and strategy, the change will not take hold.

I have experienced many transformations throughout my career, from process reengineering, to lean manufacturing and technology adoption ones. I know that people are at the center of any transformation, even more, when it is a digital one.

Digital transformation in manufacturing is enabled by industry 4.0. My definition is that industry 4.0 is a set of technologies that allow connectivity, transparency, and faster decision making. These technologies free up workers' time to focus on core competencies and value-add work. These technologies are shaping the future of production, taking organizations to the next level, and providing an augmented way to make continuous improvement. Industry 4.0 is the means to take lean manufacturing to become more competent and competitive in the new era.

The most commonly selected industry 4.0 technologies are data analytics, augmented reality, industrial internet of things (IIoT), collaborative robots (cobots), and additive manufacturing. The companies that have successfully adopted these technologies have demonstrated the willingness to invest, experiment, and have the patience not to expect immediate returns. Those leaders are open to collaborate within an ecosystem of players, conformed by other companies, academia, government, technology providers, coaches, and consultants.

The transformation roadmap I effectively use is a framework of six key principles. I engage as a collaborative partner with leaders and organizations to give human relevance to digital transformation by assessing and facilitating the readiness of the leaders who will define the course of the transformation and the workforce who are the ones to adopt the technologies so that the benefits get realized.

  1. Engage with People

  2. Have the Basics In Place

  3. Know the Current State

  4. Identify Pain Points & Define the problem

  5. Apply the Right Solution

  6. Start Small and Now, Scale Fast

I have been involved in projects and initiatives where technology got deployed or about to, without the readiness of the workforce or genuinely understanding the issues. The six keys apply to any change or transformation, no matter how big or small, how simple or complex. I have used them. I know they work in different scenarios and regions of the world.

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