Digital Transformation: True & Sustainable!

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To build tomorrow’s workforce is not enough to think in creative ways about people practices.

The real challenge, especially for big organizations, is to transform themselves at a faster rate than the speed of digital advancement.

This self-transformation process, however, must take place at the genetic level of the organization, namely, at the DNA of its organizational structure.

Otherwise, as most people have witnessed ad nauseam, “As soon as you bring digital innovation into the mainstream operation, everything slows down.” And this will only become worse when automation and AI become mainstream.

Make no mistake about it, the answer is not about “how to up-skill employees with the capabilities your organization will need in the future.

The real and sustainable answer is how to transform the DNA of your organizational structure right now! Your employees must already be equipped with the required skills for the future.

So that you can further develop your business capabilities to match the technical innovations as they come.

Most organizations seem to move in continuous cycles of painful change: centralize, decentralize, insource, outsource, CRM, ERP, DevOps, etc., etc.. A never-ending catching up game!

Digital, needs to be part of the main body of the organization to be sustainable and achieve a long-term competitive advantage.

Digital innovation needs to be embedded into the entire organization’s DNA, not just in teams. Thinking strategically from the point of view of people, skills, and processes.

It is no longer enough to have creative thinking around skills and people. Innovation at every level needs backing and ample space to identify best new solutions. Innovation can only thrive within an enhancive/tropophilic organizational structure.

Digital units must evolve, as part of an organizational design principles, embracing every other unit, e.g., HR, technical, marketing, product innovation teams, etc., to find advanced solutions for future problems. Thus, avoiding the need of having a cross-organisational unit with the task of finding a way to take the organisation where it needs to be for digital, and looking in a much more innovative and creative way at career paths, creative resourcing, etc..

Agile teams should not need to adjust as change goes wider because agile teams are the change themselves.

Agile is not the culture of choice in digital innovation teams. It is simply a matter of survival.

Conventional strategic organisation-wide change, in general, and around digital in particular, always has dependencies on aspects which seem to take forever and will not lend themselves to an agile approach.

But digital does not need people and organizational-change roadmaps to sit alongside the digital roadmap when they are part of the organizational change to begin with.

Even with big organisation-wide transformations, where change will have dependencies on others that require a plan to manage the long-term milestones and dependencies, a plan that goes further than the next release and back into the territory of 5-year plan, there is no need to worry and Agile teams will not struggle when enhancive and tropophilic organizational structures have been implemented.

Everyone seems to be clear that the hardest part of organisational transformation is usually the people change, not the technology.

Getting the culture, behaviours, processes, business capability and operating model set up right is something that can happen overnight with the right process, such as the Search Conference and Participative Design Workshop.

As digital becomes more pervasive and relevant, organizations do not need people to act as “Cultural Architects” who believe that their role is “to set up the organization for the future, planning the skills around each wave of innovation, and having a plan of how to develop them.”

With the right Organizational Design Principles in place, the tech may keep evolving faster and faster — and the business capabilities will do the same. Digital Transformation, within enhancive and tropophilic organizational structures, ensures a tropophilic workforce that is one function again, and digital is no longer spoken distinctly.

Organizations do not need a “cultural architect working within their digital teams” because, first of all, ‘culture’ is an emergent property, namely, a consequence (the phenotype, if you will) of the organizational genetic makeup, i.e.., its structural DNA.

Second of all, because everyone in a digital team needs to look at the technology roadmap and understand where skills and capabilities are going to be needed.

Everyone needs to know the business and be able to build an ever-evolving strategy as everything else keeps evolving.

Employee segmentation can be as powerful as customer segmentation but only if it is part of a self-transformation process, not imposed by top management or by “expert” consultants.

Most organizations already know that every employee benefits from having digital knowledge. Thus, they offer continuous development programs designed around business processes and what people do, rather than technical tools training.

The dangers of sub-cultures

Unknowingly, most organizations build sub-cultures making it so much harder for themselves in every possible way. This is a typical consequence of focusing only on the culture (i.e., shape/form or phenotype of the organization) and not on the DNA of its organizational structure.

When everyone is fully aware of the organization’s DNA and shares its Vision then, having different dress codes, locations, and skills, becomes irrelevant and even fun. There are no divides at any level, neither physical not psychological or attitudinal, because everyone shares the same vision.

There is no need to disseminate digital knowledge

When digital teams are responsible not just for the tech but also for building skills and knowledge around digital, then they are not longer a function with isolated knowledge. When the people working alongside the digital teams understand digital fully they obviously contribute more to the conversation.

A diverse workforce is more powerful

Often, organisations apply policies of only using in-house FTEs or they outsource the whole work to a consultancy, both of which are extreme lose/lose positions. Teams are stronger when formed from a diverse make up, we all know this from biology (i.e., heterosis, the hybrid vigor). Further, it is very difficult to solve a problem with the same mentality that created it.

In the ‘gig economy,’ where people increasingly move with more fluidity between work, there is a more transient talent pool to mix with permanent staff, giving a great mix of motivations and experiences from a wider spectrum of sources. These sources can create great synergies by implementing enhancive and tropophilic organizational structures.

Artificial Intelligence is at the heart of the digital transformation currently reshaping business, government and societies and, at the heart of a sustainable digital transformation, is an enhancive organizational structure.

Here’s to the Health of Your Sustainable & Tropophilic Digital Transformation!

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

President & Founder

Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

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