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Digital Transformation: The Necessary Shift in Organizational Change Management

Traditional OCM becomes agile

As enterprises mature on their digital transformation journey, they evolve from structured hierarchies to agile teams. This necessitates a move from traditional OCM to an approach that stands ready to face conflict and failure, which are both acceptable and inevitable. Gartner defines this evolved OCM approach as “organizational fluidity.”

Change leaders in fluid organizations must allocate time for examining and reshaping goals as teams and the business mature. To drive success, leaders may also want to set aside time for teams to practice operating more effectively together. Newly integrated teams will experience smoother handoffs when their roles are well-defined and when they are able to anticipate rough patches. Anticipation doesn’t necessarily result in elimination of difficult situations, but rather knowing how to work through them with minimal repercussions. Finally, think of what is learned from experiencing challenges in the workplace. Change leaders should plan for and facilitate forums where teams can talk about their failures, and then share and document best practices.

Personal analogy

As an adult, I learned to ride a horse. I’m in decent shape for my age but had previously only been on horseback as a teenager at summer camp. Horseback riding has been a journey—one that I chose, of course, but a journey that I will compare to the experience of a front-line worker who is personally impacted by a digital transformation initiative. At first, my experience riding a horse combined excitement (anticipation of a brand-new activity) and nervousness (will I fall/fail?), with some discomfort (I know I can do this but boy, are my muscles sore). Over time as my confidence and competence increase, I receive coaching in the proper body position, which allows me to more effectively communicate with my horse. Through practice, I demonstrate improved posture and communication with my horse, so we graduate to more advanced challenges such as navigating bending versus straight lines, trotting over poles, and then higher jumps. Yes, I’ve fallen off, but in the process, I’m learning how to anticipate and possibly avoid future falls. My horse and I are becoming a more agile team.

Meanwhile, back at work …

A digital transformation demands that we communicate differently within our teams as well as up, down, and across the organization. If we are vague or hesitant, our intent won’t be conveyed, and decision-making by our colleagues will be being negatively impacted. Change leaders in digitally transforming organizations must coach each role on their relationships to others, and then define and practice the types of clear communication that are necessary to achieve success through desired business outcomes.

We hope you found our series on digital transformation relevant, and we invite you to join the conversation by leaving your comments below.

About the Authors

Ellen Kumar
Ms. Kumar is a Solution Architect with GP Strategies, and has served in roles ranging from Account Executive, to Operations Director, to Project Manager/Training Consultant. Prior to GP Strategies, she worked for University of Dayton Research Institute and GE Aircraft Engines (now GE Aerospace). She holds an M.S. in Materials Science & Engineering from University of Dayton.

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