Girl Scout Advice for Supplementing Age-Old Management Practices with Digital Principles

When I was a Girl Scout, I learned how to succeed in organization-wide digital transformations. (Everyone got that IT leadership badge, right?!)

We were taught to:

Make new friends but keep the old.
One is silver and the other’s gold.

This universal advice applies now as we “scout” in the digital age. It’s important to value the old strategies for success—the fundamentals that kept your organization alive before its digital transformation—while seeking out new ones to apply in the current industry climate. 

Old Friends

First, let’s quickly review the old, reliable principles that we shouldn’t toss aside:

Manage By Walking Around

It has always been important for leaders to stay connected with their teams. Managing by Walking Around (MBWA) has been a consistent tool for managers to boost productivity and engagement levels. Whether employees and leaders fire off emails from the Blackberries of yesteryear or the AI-enabled smartphones of the future, face-to-face communication via MBWA will continue to improve relationships and performance of teams.

Fail Fast

The delivery of relevant business benefits requires iterative learning and adjusting – especially in the digital age. To fulfill ever-changing consumer and business demands, the choice is to succeed now or fail fast. Speed and timing are historically critical for companies of all sizes to survive large technologic advances, and it’s no different today – an improved time-to-value delivery ratio is essential to avoid getting left behind.

Celebrate Small Wins

Lasting transformation does not happen overnight. It takes small and incremental changes and a lot of focus to reach the finish line. To maintain that focus, leaders must build momentum for their teams by measuring and celebrating quick wins. You have to crawl before you can walk in your digital transformation, and walk before you can run. Be sure to congratulate and encourage your team at each milestone.

Align Program Strategy 

Just like any IT initiative, your digital transformation should be aligned with the overall business strategy. Digital innovation comes with a lot of distraction – things like IoT, Machine Learning, and Blockchain are all fascinating but worthless if they don’t support the strategy of your organization. IT leaders must innovate with the purpose of supporting the common goal.

Manage Change

The only thing constant is change itself. Even so, strong leaders know it’s human nature to resist change. Motivation and support are unlikely to materialize if team members don’t understand what the future state looks like, how it will affect their job, and why it’s important. Leaders of digital transformation face the same challenges. The effort required to manage change cannot be underestimated. Allocate adequate time and resources to spark personal buy-in, and convey the micro- and macro-level benefits of changes.

The above tried and true concepts should still be followed – but not solely relied upon – for a successful digital transformation.

New Friends

To ensure success through a digital transformation, supplement your approach with these digital-age principles:

Treat Data as the New Oil

As reported in the CIOs’ Perspectives on Digital Transformation study, 80% of CIOs see themselves as an “advisor” to the business instead of a key player. Data could be a CIO’s greatest asset by enabling a shift in IT’s role from participant to leader. Data is fuel to the digital organization. That said, organizations won’t become truly data-centric unless IT leaders seek out opportunities to innovate with the data they have.

Listen to the Voice of the End-Customer

IT folks will always have plenty of people telling them what they need to do, but internal business counterparts should no longer be the only perspective they listen to. Digitally transformed organizations should be customer-centric enough for IT to have an ear to the voice of the end consumer. IT leaders should know what the end-consumers care about and be in the loop with key, customer-facing parts of the business so they can close gaps in the customer experience.

Monitor the Industry Climate

Though most organizations are in the earlier stages of their digital transformation (as noted in the CIOs’ Perspectives on Digital Transformation study), industries that are data-intensive or have disruptive entrants are most likely to see many organizations get left behind. This can be viewed as a risk or as an opportunity for highly-capable teams to become emergent players or front-runners in their industry. IT leaders who have a finger on the pulse of their competition are better positioned to avoid lagging or idling behind.

Advancement-Capabilities Matrix

To earn your merit badge in digital transformation, apply the new and keep the old. Stay relevant in the ever-changing business environment while remaining focused on strategy and the fundamentals that drive repeated success.

And another helpful tip from my Girl Scout experience: pace yourself with the cookies.

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