I was working with a large company that had started piloting a Digital Delivery model in one business line. They had co-located the business, technology, and support functions. The pilot was a success – the team had delivered improved product line performance in less than 6 months. They had even trained the call center and created a marketing campaign. However, the rest company continues to use old PMO model of percent allocating resources to projects. They were delivering more projects than ever…but with increasing client attrition.
The COO had called a meeting with his direct reports to discuss expanding the teaming model, but had gotten push back from his leadership team. They said they communicated the urgency of client losses to their organizations, and that pulling people away from active projects would cause disruption and delays.
Next he called a meeting with me and here's an except:
COO: I don't get it. How am I going to convince these guys that we need to rapidly expand the team model so we can release full solutions out to our clients? They all know we have a big problem with client attrition. They tell me they are communicating urgency to their people, but the first pilot team released a solution that stopped client erosion – and they did it 10 months early.
Me: Think of it like this: Most of your employees are experts and excellent at the jobs they have today. They are like professional-level bowlers who are awesome at bowling strikes. All day, they get a ball, they bowl strikes. The more strikes, the more your leadership is rewarding them. Leaders and management communicate urgency, everyone says “You got it, Boss!” and start to bowl strikes faster. Now you are saying "We are all going to start playing BASKETBALL!"
COO: But this is what I want. I want teams that can deliver on a common goal, working together - getting solutions out to market for our business and for our clients. We can't have individuals bowling strikes with no understanding of what is happening on the 'other lanes.'
Me: Yes! Here is what is happening on the ground, though. We say: "Today, we are going to start learning how to play BASKETBALL" and we hear: "GREAT... but can I still use a bowling ball? See, I already know how to use a bowling ball, and it’s still a ball. I’ll even call it a basketball.” We explain that people get hurt when they try to catch a pass if you use a bowling ball, and the next question is “Well, can I at least stay in this alley, it has hard wood floors? It’s narrow, and I can put up bumpers if I want to –”. This conversation slows down any move to model we used with the pilot team.
COO: And now, by communicating urgency to their people, my leadership team has basically told everyone “Bowl Faster!”
This is a common scenario. Though every organization may have a different structure or business model when they start, Digital Transformation must fundamentally change the game you are playing. Messages that your leadership sends through the hierarchy (or rumor mill) can make or break employee willingness change the way they work.
How many of your company goals can be met if your Leaders communicate the same rules they have for over a decade, but with more urgency? The answer is NONE. Your Leadership’s understanding of this fundamental concept, as well as the communication of it to the rest organization is imperative.
…and sports analogy usually helps. :)