Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: Coronavirus May Have Hit Los Angeles In December, Before Wuhan Outbreak Was Reported

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from Jemima McEvoy.

It would be hard, if not impossible, to find a CIO today who hasn’t taken a long, hard look at their organization’s resilience in the face of the worst global health crisis in generations. This includes rethinking their current digital transformation efforts.  

As business weaknesses are laid bare by the pandemic, leaders are shifting their digital transformation investments and strategy to accommodate a world reshaped by COVID-19. What was once about employee experience or improved productivity is now centered on addressing short- and long-term business continuity.  

One major coronavirus surprise was the dawn of a new work-from-anywhere era.  

Because business resilience depends on the ability to keep teams working productively, this rethink of the office has many implications—not the least of which is that IT must now become leading organizational changemakers. And that means focusing less on back-office technology and more on painting a strategic vision for the organization.  

Meet Janet 

In a previous digital transformation leadership role, I had the opportunity to put this philosophy into practice. Based on our transformation vision, I knew a key role would be the head of employee experience. It was a big role, responsible for leading the HR team in creating seamless cross-functional processes that would vastly improve new-hire onboarding.  

I selected our help desk supervisor, Janet, for this pivotal position, despite her relative lack of experience as a project manager or a process architect.  

When I approached her about the position, she was understandably surprised. She wanted to know why I chose her, and I answered honestly.  

I said, “I can improve your project management skills; I can assign an experienced process-architect to your team. But what I can’t find anywhere else is someone who thinks like me in terms of the experience we want to create and who shows a visceral reaction to a bad service experience with IT. I know what motivates you, and I know you have ideas on how to fix our problems.” 

Janet took the role and was ridiculously successful.    

Less technology, more empowerment 

I wasn’t surprised. In my experience, winning transformation strategies have less to do with the technologies employed and more to the power you give your people. IT and business teams need to be able to manage the relationships and process interdependencies required to create seamless, resilient, end-to-end services for employees and customers alike. 

That’s easier said than done and requires IT to take a central leadership role throughout the organization. The question is, are they ready for such prominent positioning?  

Let’s face it. The answer is “probably not.” At least not without a little self-reflection.

CIOs, as well as their direct reports, must consider whether their leadership empowers the IT organization to lead the business through a re-thinking, re-imagining, and re-engineering of a multitude of complicated, cross-functional processes.  

This is a non-negotiable prerequisite for the simultaneous transformation of the employee experience, customer outcomes, organizational productivity, and business-continuity management.  

Set the vision 

What does this leadership look like? First, it’s critical for the CIO to provide a strong vision for their team to follow. 

This vision must be continually updated, with focused and continuous visioning and empowerment practices cascaded from the most senior stakeholders to their change-agents in the trenches. Each member of the team should understand:  

  1. How will they be personally impacted given the future-state vision 
  2. If that future-state role is something they can aspire to 
  3. What the journey to it looks like 
  4. The kind of support they can expect to receive from their manager  

If we are not having these conversations with every member of our team, if we don’t have a clear understanding of how every IT function will need to be reshaped, re-trained, or re-engineered to support the vision, how can we expect to succeed?  

Like driving a car 

Think back to when you learned to drive a car. The driving itself wasn’t hard; after all, it takes about 15 minutes to learn how to operate a vehicle.  

It’s everything that comes next—road rules, how to respond to an erratic driver, what to do in the event of an accident—that requires practice. This practice armed you with the tools to respond when something inevitably does go wrong, no matter its specifics.

The same is true in IT. Understanding and learning the technology is the easy part. It’s the scenarios in which those technologies are engaged that offer a real challenge. 

While digital transformation is a heroic endeavor, success requires less emphasis on “digital” and more on “transformation”— especially when framing a vision of what your digital transformation program aims to accomplish.  

As CEOs re-evaluate the scope and ambitions of their digital transformation initiatives, I hope they will re-evaluate their strategies as well. I hope they will consider, in essence, a transformation of their transformations.

Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠