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Change Management Disruption Technology

How to Get Started with Digital Transformation

We recently published a list of top digital transformation influencers to follow on Twitter. Given the popularity of the post, we reached out to four of the influencers on the list – Kirk Borne, Michael Krigsman, Dion Hinchcliffe and Ronald van Loon – to gain actionable insights into the process of digitally transforming businesses and organizations.

Specifically, we asked them:

What advice would you give to companies and individuals who are interested in pursuing digital transformation, but don’t know where to start?

Here is what they told us.

Three steps to self disruption

Digital transformation is a comfortable way of describing the 4th Industrial Revolution, which corresponds to the current emergent fusion of cyber, physical, and human systems. Any revolution is disruptive. So, think about digital disruption if you are planning to start on this path.

First, you must realize that the pursuit of digital transformation requires changes in mindset, in culture, in strategy, and in your talent model. It doesn’t necessarily require a change in your business goals — after all, your unique contribution in the marketplace should be enhanced and transformed, not necessarily tossed out entirely, unless you are starting an entirely new line of data-informed services and digital products. Digital transformation therefore represents a new (transformative) way of doing things, not simply a new thing to do.

Second, after this realization that you are attempting to surf the wave of a new revolution, then comes the assessment of what are your sources and types of digital signals (data emanating from your customers, your suppliers, your employees, your services, and your products)? Those digital assets are the fuel to bring about your digital transformation. So, what are these digital assets fueling?

They are the fuel for your third step in the digital transformation journey, which is to achieve the business goals that are powered by your digital assets and data products. So, ask yourself what are you focusing on: discovery (e.g., customer segments, emerging trends, fraud, new markets), prediction (predictive analytics), optimization (prescriptive analytics), and/or (my favorite) generating new questions and identifying new context to inform the next best action for your business (cognitive analytics)? Considering that you are seeking to play a part in a major revolution, you should buckle up for some rapid accelerations, re-directions, and new opportunities to enrich your digital transformation journey. 

Kirk D Borne

Dr. Kirk Borne
Principal Data Scientist and Executive Adviser, Booz Allen Hamilton

Don’t try to boil the ocean

Digital transformation is a simple and convenient buzzword that often masks the broad, organizational reach associated with genuine evolution and change. The transformation journey must begin with a clear understanding of why we need to change.

Consider questions such as:

  • Is our business model durable?
  • What’s happening in the competitive environment?
  • Have our customers’ expectations of us evolved over time?
  • Is our technology up to date?
  • Do we have the skills necessary to compete in the future?
  • Has our supply chain adapted to the changing environment?

These questions quickly shed light on how far-reaching are the implications of digital transformation. It’s not just about making our website better or becoming more proficient on social media. Genuine digital transformation looks at fundamental questions of business model, revenue streams, and our relationship to customers.

So, consider these questions and conduct an impartial evaluation of where your organization stands in relation to all these core issues. Don’t try to boil the ocean and undertake massive change all at once. Instead, form a team to look at one part of the business and start there.

Consider, for example, how technology can improve customer relationships across your organization or in one division or even department. Then, examine how you can become more responsive to customer needs and implement a pilot project. As with any change, start small and seek quick wins. As leadership develops the strategy, be sure to gain buy-in from everyone involved.

It’s not always easy but it is necessary, and the results will pay off over time as you become more competitive and customers sing your praises and become brand advocates!

Michael Krigsman

Michael Krigsman
Industry analyst, CXOTALK host

Digital transformation is a team sport

When starting out on the journey of digital transformation, there’s often a worry about determining the best place to start. Certainly, there are some things that are foundational, such as having a master plan for data management and opening up existing systems better so they can be remixed and integrated into new digital experiences.

But the good news is that digital transformation is a team sport, and so everyone must be enabled to help make the changes required to modernize and rethink the business in digital terms. By tapping into change agents within the organization, leaders can unleash a scalable force for transformation that will create change locally, and if coordinated well, that also fits into the overall strategy.

In this way, organizations can insource the objective of finding good starting points, and better meet the challenge of digital change in terms of assembling the necessary breadth and depth of minds, talent, and resources.

Dion Hinchecliffe

Dion Hinchcliffe
VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research Inc.

Move toward data-driven decisions

Businesses need to be able to make live, data-driven decisions through the development of a real-time, modern data and analytics environment. By updating systems and technologies, you can use analytics to better understand your business’s data and share information between teams and departments.

Businesses that want to pursue digital transformation need to get rid of silos that hinder collaboration and effective sharing of data based insights. They must implement digital capabilities within their organization and adapt their infrastructure to effectively accommodate digital transformation. You have to work towards digital maturity, moving from an information foundation to automated, cognitive interaction.

Organizations should start by improving one important customer journey with two to three data sources. Split data collection and application, and start implementing an agile, multi-disciplinary team with the right processes and technologies to create an organizational foundation that supports a digital core. You need a modern infrastructure that’s able to collect data, manage data security, governance, quality, processes, and storage. This gives you the ability to gain insights to look back at historical data, predict in real-time, and define actions live, moving step by step from Descriptive Analytics to Cognitive Analytics.

Ronald Van Loon

Ronald Van Loon
Director, Adversitement

Change Management Disruption Technology

5 Must-read Articles that will Change How You Think of Digital Transformation

Business leaders today face challenges far beyond what their predecessors could have imagined. Industry-wide shifts happen faster than ever, with technology lowering barriers to entry and new competitors being created every day. As such, you need to continuously balance the risks of leading against the risks of following, and falling behind.

But there are some absolutes. Execution remains critically important; human capital, rather than tech, is still the main driver of success.

If you’ve read some of my other posts on the topic, you’ll know I firmly believe that digital change (i.e. self-disruption) is really about organizational change. It’s about leading a group of people to understand the reason for the change, adopt is as their own, and cooperate to make it happen.

Of course, it doesn’t help that “digital transformation” means different things to different people. The terminology itself can be misleading. That said, there are some fascinating perspectives out there, worthy of the attention of anyone seeking to enact change from within their organization. In this post, I’ve compiled a handful of insightful articles on the topic of digital transformation.

Digital Transformation: 5 Essential Elements of Superb Execution

McKinsey performed a statistical analysis on the importance of strong execution during the digital era. If you would like to separate your company from the rest and be among the 50% of businesses that survive digital disruption, this article offers five tips to help you with execution.

10 Barriers to Digital Transformation From an HR Perspective

Today, many companies struggle to keep up with technological innovation. However, in this article, author Barry Lawrence takes a closer look at what surveyed CEOs feel are the top 10 barriers faced by businesses during digital transformation and he believes that HR can help with every one of them.

‘Digital Transformation’ Is a Misnomer

Gerald C Kane has been studying digital transformation and has come to the conclusion that it’s actually not about technology, but about how technology is changing business conditions. This, in turn has changed customer, partner and employee expectations. Fascinating read!

Your Fast Follower Strategy is Riskier Than You Realize

Some businesses believe that when it comes to innovation, the fast follower method is best – but it must be executed correctly. JP Nicols has written a great article which outlines the steps required to achieve success with this approach:

  • having a solid strategy in place,
  • understanding whether innovation comes with exaggerated expectations (hype) or if it has value that will stay with consumers,
  • knowing how much risk company leaders are willing to take, and their methods for establishing next steps.

A CEO’s Guide to Leading Digital Transformation

The role of corporate leaders has become increasingly exaggerated in the wake of digital transformation. In order to succeed, CEOs must be able to keep up with innovation, disruption and rapid change. Authors at the Boston Consulting Group have provided five rules for CEOs to follow in dealing with digital transformation.


Digital Transformation: Who to follow on Twitter

For most business leaders, a major concern is the emergence of disruptive digital challengers to established business models. With the accelerated speed at which technology is developing, staying current and up-to-date is a challenge. For these reasons, we’ve pulled together this list of online influencers who are actively engaged in writing about and sharing relevant information about digital transformation across a variety of industries.

Tim O’Reilly | | @timoreilly

Tim O’Reilly is the founder, CEO, and Chairman of O’Reilly Media, and a partner at early stage venture firm O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV). O’Reilly is a thought leader with a history of driving conversations that have reshaped the computer industry around topics such as open source software, web 2.0, government as a platform and “the WTF economy.”

Ray Wang | | @rwang0

Ray Wang is the Founder and Chairman of Constellation Research, Inc. He’s the author of Disrupting Digital Business, published by Harvard Business Review Press, and the popular business strategy and technology blog, A Software Insider’s Point of View. He has held executive roles in product, marketing, strategy, and consulting at a variety of companies.

Kirk D Borne | | @KirkDBorne

Kirk Borne is Principal Data Scientist within Booz Allen Hamilton’s Strategic Innovation Group (SIG). In this role, Borne is responsible for advancing data science techniques and delivering cutting-edge capabilities to the firm’s clients across disciplines. He’s a top influencer on topics such as big data, machine learning and IoT.

Dion Hinchcliffe | | @dhinchcliffe

Recognized business strategist and transformation consultant, Dion Hinchcliffe is widely regarded as an influential figure in social business, digital strategy, and enterprise IT. Hinchcliffe is currently Chief Strategy Officer at 7Summits and is an industry expert on the topics of digital transformation, social collaboration and next-generation enterprises. He is co-author of Web 2.0 Architectures (O’Reilly), as well as Social Business by Design (John Wiley & Sons, 2012).

Ronald Van Loon | | @Ronald_vanLoon

Ronald Van Loon is Director of Adversitement, a digital consulting firm specializing in Big Data implementations for leading businesses. He is a recognized thought leader and innovator in the field of digital transformation. He maintains an active blog and Twitter presence and is the owner of a Big Data discussion group on LinkedIn with approximately 7,000 members.

Doug Laney | | @Doug_Laney

Doug Laney is a research analyst with Gartner. He advises clients on data and analytics strategy, information innovation, and infonomics (measuring, managing and monetizing information as an actual corporate asset).

Tamara McCleary | | @TamaraMcCleary

Tamara is an internationally-recognized expert on branding, influence, and social business, and the Founder and CEO of Thulium, a brand amplification company. As a keynote speaker, Tamara presents on topics at the intersection of marketing and technology; MarTech, Influencer Marketing in B2B & Enterprise, Social Media Account-Based Marketing, Marketing to Women in the B2C Retail Space, Generational Marketing, Marketing to Millennials, Gender Marketing, Personal Brand, Social Influence & Thought Leadership, Employee Advocacy & Engagement, Women’s Leadership.

Don Tapscott | | @dtapscott

Don Tapscott has been at the forefront of the digital economy for over three decades. He’s the author of 15 books, including Paradigm Shift, The Digital Economy, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything and, most recently, co-authored with his son Alexander, Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Underlying Bitcoin is Changing Business, Money and the World. Whatever is happening in technology and digital transformation, you can be sure that Tapscott will be talking about it before most others.

Daniel Newman | | @danielnewmanUV

Daniel Newman is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, contributor to many popular media outlets, and adjunct professor. He has is the author of 5 Amazon Best Selling Books, including: Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy, The Ultimate Field Guide to Digital Program Management, Evolve: Marketing as we know it is Doomed, The Millennial CEO, and The New Rules of Customer Engagement.

Charlene Li | | @charleneli

Charlene Li is a Principal Analyst at Altimeter and has published three major books including the New York Times bestseller, Open Leadership. Her newest book, The Engaged Leader, was published in March 2015. She is one of the foremost experts on business strategy and disruptive technology, and a sought-after speaker and advisor to many top global companies.

Shelley Kramer | | @ShellyKramer

Shelly Kramer, co-founder of V3*Broadsuite, has over 20 years of experience in marketing veteran. As a brand strategist delivering integrated marketing solutions in both the B2B and B2C space, she helps businesses leverage the web for growth and profitability. She’s an expert at multi-channel marketing, content strategy and execution, and connecting social media to business initiatives.

Michael Krigsman | | @mkrigsman

Michael Krigsman is an internationally-recognized industry analyst and host of CXOTALK. He has written over 1,000 articles on topics related to innovation as a columnist for ZDNet, particularly around digital transformation and leadership. His work is frequently referenced in major newspapers, television, radio, trade publications, presentations, academic dissertations, blogs, and other media. Michael has been quoted in roughly 50 books, published in the Wall Street Journal, and is syndicated on important technology websites.

Gloria Lombardi | | @LOMBARDI_GLORIA

Gloria Lombardi is an author, journalist, publisher, and founder of MARGINALIA, a magazine about the future of work. She is primarily interested in innovation, internal communications, digital transformation, tech, and publishing.

Oliver Bussmann | | @obussmann

Oliver Bussmann has over 25 years’ experience as a leader in major global organizations, in a wide range of high-tech and financial services sectors spanning diverse geographies. As founder of Bussmann Advisory, he focuses on consulting, coaching and thought leadership services in the areas of digital transformation, innovation and business model re-creation.

Mike Quindazzi | | @MikeQuindazzi

Mike Quindazzi serves as Business Development Leader and Management Consultant at PwC. At PwC, he leads global companies on strategy and transformational initiatives. Specifically, he finds and builds competitive advantages via global expansion, accelerating digital tech (DX), improving customer experience (CX), transforming organizations, and implementing complex systems (HR/ERP).


Nurturing an Innovation and Self-Disruption Culture in Large Organizations

How large organizations can drive change in the face of disruptive competition.

The 21st century has introduced a new generation of competition. Capitalism in the 19th and 20th centuries was largely a matter of ‘bigger is better’. From the early days of the Industrial Revolution through to the 1980s, there was a common set of themes that defined business success: economies of scale, division of labor, quality through minimizing process variance, conglomeration, vertical integration, and so on.

The Information Age brought new capabilities that enabled small business to thrive, unleashing the potential of entrepreneurs everywhere to challenge mature industries and long established business models. Financial services, professional services, transportation, media, advertising, retail are all under threat from non-traditional competitors and disruptive start-ups.

Many large organizations struggle with how to respond and get ahead of these changes.

Why have we failed to make major change happen?

Let’s look at disruptive change from the perspective of a large company that is starting to see small startups entering various parts of their industry: none are having a major impact today, but it is unsettling nonetheless. And with daily business conversations centering around ‘digital, cloud, mobile, social, big data’, and people in meetings talking about the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world, CEOs are on edge, trying to understand and assess the risks and opportunities.

Innovation threats

Creating disruption from within is about more than launching a new initiative with a catchy name or creating an investment fund. It can’t happen without teaching your people how to think and behave more like entrepreneurs, risk takers, and innovators. Making people in all parts of your organization accountable for:

  • voicing new ideas;
  • taking chances;
  • challenging norms (and senior management); and
  • moving things forward in a sometimes ambiguous environment.

Without vocal, repeated and demonstrable support for these behaviors, sustained innovation will not happen.

An organisation’s people are the drivers of innovation and disruption. Executives need to nurture this environment, not try to control and direct. The ideas that will drive the long term success of a company do not come from steering committees. People that live and breathe the business, the customers day in and day out, the intricacies of the products and services, the good, the bad and the ugly of the company, are the ones who will lead the way.

But it’s not as if organizations don’t already have the strong and talented management to recognize and take action to address these issues. So why isn’t it working?

Innovation vs. stagnation: Why do large, well-managed, successful organizations struggle when faced with disruptive change?

Solid research points to at least part of the answer: “Good management was the most powerful reason why leading companies failed to stay atop of their industries.”

The Innovator's Dilemma
‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ – Clayton M. Christensen

Wait, what? Here’s why:

  • Large firms with good management can fail for the exact same reasons they succeed:
    • listening to customers;
    • investing aggressively in technology, process and operational capabilities that their largest customers need;
    • adding new features and services to their product suite;
      carefully studying market trends; and
    • systematically allocating investment capital to innovations that promise the best returns.
  • The research has shown that the principles of good management are only situationally appropriate. Situations involving sustaining versus disruptive technologies require different management approaches.
  • With disruptive change, there are times when it is right not to listen to customers, right to invest in developing products that deliver lower margins and aggressively pursue smaller markets.

Naturally, this cuts against the grain of most organizations’ strategy, management norms, structures, processes and cultures. So getting from here to there is a major challenge.

How to get there: things you can do now

A common trap is following traditional approaches: striking up a project team, creating a committee or having ‘regular meetings’. Forget it. If these activities haven’t worked in the past, even for more standard efforts, why would they work for your most challenging and disruptive priorities?

Try new tactics. Test and learn. Fail fast and try again.

Innovation - Customer Manifesto

Be ready for the ups and downs of the journey and keep moving despite them. When in doubt, remember this quote from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Here are some new strategies and tactics to consider:

  • Look outside your organization for wisdom and inspiration. Join groups, meetups, and mailing lists on topics that inspire you. (Example, ‘The Customer Development [Manifesto]’ has a lot of statements that can challenge your assumptions).
  • Question and reconsider preconceived notions and assumptions of how change can happen in your organization.
  • Keep in mind, if it doesn’t feel different or uncomfortable, you probably aren’t changing anything.
  • Focus on execution of fundamentals and build a sense of urgency into everything you do.
  • Adopt a startup mindset and culture. Keep things small and focused. Aggressively narrow scope and timelines.
  • Don’t just throw money at things. Be frugal and invest in stages, spending only on what is critical and with milestones tied to progress. Quality of money matters: too much dilutes focus, too little implies lack of commitment and saps energy and speed. Think like an angel or VC.
  • Build your ‘Goldilocks’ team. Is there a team, department, function or group that can propel you to an early success? It should be small enough that clear objectives and outcomes can be defined, while big enough that the result will be significant and measurable.
  • Find smaller opportunities that can get to success quickly. Ones that demonstrate to others that change is possible, taking risks is rewarding, and innovative use of new technologies is happening.
  • Emulate the characteristics of entrepreneurs and startups (probably the same strengths that powered your own company’s early success).

Exercise ways to get fresh perspectives

Just like you would train to run a marathon or study to learn a new language, opening up to new ways of thinking takes effort. Find and study one example of a way to get a fresh perspective and practice trying to gain a new point of view.

Here is one to try: a video that talks about how seeing the entire Earth from Space can change your whole perspective.

Perseverance is most important

There are many traits considered instrumental to business success: customer-centric organizations, singular focus on product and service quality, streamlined delivery, collaborative work, transparency, hunger for results. Above all is persistence. Perseverance. The belief in yourself and your vision. The trail is well worn, with others leaving signposts and markers, which are the wisdom and tactics to help us succeed.

Here are some inspiring success stories that endured repeated failures:

  • WD-40 literally stands for “Water Displacement – 40th Attempt”.
  • James Dyson created 5,127 failed prototypes over 15 year before his first Dyson vacuum cleaner model was proven successful.
  • Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd attempt over 8 years.
  • Nine months after launch, Pinterest had “catastrophically small numbers”. The site only had 10,000 users and very few of them were active on a daily basis.
  • Response from Dustin Moskovitz, Facebook co-founder, when asked how he felt about Facebook’s overnight success: “If by ‘overnight success’ you mean staying up and coding all night, every night for six years straight, then it felt quite tiring and stressful.” Facebook was launched as Facemash in 2003 and it took almost 9 years to grow Facebook for an IPO.
  • Starbucks began in 1971 and took 16 years before it started to expand beyond Seattle.
  • OpenTable, the online restaurant reservations site, began in 1998, went public 11 years later in 2009 with a market cap of $626M and in 2014 was sold to Priceline for $2.6B.
  • LinkedIn began in 2002 and launched a year later in 2003. Profitability was achieved 3 years after launch in 2006, it became a publicly traded company in 2011 and was purchased by Microsoft in 2016 for $26.2B.

While there’s no one recipe for success in every business situation, learning how to adapt your mindset and organizational culture to digital innovation and transformation only increase your likelihood of success.


Engage audiences globally through storytelling, video and language

So much of our business lives in a world dominated by English. While this is ‘efficient’ for the West, it belies a bigger issue around how we can engage and dialogue with people around the world in common issues and causes.

Current technology can bring messages to more and more people, using video to tell stories that can inspire change. The key is to provide content that is localized. Speaking to people in their native language. The ability to do this in a fast and inexpensive way has major implications for how knowledge can be spread and shared to people that need it most.

The use of these capabilities is growing in organizations for training, marketing and communications. This innovation can be leveraged for broader social purposes: health, education, social change, and news. Video can be used more and more to create compelling content that has a message and tells a story.

Storytelling in video form is rapidly becoming the dominant way to market, train, inspire, communicate, educate, entertain about all aspects of a business.  And as evidenced by the explosion of time spent on social media and digital communication, and the desire of all companies to emotionally engage with their customers, employees, stakeholders, suppliers – it is becoming increasingly important to communicate with people in their native languages, instead of in languages they might understand only as a 2nd or 3rd language.

Only 6% of the planet speaks English as a native language, another 19% speak it as a 2nd or 3rd language – meaning 75% of the world does not understand English.  As Nelson Mandela says:

Check out our partner DotSub which helps deliver video storytelling campaigns in any language.


Listen to your employees. They are your best customers.

Communications in organizations are a dynamic and flowing human system

Organizations are problem solving systems. Countless decisions are made each day by employees, teams, management, vendors, partners and clients that impact an organization. Executives and employees are the ‘electrons’ in the circuitry of these systems, travelling via the ‘wires’ between the organizations components: the people, teams and departments, to collect data, synthesize information and provide perspectives, insight and analysis. The better the system operates, the better the insight which in turn is used as input to make better decisions and solutions to business problems. Higher quality decisions, built one atop the other over time, lead to better products, faster service, increased innovation and financial results.

This simplistic view of organizations helps when looking at process and operational problems. However, one of the most common and important business problems that is insulated from this approach has to do with communication. Specifically, listening.

So what? Well, in our electricity analogy, the concept of conductivity can be compared to communication. Higher conductivity equates to faster and better communication. The greater the focus on listening, the higher the ‘signal to noise’ ratio, which is the metric to measure the accuracy of information received at the destination. Listen well and receive messages clearly.

Highly conductive communication with employees can power more than internal business activities. Employees don’t just work for your company. And they don’t just buy your product. They buy into the very idea of your company. Hopefully, you hire the smartest people you can find. But smart people have options. The fact that they choose to invest their time (which is much scarcer and more valuable than money) working for you can and should be incredibly humbling.

employees customers quote Chris Becker NetEffect

When dealing with major organizational change, often driven by technological innovation, efficient communication can provide the ‘electrical grid’ for powerful and rapid insights to solve problems and navigate the obstacles in the way of success.

So if the benefits are clear, what’s the issue? Better communication is like our electrical grid, it requires endless work to expand, improve and maintain. But something interesting happens when we raise this topic to senior management.

Most business owners will tell me that they do a great job of listening to their employees. “I have an open-door policy!” they’ll say. “Everybody on the team gets a 360 degree review every year! I do an employee survey!”

And yet when I spend time talking to people on the ground, the sentiment is invariably different. In businesses undergoing significant growth, crisis, or transformation, listening to employees is one of the very first casualties. When the pressure’s on you as an executive, it’s easy to have your own ideas executed and assume that if no one loudly objects, then everyone’s on board and feels heard. This is the exact opposite of what is needed.

So how can you tell if you’re listening effectively, and not just paying lip service?

One of the earliest indicators of chronic non-listening is feeling like your employees aren’t listening to you. They may have reasonable issues that they simply don’t raise because they don’t think you’ll listen, care, or actually do anything about it. Other symptoms of not listening to watch out for:

  • High employee turnover, absenteeism, or excess sick days
  • Stagnant growth, few referrals and little repeat business
  • Low morale and employee engagement
  • Lack of personal ownership when it comes to dealing with issues
  • Feeling annoyed that your employees aren’t more proactive

How do you listen in a way that helps your employees actively contribute?

Coming back to the diversity issue: your team is likely composed of a range of personalities and talents. And that’s a good thing. The reason you’re the B-O-S-S comes down to your ability to deal with ambiguity, take risks, and make decisions with incomplete information. But what makes a good CEO isn’t necessarily what makes a good engineer or a good product manager.

Understand that not everyone thinks and acts the way you do. Some people need a bit of coaching to say what they’re really thinking. Also:

  • Recognize the power dynamic at play. Even with the flattest organization structure, at the end of the day, you sign the paychecks. Understand that employees can feel like it’s taking a big risk to disagree with you.
  • Make a point of admitting when you make a mistake or don’t have the answer. Nobody expects you to have all the answers all the time. But employees need to know that your ego isn’t running the show.
  • Actively solicit feedback, and establish a safe environment to share. This means time and space that’s designated specifically for the purpose of listening. Remember that it’s natural for people to not want to raise issues for fear of blame or retribution. A safe environment that rewards communication will help get you the feedback you need, as early as possible to better respond to problems.
  • If possible, schedule one-to-ones or small team sessions. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts in a large group. This doesn’t have to be with everyone, all the time. But dedicated time when needed to monitor that ‘signal to noise’ ratio to ensure you are hearing what you need to.
  • Use open-ended questions, but provide enough context and structure to get the conversation going. An employee may feel like they’ve got nothing to contribute, and then with a little prodding remember a recent challenge or interaction that could be instructive to the group.
  • Resist the urge to be dismissive.You may have already considered the idea raised by an employee, but respect them enough to acknowledge the idea and talk through your thinking and decision-making process. If a team member feels that you’ve shut them down, they’re less likely to contribute the next time they have an idea.
  • Reward people for bringing fresh thinking to the conversation. When an employee does share something you maybe don’t want to hear, make sure to thank them. Help everyone understand that opposing opinions, when raised in a respectful manner, are welcome.
  • Say no to HiPPOs. The HiPPO, or Highest Paid Person’s Opinion, often takes precedent even if it’s not the best course of action. Let the best idea win, regardless of where it came from.
  • Once you’ve listened, take action. People need to feel like their opinion matters. When people can see their ideas put into practice, they become engaged and invested in the company’s success.

Effective and high volume communication with your people can power your efforts to execute on your strategy, drive innovation, and lead organizational change.

Change Management Organizational Design Team

Meet Chris Becker, NetEffect CEO

Chris Becker is an experienced consultant and entrepreneur with a background in international consulting, managing new business startups and driving large impactful corporate change initiatives. As the CEO of NetEffect, his focus is on digital transformation. This includes identifying opportunities for companies to change the way they do business by leveraging the power of web, mobile, and other emerging technologies.

We caught up with Chris to learn how he works with both large corporations through to small technology startups to analyze, discover and apply innovative ways to leverage technology to improve performance, team interaction, quality of outputs and speed of action. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn here.

NetEffect helps large organizations think and act more like startups. What experience has given you the skills and insights to provide these types of services?

Early on, my focus was in organization design and change management. This has proven to be a solid foundation of concepts and tools when looking at how to help an organization be nimble, while still being mindful of how to effect change in organizations with thousands of people, a range of products and services, competing priorities and functions, and complex business processes.

While we talk a lot about technology, most of the challenges arise in the use of that technology to enable business process and to equip people with new ways of working. Anyone can get the technology perfect, and still fail on execution due to lack of attention to large organization dynamics and the changes affecting people. Even a well-conceived strategy can be lost in the minefield of execution.

Organizational priorities, the complexity of work, evaluating and positioning talent, and organization design all need to align with technology innovation and disruption. The result requires a more holistic effort, but the payoff is form and function coming together to create sustainable business value and advantage.

This approach has provided a solid starting point to enable our technology team to build compelling experiences and solutions. NetEffect can be described as a powerful blending of consulting, digital agency and product development capabilities.

Culture quote Peter Drucker NetEffect

Specifically, what kind of companies have you worked with and where do you provide support?

We have a broad team with experience in a range of geographies, industries and organization types. Organization design and change management was an early focus and has now become a part of almost everything we do. Since 1995, this has included the financial services (e.g. VanCity and Coast Capital credit unions in British Columbia, Goldman Sachs, Sun Life Financial), energy (e.g. EnCana), automotive (e.g. Nissan) as well as professional services, NGOs and retail (e.g. Canadian Tire, Hudson’s Bay).

Our focus now is on large scale change in complex organizations with a particular concentration in financial and professional services. Complexity is not just size. It can be driven by geographic coverage, product range, brand equity and innovation and organizational models. Organizational models for example, have expanded greatly over the past 20 years:

  • More collegial and partnering networks for organizations
  • Independent contractors and agents versus traditional captive employees
  • Loose affiliations between complementary companies
  • Joint ventures and strategic alliances
  • Complex vendor/sub-contractor relationships and more.

At NetEffect, we are utilizing these new working models to adapt and learn, and equip us with more versatile ways to work so we can bring these types of models to our clients. This can greatly increase client focus on core capabilities while building in expertise and speed through these other models. Greater flexibility to engage external expertise and capabilities help bring fresh perspectives to large organizations that often rely on their own internal functions and teams which can often result in them losing sight of the dynamics in the marketplace. The emergence of ‘Software as a Service’ is an example of alternative models for leveraging best in breed applications and technology. Change must be a continuous improvement process of self-examination and growth that can often be painful.

Recognizing how interconnected strategy is with execution helps ensure the real business need is always kept front and center when working on the necessarily deep technology efforts. Too often, technology is left with abdicated authority to make a change which inevitably leads to lost value and failed efforts. With the rise of nimbler, technology-enabled competitors, large organizations do not have time to repeat mistakes and restart efforts over and over.

Change quote Jack Welch NetEffect

We’ve had the chance to work with clients from the point where the strategy is defined but requires articulation to drive it down to meaningful words, phrases and themes that are going to matter to the people on the ground. These often expand to projects or programs that are designed to rally people within the organization to a common cause and move quickly. Having a clear starting point at this stage can make all the difference when moving to designing, building and implementing a solution – be it a new product, new ways to interact with the market, or innovative ways of working.

When you then combine strong technical and operational capabilities, including partnerships with best-in-breed software, you have a powerful combination to provide strategic execution capabilities to large organizations struggling to keep pace with new, smaller competitors that have a greater impact on industries over time.

What prompted your transition from a consultant to an entrepreneur?

Sooner or later you have to practice what you preach and eat your own dog food! Consulting from an early age was a great chance to see a wide range of organizations in action. Eventually my words sounded hollow without the sense of ownership and weight of responsibility that comes with accountability for outcomes.

So, around the mid- 2000s, I worked with a small team on a social media startup. As CEO, I led a team building a ‘User Generated Content’ Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform. We worked with media companies, large brands, and agencies to leverage, monetize and engage consumers in user-generated content. We successfully sold that business in 2015.

What followed was a powerful and somewhat unique perspective, combining complex organization consulting with the scrappy world of bootstrap startups. This is the spirit around which we’ve built NetEffect.

So the transition was gradual and I’d say it’s now a less of a transition and more a combination.

Consulting is embarking on a discovery process of getting to know and understand a business’s issues, and coming up with ways to solve those issues in new and innovative ways. From that perspective, consulting provides a wealth of ideas to help entrepreneurs figure out ‘what problem they are solving’. So in many ways, consulting and entrepreneurship are tightly interwoven.