Digital Transformation is a journey, and it can be a long one at that. So before you launch your company down that road, before you embark on a project that is sure to revolutionize the way your company does business, hit the pause button to explore the what, the how, and the why.
But not necessarily in that order!
There’s an 18-minute TED Talk video by Simon Sinek, entitled “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” that has generated 37,844,823 views on the TED Web site and another 4,417,905 views on YouTube. It’s the 3rd most popular talk in the history of TED.
Every company knows what they do and how they do it. Few companies know why they do it.
Widget as an Example
Let’s say your company manufactures widgets. There you go! That’s what you do. You can also visit your company’s shop floor to easily see the widget manufacturing process. That’s how you do it. But if someone asked you why you do it, you might have to give that a bit more thought before responding. Would it suffice to say that you do it in order to make money? Sinek argues that profit, while concrete, is not a satisfactory answer.
In order for your assembly line workers to be inspired, beyond just showing up every morning for work, they need to have a clear sense of purpose. Maybe, for example, their widgets are used in the scanners that help detect early-stage cancers.
To illustrate his premise, Sinek draws what he calls a “golden circle.” It’s actually 3 concentric circles with the outermost circle being the “what,” the next circle in being the “how,” and the center being the “why.” Here’s how the 3 rings of Apple’s circle might be defined:
What – We make a product called the iPod.
How – Our products are beautifully designed and easy to use.
Why – We believe in challenging the status quo and doing things differently.
Simon Sinek’s golden circle does not just apply to companies.
Surely, it can apply to the things we do in our daily lives, and why we’re inspired and motivated to do them – as people, parents, and members of the human race.
We can also see that, within the constructs of organizations, the same principles can logically be applied to individual projects, such as Digital Transformation.
In those situations, we often start with the “what” or the “how”. Such as: use the new intranet (the “what”) by clicking 3 extra times here to upload a document (the “how”). Another example: add meeting notes this way (the “how”) to track your activities in CRM (the “what”).
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Sinek has a valid point when he insists that it’s preferable (perhaps even obligatory) to start with why. This means working your way from the inside of the circle out, as opposed to from the outside in.
Why would you want your company to embark on a Digital Transformation journey?
If you can’t answer this question, how can you inspire your team to jump on board with you? Why would your team show any enthusiasm for the project if they don’t know its purpose?
Your answer could fall into one of 3 categories. I call them the good, the bad and the ugly (yes, just like that old 1966 movie starring Clint Eastwood). Let’s take a look at the possible answers to why in reverse.
This is a true statement. And it might motivate some of your employees to jump on board, but only if they think they will benefit from an increase in corporate profit. But it’s not truly inspirational.
This is another true statement. And sure, this might appeal to some of your employees, especially those whose ability to do their jobs has been adversely impacted by outdated, legacy systems. Still, it’s not truly inspirational.
Bull’s eye! This could be the why you can start with. Everyone can identify with this reason as a purpose with broad appeal both inside and outside your company. It’s more inspiring than monetary gain and more inclusive than modernization. After all, there are always those who prefer the status quo.
Granted, this suggestion is broad. You’ll want to find a why that is unique to your organization, to your specific project, and even to the different personas working on your team.
If you’re struggling to define a stellar why, Simon Sinek’s most recent book, Find Your Why, published in September 2017, might help. It is for all intents and purposes a sequel to Start With Why.
You can also download the C5 Insight “Digital Workplace Why Sheet” for a practical approach to answering this question.
Once you have your why it will be easy to move on to the how and the what. Because those are not really tough questions. In fact, if your team understands and believes in the “why,” then you’ll spend far less time training them because they will want to change the way they do their work.
To begin with, transform your paper and analog assets to digital assets. Continue by moving your on-premise and legacy systems and applications to the cloud – CRM, File Shares, SharePoint. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and your Digital Transformation won’t be either. You should adopt a phased approach with any number of milestones along the way.
Just Google (or Bing) Digital Transformation and you’ll get the answer to the “what is” question. Some definitions are 1- to 2-line summaries, others are miles long. At a high level, Digital Transformation can be explained by 2 words that are not necessarily part of your average vocabulary – digitization and digitalization. Digitization is simply the conversion of analog information into digital form, while digitalization is the actual process of technologically-induced change.
At C5 Insight we’re huge fans of Start With Why. Contact us today to plan your digital journey. Give us a ring at 704-895-2500 or use our contact form to reach out.
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