How not to fail at digital transformation

It is said that digital transformation projects fail up to 95% of the time! [1], I’ve seen slightly lower numbers, but still exceptionally high.

I’m not going to go into the why, the article I linked to above does that, and I will let you read that, what I’m going to tell you is how I implement digital transformation projects successfully, so that you can do it too.

One of the keys is to work across the silos of your organisation, this makes a lot of people very nervous, but it’s the only way to do it and be successful. This means talking to people, involving them, keeping them informed.

Another key is to involve the users. This often gets called design thinking, these days, but design thinking wasn’t something I’d heard of when I first did it 20 years ago, it just seemed to be the right thing to do. I certainly don’t know what would make people’s jobs easier, and reduce their workload, or at least not increase it, so I ask them. I talk to them about their processes, what they call things, how they are organised. The things that worked for them, what didn’t work for them.

Once I get their input I create wireframes or prototypes and validate them with the people I’ve talked to, making modifications where I’ve misunderstood something or not asked enough questions. We often do this 2-3 times until we get it right. This gets call agile, trying and failing, or iteration; again it just seemed to be the right thing to do when I first did it. I was realistic enough to know that I wasn’t an expert in whatever my users were, so if I was going to help them, I was going to need their help–it was a team effort, we were in this together.

Something else that is critical is keeping everyone informed: users, management, other stakeholders. We have regular emails, updates, and meetings as well as documents being posted online for people to access. It takes a lot of communication: A LOT!

I ask questions and ensure alignment. When something doesn’t make sense, I go back to the users, the use cases they had described, the organisation’s vision or strategy, whatever helps me ensure we are moving in the right direction, in the best interests of the people I was working with and the organisation as a whole. If I have conflicting information, we talk about it and make a decision, sometimes, I make the decision, sometimes the team does, whatever keeps us moving towards the goal. The times that I make the decision, I explain my rationale and reasoning, so that people don’t feel excluded, like I have “done it to them”. We are in this together, we only succeed together.

I treat people like equals, with the trust and respect they deserve. They come to trust me, and work with me to achieve our objectives. It is hard. Lots of people don’t like it. Lots of people want a command and control approach, but that’s not going to be successful. We’re in the age of the knowledge worker, and have been for a long time. It demands a different approach than the industrial age.

You have to be passionate, tenacious, and willing to admit you don’t have all the answers but you’ll find out. Success takes leadership, not a place on the hierarchy.

My path to creativity

In my introduction, last week, when I spoke at the Future Females: Berlin creativity event.  I made a joke about being an accountant and a IT professional and that I was going to talk to them about creativity. I said, “I know what you’re thinking, what is and accountant and IT person going to tell us about creativity?” and really, how does someone who studied accounting and IT come to be doing creativity?!? I mean, really???!!!

You’re going to have to trust me that it is all connected, I don’t want to bore you to death with all the details, but the short answer is, that after having the creativity, figuratively, if not literally, beaten out of me of during years of education, I came to realise how important it is.

I was exhausted and burnt out and a bit bored because I had finished my MBA and didn’t have any hobbies, after-all who has time for hobbies when there is school work to be done. So, I started trying things out: drawing (oooh, this is math, I can do math), photography (oooh, nice to be outside, what happens when I do this with the shutter speed?), rock climbing (hated it, never again), going to the symphony (loved it), painting (ooooooh this is amazing, this one REALLY stuck). As I tried out all these things some of them stuck, and some of them didn’t, but I slowly started to figure out who I was, other than a student. Who I was, when I wasn’t trying to do a “should” or a “supposed to” and it was fantastic. Having these creative outlets helped me be more balanced, to be better at my career, because I thought more critically, and I was more resilient.

I decided a week ago to leave the knowledge management consulting that I had been doing for 15 years behind, and to step fully into the creativity and innovation work that I had been developing over the last 6 years and it feels like, this is it, this is what I am here for, this is what this long, circuitous journey has been about: getting me ready to use all the skills and knowledge I have accumulated along the way to help organisations and people to be more balanced, to use both sides of their brains, to look at things differently if they want different outcomes; to apply artistic practices and principles to all kinds of problems to arrive at better, more balanced, more useful solutions.

I am so excited to be here!

Future Females: Berlin, Thinking creatively & thinking bigger event

Last night (July 17, 2018), I spoke to a group of about 70 energetic, engaged (mostly) women at the Future Females: Berlin, Thinking Creatively & Thinking Bigger event.

What an honour and a privilege to talk to them about creativity and how to increase it’s presence in both our professional and personal lives.

I shared 4 different creativity activities with them, 1 was an improv activity, and the other 3 were drawing, as well as some background and context information about creativity.

I usually speak with much smaller groups, so this was a great learning opportunity for me, but despite my “learning on the job” or maybe because of it, we had a great time, some good discussion, and some fun trying new activities.

Thank you to all who came out and tried something new!

I have posted my slides on Slideshare, if anyone is interested.