People at the centre of your transformation

Nina Muhleisen | 8 October 2019


Without putting people at the centre of what you do, how you do it and where you want to get to – your vision and an actionable plan won’t be successful.

Considering that we’re facing a radically changing workforce of the future, there are tools that can help you define what can and can’t be automated in the near future so you can get an idea of what your workforce might look like.

However, to do this successfully you need focused thinking, ability to handle ambiguity, organisational change and time. The future isn’t certain and because of this, you also need a responsive team with the right level of agility to act as the environment continually changes.

Now, I would like you to put you in the shoes of Claire. Claire’s a middle-level manager at an enterprise organisation, she runs a team of 30 people and assists with the onboarding of new clients. She was lucky enough to attend a recent town hall meeting and had been told about the organisation’s strategy of which there was a digital execution component, as well as BAU revenue growth areas. Claire knew her role was to help the businesses execute this model by bringing in new technology into her team, but she was struggling.

She now has to run her own team, manage their pipeline of work, she was being asked to put her data into a central source and was being asked to automate the non-value add activities whilst keeping her team motivated. She’s had basic training on agile but that was it, it was now up to her to deliver the strategy.

Sound familiar?

This is what is being asked by leaders every single day. Many of our leaders just don’t know what to do. Whilst the leadership team are communicating the right messages there is a significant skill gap between what is needed to make this happen while running the business all at the same time.

Wave a magic wand? It doesn’t exist. You are going to need to invest, you are going to need to support your people to understand the new challenges to grow and develop their capabilities to instil confidence.

So, here are my thoughts on how you can help transition your teams to become more adaptive and responsive to new technologies:

1. Communicate early and communicate often

In the example with Claire, we highlighted the pressure that she was under, but at least she had some communication. Communication gives people the chance to understand and reflect on the implications of new digital and technology approaches. It brings them in on the why, what is the value of this to the customers, the business, their lives and how it fits into the bigger picture. But more importantly (from their perspective), it lets them see how they will contribute and benefit from the coming changes.

2. Genchi Genbutsu – go and see

My background in lean at Toyota always brings me back to Genchi Genbutsu – “go and see”. Give your team the opportunity to see other people who are doing it already, take them on a tour of a digital lab, or show them a customer journey that is being transitioned into a digital journey and if you don’t have it in your business – then seek it out. There is someone else out there who has done this before, use your community because you are not alone. This will provide them with confidence, they can see how the company is introducing agile ways of working, integrating new technologies with existing infrastructure, automating core processes, and building on legacy back-end IT systems. Most importantly, they can hear the organisation’s transformation story from core team members and discuss the challenges they have faced. Your support network is incredibly important, but don’t just do it for your senior leaders, do it for the people who will need it day in day out too.

3. Let them play an active role in their development

People are happiest with the change that they understand. If your people know change is coming, they are usually keen to learn as much as they can about it. Take advantage of that appetite by making it easy for your people to access information and resources on new technologies and approaches. Publish blogs on your intranet; highlight public-domain articles on relevant topics and encourage people to visit conferences on agile development, automation and robotics, or the Internet of Things. Encourage their development and let them test, fail and learn.

At Three6, building these capabilities is what we refer to as DigiGrow and we applied these to Claire and her team.

We began the communication early, we took her team out to see where this was working in other organisations and connected them into a network enabling them to ask questions with people who had been there before, and finally, we created individual development plans for the team members, based on their baseline and where they wanted to go in the future. Now this is a journey and there is still a long way to go but they are on the right track.

Get these early elements right, and you will be laying a robust foundation for the transformation to come – you’ll overcome scepticism, address people’s concerns, and create excitement about the personal and professional opportunities that industry 4.0 creates.