Do the fundamentals of change need looking at?

If you’ve been working professionally for anything more than a few years, you’ll have noticed the rules of the game keep changing.

Keeping up means taking multiple twists and turns and on several fronts… in a career, in the way we do business planning. Fundamental change is all-pervasive, from the basic assumptions we hold about how things are done, to the tools we can use now to do them.

It can be exhausting. Agile management deals with some of this of course, but what I’m referring to here goes deeper.

As digital economics take hold, even the consumer needs that businesses used to imagine they serve are being thrown up in the air. Whole swathes of commerce are in flux and metamorphosing.

What seemed terribly important a little while ago (remember gamification?) becomes subsumed by much bigger opportunities such as AI. But AI, in turn, may turn out to be only a crude expression of what eventually becomes the way we digitally underpin the organisations of tomorrow. Right now we don’t know, there is no ‘end state’.

Of course, if the rules of the game didn’t change, we could automate them.

But because of the way the rules of the game keep changing, as business people, with the businesses we run, we’re having to adapt and change more and more ourselves to keep up. The machinery of digital business is leading, essentially, to faster and faster spin cycles.

It’s becoming imperative to act and behave like vital and dynamic beings within corporate bodies that are constantly attuned and responsive to what’s going on around them.

To play the new rules of the game, management operations are improved immeasurably by being connected up and networked and data needs to be knitted together.

The major digital players, such as Google and Facebook, know this already. They understand information flows are everything and are taking steps to integrate theirs, across intelligent personal assistant information and online browsing, for example. The evidence is beginning to suggest also that integrating AI is creating operating advantages of between 3%-15%.

How any organisation uses its data is becoming a core capability today, a lifeblood, that maintains business ability to stay ahead. And that means digital transformation strategies must be integrated and aligned to be effective.

Yet, few organisations have yet to fully grapple with this as a governance issue, or are able to realistically calibrate how much to invest in digital transformation efforts in relation to the predicted value they can generate using interaction data.

Cost per transaction calculations may be gaining interest, but many organisations aren’t able to frame their business in those terms at this point, such is the nature of the legacy systems hardwired into them.

Because of this, and despite nearly a decade of digital business being mainstream, I think we’re still very much in the foothills of digitally transforming business and organisations. And we’ll remain there, in those foothills, as long as change is seen as an overlay, added as an innovation ingredient onto an already formed corporate recipe.

The rules of the game keep changing, and they’ll continue to do so. As machine intelligence gets faster, that’s inevitable. The area of most value to organisations, in order to respond, lies in developing better internal core capabilities, the deep muscles of digital leadership, so that strategies can become more sophisticated.

One core collective skill every organisation can benefit from is a conjoined focus on interaction right across the business, making interaction intelligence and data flow easily is absolutely central to strategy, looking at interactive metrics in the round internally and externally, and developing the capability for every part of the organisation to add value through interaction.

There are two key areas of focus for every organisation that wants to win this game.

The first is a deep inspection of what the organisation’s really about, what it stands for and is central to its existence, the essence of what it does and how it does it, all the things core to the organsisation that create advantage.

Values create goals that in turn create rules and algorithms and they have to be traceable back to a corporate core purpose.

Somewhat astonishingly, very little digital transformation activity going on today is tailored like this, or can provide a direct and rational line back to how a corporate core purpose and its values is supported by digital strategy in terms of proprietary choices across the tech stack.

There are some organisations making progress of course, but much more can be done to make digital transformation add real value. It can be measurably more effective by being informed and tailored by an overarching purpose, vision and values. In this way, digital strategy really does develop better interaction opportunities, helping as it does to define and strengthen the networked operating culture and interaction experiences that supports it.

Visceral Business looks at this interaction value in the round. Unlike tech-oriented transformation efforts alone, this adds weight to an integrated digital strategy.

Secondly, decision-makers are beginning to appreciate departmental line management is more time-consuming and less effective than self-organising across a connected, networked organisation. But, as yet, from the conversations we’re having, only a minority of organisations really have the data to validate, support and reinforce positive feedback loops at this stage, or to enable deep AI-augmented or networked intelligence through interaction. This is something to materialise as a core asset.

Digital business modelling means the rules of the game have changed for all of us. If we accept that, what can we do with that awareness? Does it lead to more change initiatives, as we’ve always known them, in the form of digital transformation programmes, or something deeper?

Are we really developing the necessary strategic dexterity to handle the shift to doing business digitally? My view is that’s what change today means, fundamentally, in real time, all the time.

Today’s digital strategies have to be sufficiently supported by a deep understanding of what dynamic, interactive organisation looks like, focused continually and dynamically around the networked achievement of a core purpose.

The risk in not doing so goes back to my earlier point, that if the rules of the game didn’t change, we could automate them.

If an in-depth, corporate collective understanding around interaction is, automating business functionality might actually lead to its oblivion, throwing pots of money at dots on a hype cycle along the way.

Your mileage may vary, of course. Let’s have that discussion.