Talk about digital transformation around you and you’re bound to hear more or less the same thing: “It’s about change management!” well, as a matter of fact, it’s not.
It’s a very different kettle of fish. Here and at in another piece by my good friend Karima Goundiam I’m referring to at the end of this post, one will start to understand why transformation doesn’t equate to change and why it matters.
For a start, what is a transformation? As Ron Ashkenas once put it, people still can’t tell the difference between transformation and change. When you come to think of it, dictionaries are also doing a poor job at defining this concept.
First and foremost, a transformation isn’t a change, it’s a collection of changes.
Secondly, a transformation is a collection of changes that leads you or your business through unknown paths to an unknown result.
Now you understand why people hate transformations even more than they hate change. Change is about altering people’s habits and ways of working. In other words, change is about telling people — even so subconsciously — “I don’t like the way you work; you should do it this way!” This is why change management techniques have been introduced, so that implementors would not be turned down and that a win-win result could be achieved (well, in best-case scenarios i.e. when change implementors are well-intentioned).
With digital transformation, it’s a wee different. You’re not just sending a signal that methods had better change. You are also hinting that the business, in its entirety, will evolve into something nobody knows everything about if anything at all.
Transformation is about jumping into the unknown.
Now you really understand why there is so much resistance to change (and even more, to transformation).
Karima Goundiam has written a great piece for our customer iRevolution [disclosure] on its digital transformation Horror Museum blog. Read more here to understand everything about digital transformation.
Digital Transformation Is More Than Change Management
Whereas change management is about identifying specific processes to be digitized and implementing them, digital transformation is about using new technologies to solve existing problems, even long-standing ones. Between the two there is a radical shift of emphasis. In this piece, I will redefine those terms and provide examples to make my point and ensure that you, and your business, don’t end up in the digital transformation horror museum.
The first robin is the first sign of spring. In Canada, that red-breasted vision often heralds the first spring snowfall the next day. In business, as in the cycle of seasons, the arrival of digital tools—doesn’t necessary herald innovation. For that, you need a clear vision. Some call the first thaw a “false spring,” which is an apt metaphor for discussing the differences between change management and true digital transformation.
Read on for some hints on how to embrace the potential of digital transformation by thinking about digital differently, and how to keep even a large enterprise innovative and flexible by opening the channels for fresh ideas to come from every level. Change management is about identifying specific processes to be digitized and implementing them.
Concerning change management process, staff are trained to use specific tools and to monitor performance outcomes compared to earlier models they have worked with. In best-case scenarios, change management is seen as an evolutionary process in which workers can build upon their earlier practices and knowledge.
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