The majority of transformations promise benefits; they are the reward for the effort taken to transform. In many cases those “promised” benefits never materialize, efficiencies are not captured, people retain their old ways of working, or the transformed methods and practices require “work-arounds” that take equally as long as the old method.
The common theme of the missed opportunities above is that people have not changed their work procedures and habits to optimize the functionality or efficiency of the new methods and practices. They may have made a partial change and created a hybrid method. They are trapped somewhere between the old familiar way and the envisioned way of doing things. This state has neither the familiarity nor the comfort of the old way or the efficiency of the new way. Employees have adopted this hybrid as the new unintended way of working, and unfortunately, it has become their new habit. As we know, habits, once formed, are hard to break.
What can be done to stop your people ending up in that ineffective hybrid state? Below are three steps to help unlock the promised benefits of your digital transformation and to help your people avoid becoming stuck with an inefficient and unintended hybrid way of working.
Look past the launch of the new system or process. We all focus on the launch as the pivotal moment of the transformation; it’s a natural thing to do and something to celebrate. Looking past the launch to the behaviors you need from your people to capture the promised benefits is a more profitable place to focus. Yes, the launch has to happen, but it’s the changed behavior of your people that will deliver the benefits you were promised.
Have a clear vision of what the new behaviors actually are: What does good look like and when will you know you have achieved it? If you want your people to focus on higher value work after the routine processing has been digitalized, what do you want them to be doing? More importantly, what outcomes do you want them to create? If you want to capture efficiencies, what are your metrics and how does each individual contribute to the new success?
What is the performance gap you have to bridge to get the promised benefits? The design of a bridge is determined by the size of the gap to be spanned. It’s the same with a performance gap. How radical a change in behavior are you seeking? Is it an evolution of skills and knowledge or a revolution requiring a completely fresh mindset? How adept at dealing with change are your people and how fatigued by previous change initiatives are they? All of these factors need to be considered to ensure a successful adoption of the behaviors you need to capture the benefits promised by the transformation.
To increase the chances of capturing those benefits, consider the three steps above and accurately assess the ability of your people to bridge the performance gap. By ignoring these factors, you risk your people rejecting the new way of working and the “system” protecting itself. Employees might also only partially adopt unintended hybrid behaviors stuck somewhere between where they were and where you want them to be.
The easier thing to do is to focus on the “hard” system launch—the harder and more effective way is to consider how you can capture the promised benefits via changed behaviors. What would your ROI be on time invested in working through these three steps before you launch your digital transformation?