Distributed, Agile Transformation: How Change Becomes Routine
Change is not a one-off – it is continuous. Instead of big bang change programmes, we need to make distributed, agile transformation part of the routine management rhythm.
Everyone has a role in continuous improvement
We maintain our buildings better than we do our org structures.
In the past, companies reached for the 5-yearly top-down re-org or change programme when things got bad.
Now we know that these crash diets don’t work, and instead we look to the experience of the Quantified Self, wearables and streak apps to continuously improve through a series of small changes and feedback loops.
What to Prioritise?
Instead of driving change down from the top, adaptive organisations operate a continuous loop of strategy (why), capability goals (what) and a backlog of change actions to create them (how), informed by measurement and feedback.
By distributing transformation throughout the organisation, everybody shares responsibility for moving forward together towards common capability goals.
Using the ‘human sensor network’ to guide transformation
The digital workplace now makes it easier to mobilise our collective intelligence to guide change and suggest new priorities for action. By defining organisational health metrics and asking people to assess how they are changing, we can get a good sense of progress.
Rapid feedback on small changes can help us iterate and improve by applying agile principles to organisational change. No more 5 year plans!
Engagement > Resistance
People don’t usually resist change for its own sake, they resist things that don’t make sense in their context. Invite them to guide change locally and resistance becomes constructive engagement.
This is what meaningful employee engagement looks like, not people ‘liking’ your corporate comms on the Intranet. When people own the outcomes rather than just following the process, they are more likely to identify and suggest ways to improve it.
How We Can Help
We work with digital leaders to map digital strategy, capability gaps, and cultivate a network of digital guides across the organisation; we also deliver in-depth digital leadership learning and development programmes.
We map the capabilities, services and skills of emerging agile teams, and help assemble them into a service platform that the whole firm can use. We also help design and implement key platform elements starting with a digital learning hub.
We help switch from a process-centric work system to a more agile and service-centric approach, identify scope for automation or standardisation of these services, and then create the interfaces and connections with other teams to work better together.
We do a lot of work with organisations to help embed new ways of working enabled by the digital workplace. One of the most commonly cited barriers to adoption of modern work techniques is employees who think they lack the time to try new things. More often than not, this objection comes from leaders, rather than front-line teams…
In a complex world where few of us have time to understand the intricate detail of data, accounting, law and perhaps even code, we will need trusted professionals to help us navigate complexity. So whilst automation and technology will probably reduce headcount in the profession overall, the prize for those who can use our new technology superpowers to create value for their clients will be ever greater. Algorithmic transparency and code standards can help us trust the underlying machinery, but I predict we will still place our trust in humans to make the final judgement.
The aspect of the future of the digital workplace that most excites me is its data. The social and organisational network data produced by these tools provides a wealth of possibilities to explore. These can be as simple as a chatbot that replaces an IT help-desk, or as complex as being able to understand the behaviour patterns of your business.
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