Complex digital transformations are often necessary to ensure survival and business success in the ‘digital age’. Once your strategy is defined and execution kicks off, the single most important variable for success is leadership. Question is, how well are most leaders equipped for transformation?
Understandably, many business leaders are focused on driving an existing business, concentrating on marginal improvements to business performance – as opposed to larger changes in direction. For example, changing customer engagement, operating models, radical new skill sets, etc. However, digital transformation brings new complexity. As a result, leadership requires new skills, additional resources and specialist support to ensure success.
A killer digital leadership team
Today, although most CEOs understand the importance of digital, most are not ‘digital natives’. As a result, more than ever before, CEOs need to identify the right business leaders for their killer A-player leadership team. This means understanding where gaps in their organisation are and assessing the strength of their senior executives in marketing and technology.
Key dimensions of successful leadership
Leadership is crucial for execution of digital transformation and growth. Yet, successful leadership is not a one-way street. Of course, a cohesive vision is critical, but it does not come purely from the top-down. Instead, success is dependent upon strong yet collaborative leadership – along a number of dimensions and business levels – to drive business change:
- Top Executive Leadership Alignment (CEO, COO and CFO): top executives need a very clear idea of the strategy/plan and principles to be cascaded and used across the organisation.
- Executive Leadership Strength (CMO, CDO, CTO, CIO, VPs and Directors): you need strong leaders, strategists and specialists who can act as drivers for change.
- Effective Management (Directors and Managers): the capacity to run a set of projects/programmes in addition to ‘business-as-usual’ activities, drive transformational delivery and diffuse the executive’s vision throughout the organisation.
- Project Management (PMO and Project Management): clear accountability is needed for driving the day-to-day programme/project management. And it’s critical that they have enough resources to execute the vision.
Is your leadership set up for failure?
Change and transformation projects often fall in the laps of existing management. And unfortunately, it is given to them in addition to their ‘business-as-usual’ activities.
Worse still, they may not be supported with the specialist knowledge needed to grasp the true complexity of the project. Add in best-case-scenario unrealistic timelines and the lack of suitable resources to support delivery, and you’re off to a terrible start.
This is often the fault of classic strategy consulting businesses who are often detached from the true business challenges, the complexity of cultural change and the true technical complexity of executing such projects. The result is a ‘strategy’, which they do not stay around to see through to delivery. Often, false expectations are given regarding timelines and resources simply to delight C-Suite executives.
How can you achieve leadership excellence?
When significant change is required, effective leadership becomes even more crucial. For project success, leadership at all levels must operate with eyes wide open – highly attentive and engaged – from issue identification/diagnosis, formulation of the solution/strategy and plan to every stage of execution, and thereafter.
The critical success factors you need to think about
Top Executive Leadership Alignment (CEO, COO and CFO):
- Ensure that a clear understanding of the issues/opportunities at hand is shared throughout the Executive Leadership Team.
- Craft a transformational vision and commission a tangible, rigorous roadmap.
- Address own knowledge gaps before the transformation programme begins through confidential coaching sessions with subject matter experts.
Executive Leadership Strength (CMO, CDO, CTO, CIO, VP and Directors):
- Ensure the senior leadership team is equipped with the right knowledge and skills and has a track record of delivering large-scale transformation and change management projects.
- Engage the right players. Given the crucial roles that these leaders and stakeholders have in the digital transformation process, this is a must.
- Formulate the organisational plan in tandem with the transformational plan.
- Address any talent gaps before project kick-off.
- Address skill gaps with an up-skilling programme to create the foundations for success from the very top of the organisation (i.e. hire/replace the right talent and/or bolster the leadership team with expert external resources).
Effective Management (Directors and Managers):
- Ensure that directors and managers are fully on-boarded on the transformational journey.
- Make sure they have the right resources to deliver the transformation while continuing to run current business operations successfully.
- Address upskilling both before and during the transformational project.
- Ensure that directors and managers are well equipped to get their teams to rally behind them. Everyone needs a clear view of the impact that the transformation programme will have on the organisational structure, roles and responsibilities and operational processes.
Project Leadership (PMO and Project Management):
- Deploy a rigorous project management approach to ensure that any transformational project objectives are respected. For example, having one project manager (for small/medium sized projects) or a programme management office for large scale transformations.
- Define and outline a responsibility and accountability structure (e.g. RACI Matrix, ways of working and processes) and share with the wider organisation.
- Ensure that the project leader is able to orchestrate through complex, changing times with a methodical approach to enable internal and external stakeholders to deliver and succeed.
It’s time for cultural transformation
For a new strategy to truly come to fruition, a fundamental enabler is having the right business culture as a solid foundation for new ways of operating. Therefore, from the CEO to the newest intern, the culture of collaboration, empowerment and continuous improvement needs to be adopted.
Together with the transformation strategy, the senior leadership team will have to define the new culture that’s required for the new chapter in the life of the business. They will also need to formalise it into an actionable plan and document, which is accessible by the whole organisation, as well as structuring and organising a programme of cultural evolution over time.
One of the key results of digital transformation is to become an organisation which learns, adapts and evolves to the changing times (a so called “learning organisation”). As a result, the new culture will need to allow for open channels of communication with all members of the organisation. Of course, the approach will vary depending upon the business, its culture and the size of the transformation, however some tactics may include forums, town halls, etc. The goal is to foster and ncentivise the creativity of all team members and encourage them to actively contribute towards on-going cultural improvement.
How we can help you achieve effective leadership for digital transformation
We believe that digital transformation is first and foremost about people, their culture, their empowerment, their freedom to drive the business and innovate. People will always remain the why. Technology is simply the how.
We can help you by:
- Delivering winning strategies and plans – with the consumer at heart. Our empathetic approach is born from our deep understanding of business culture gained through our client side roots. That’s why we stick around to provide the leadership and support required to deliver the consumer-centric strategy.
- Putting people first. We keep their motivations, their skills, their desires at the forefront. And craft business and cultural transformation programmes which take into consideration every member of the organisation.
We can also support on the following aspects:
- Top Executive Leadership Alignment (CEO, COO and CFO): a great leader isn’t always the one that has all the answers. But they certainly have all the right questions. We can help you craft a transformational vision, strategy and plans. We can provide confidential personalised coaching across a wide variety of digital and strategy disciplines, including transformation, eCommerce, eRetail, CRM and data strategy.
- Executive Leadership Strength (CMO, CDO, CTO, CIO, VP and Directors): we can help your leaders to craft their strategies and business plans. We can become an extension of your team to provide the necessary leadership for change and transformation. We can provide interim executive leadership by acting as your CDO, CMO, CTO, CIO as well as acting as VP and Directors for eCommerce, marketing, digital and CRM. Alternatively, we can provide support in hiring talent for these roles.
- Effective Management (Directors and Managers): we analyse your teams’ capabilities, culture and ways of working. We craft a collaborative, inclusive roadmap to close skills gaps and set the necessary talent foundations for a winning business transformation.
- Project Management (PMO and Project Management): from small-scale projects (eCommerce re-platforming) to full-scale digital transformation programmes, comprising of multiple work streams, we provide highly qualified, expert project management capabilities to drive exceptional project delivery.