Anchoring digital transformation in the long term through agility

Sun 11 Sep 2022

The success of digital transformation depends above all on collaboration between motivated teams.

Any transformation implies a change, a disruption or a questioning of what exists which will turn the daily life upside down. For an organization, whatever the motivations and the extent of the expected change, its success depends above all on the acceptance and commitment of the teams to do things differently. In order for a transformation not to appear as a problem or as a difficulty, and for it to result in a real change and not just a surface adjustment with the risk of returning to the initial state, it must very often be accompanied by a cultural change. But where to start?

Define and Communicate an Aspirational “Why”

Before embarking on a transformation process — whether digital or not — it is essential to define a strategic direction, an inspiring vision of what the organization wants to become and deliver, its "reason to exist.” From this clear strategic direction and this "why" at the center of the "Golden Circle" described by Simon Shinek,[1] it will then be easier to create a real collective ambition which will generate support and commitment from teams.

This meaning questechoes common concerns beyond specific objectives and the “why.” In France, for example, it is estimated that 51% of French people believe that a company must be useful to society as a whole, ahead of its customers (34%), its employees (12%), and its shareholders (3%).[2]

Top Management as a Model for Transformation 

It is therefore up to the top management to define an inspiring ambition, to communicate it, and to set out what the success of the transformation will look like in the long term.

Its responsibility is to also materialize the change, to make the top management a real role model who embodies and drives the change, through tangible actions. Are change initiatives taken with sufficient resources? Is there a regular evaluation of the expected changes? i.e., the gap between the target vision and the current situation? Are the collective stakes more important than the individual stakes or those of the organizations in place?

Beyond top management, it is also the role of the managerial line who needs to be adapted to facilitate and accelerate the expected transformation.

How Can We Create the Conditions for Sustainable Change?

The fundamental question for an organization is to succeed in anchoring change in a sustainable way, not as a result but above all as a means of action to innovate, renew, improve operational efficiency, and create more value. 

Value creation must be considered in its broadest sense. Value for customers (satisfaction), for employees (applications, simple processes, etc.), business value for the company, brand image, and risk or cost reduction.

Developing a Culture of Change and Innovation

For a transformation to become a corporate culture — anchored in the long term — a real cultural change must be instilled. Aligning teams around agility — as values, principles and methods — can facilitate a new way of working together, which involves:

  • Developing key agile skills and postures: customer culture, collaboration and innovation, importance of feedback, taking initiative, and team engagement.
  • Infusing the culture of value creation at a rapid pace and accompanying key projects in "try & learn" or “test & learn” mode.
  • Supporting teams in their growth and maturity in agility, through the support of agile "coaches" for example. 
  • Helping management evolve towards a role of facilitator through managerial agility, for more "trust," right to make mistakes, autonomy and support of teams.

Managing the Transformation

Once the transformation initiatives have been defined, the changes they will require must be prioritized. To avoid demobilizing the teams by attacking too many fronts in parallel — and to avoid dispersion — it is preferable to adopt the proven agile method of "small steps:"

  • Sequencing the ambition by prioritizing what will deliver the most value, eliminating the superfluous.
  • Freeing up time in teams' daily lives for change beyond the day-to-day activities of management and production.
  • Using the benefits of prototyping and experimentation as a way to assess the value of a project with limited risk.
  • Sharing lessons learned and best practices, anchor the results of the changes as the new norm.  
  • Aligning on a clear and motivating ambition through an OKR (Objectives & Key Results) dashboard.

Let the Teams Self-organize and Invent the "How"

Transformation cannot be decreed and its success depends above all on the collaboration of motivated teams. Once the direction has been given, and the strategic vision is clear, the teams can take ownership of the direction to be taken. This is the time to give space to the field, to trust in the ability of teams to innovate, and find solutions independently:

  • Decline the strategic vision within the different departments so that everyone understands the change and where it will lead.
  • Engage employees in the changes that concern them.
  • Help teams to easily collaborate by distributing collaborative tools and adapting premises to experiment in inspiring places.
  • Highlight the teams in the field who are making the transformation, and actively communicate throughout the company on the results of change initiatives — and also on the reasons for failures.
  • Structure the collection of internal and external feedback and optimize the listening process to measure the impact of change.

A transformation project relies on many prerequisites and organizations that are committed to it will succeed easier with a global approach. Beyond trying to solve specific problems within an organization, the diffusion of agility through the cultural change and positive energy it instills can create the conditions for a deep transformation. The speed to deliver value, the flexibility, and the adaptability of the teams become a real strength for the company and an asset to achieve its ambition.


[1] Simon Shinek: “Start with why”

[2] Source: IFOP, Land of Siena, The utility value associated with the company, September 15, 2016