by Steve Jones

Digital transformation.

Maybe, like me, you sometimes look around and think everyone seems to be doing it! For many of our clients today, digital transformation is the strategic way forward. With so much technology available to us at our fingertips (literally), it seems we're almost forced to embrace every possible means of doing things digitally – whether online, using software, an app, or sat in front of a computer screen, tablet or mobile. 

But is transformational change best served by forcing people down a particular route?

Why do we change?

I guess often it’s because we are told to, even made to in order to avoid punishment! But equally, we sometimes change the way we do things because we can see new and exciting possibilities. Or we see a better way of doing things – maybe to be more efficient or more effective (or both!).

Tiger Woods, despite being one of the most successful golfers of all time before injury and personal matters overtook him, famously decided to change his golf swing believing it could be even better and bring him more success. This seemed very odd: his golf swing had served him VERY well up to that point.  It wasn’t as if he’d "lost it" – he was still being successful. No, he didn’t have to change – he chose to change to seek improvement.

Programmes and projects are structured approaches for bringing about change.

Projects tend to focus primarily on the end products, the tangible deliverables you can see. These are the output of a lot of hard work and effort to create new processes, products, or systems designed to help deliver new capabilities, and to bring about the benefits that an associated Programme are measuring.

BUT many projects get so wrapped up in the details of WHAT needs to be designed, created, developed and delivered, that they forget about everything else needed to help ensure that the resulting changes actually land successfully!

Example: The new £1 coin launch in 2017

For example, in 2017 HM Treasury introduced the new £1 coin into circulation. The Royal Mint said the round pound had to go as there were around £45 million's worth of fake coins in circulation. And yet, the new 12-sided pound coin caused chaos when it launched in March, as a few months later one in three people still had no idea there was a new £1 on the block, while a raft of machines wasn’t ready to accept it. From parking meters and vending machines to locker rooms and kiddies rides, the nation was unprepared for the biggest currency change since the round pound replaced the £1 note 34 years earlier.

With just 28 days to go before the forge-proof new pound went into circulation, an estimated 100,000 street ticket machines and pay-and-display ones in public car parks were still waiting to be updated to take the lighter shape. And 200,000 drinks and snack machines in leisure centres, shopping malls, colleges and train stations missed the 28 March deadline to become able to accept the new coin. According to the British Parking Association (BPA), it was costing the industry an estimated £50 million to adapt or replace 400,000 payment machines.

How could this be? The project had a clear focus on fixing the problem it faced: £45 million worth of fake coins in circulation. The new coin was clearly well designed, and I’m sure many of the internal processes and production line requirements were modified and put in place to accommodate the production of the new coins within the Royal Mint itself. 

But for the end-users of the coin, like you and me, there appeared to be absolutely no consideration of HOW this change would be received and accepted.

Was it within the scope of the project? Should it have been? Who knows. The press coverage certainly wasn’t complimentary. Or maybe, without us realising, it was actually all part of a bigger "digital transformation plan" to force us into paying for our parking online or via our phones?

Whatever it was, it’s important to note that ‘successful’ change involves not just successfully creating new products or outputs (like the new coin), but also considering what outcomes are necessary to make the outputs as effective as possible.

It often means seeking first to understand and then to be understood; putting yourself in the shoes of the person who will be receiving this new ‘thing’ and asking, “What else is needed to help make sure this will work effectively and be well received?” More often than not, this consideration will generate the need for more outputs previously not thought of. 

Experienced change practitioners and consulting partners are on hand within QA Organisation Consultancy to help your organisation consider and then identify the outcomes necessary to bring about successful change – and to make those changes stick.

If you are finding it difficult to land effective change in your organisation, maybe in an area like digital transformation, why not give us a call?  We’d be happy to help you.