Who really powers successful digital transformation?

Perhaps not who you might at first think!

We often muse over this question — it’s as loaded as someone asking me to define exactly what digital leadership means!? Subjective to say the least.

Easier questions would be; Who challenges digital transformation the most in your system? or perhaps; Who should be more visible in your digital transformation efforts?

It wouldn’t take us long to recognise that leaders play an enormous part in the success of digital transformation from inception to delivery, iteration and sustainability — yet sadly, and more often they are touted as challengers and blockers rather than enablers or role models.

Let’s not be too hard on our leaders

As a good coach or mentor would advocate — judge not, rather try to walk in their shoes and then meet them half way.

Leaders for years have been promoted and placed in post based on reasons that don’t directly relate to the mental model or behaviours required to power digital transformation:

  1. We have reached our status based on past achievements (what we did and who we were then).
  2. We have been trained and developed to solve problems or to gather intelligence from around us so that we can make the best decisions (ultimately all data roads lead to Rome).

We may have done our leaders a dis-service

How we have chosen our leaders and how we have developed our leaders hasn’t really connected with the modern world in a way that challenges the core foundations of what it means to be a leader, who are our true leaders and if we aren’t here to solve the problems and make the decisions, what are we for?

But I’m equally not letting them off that lightly either!

The time for a new way of thinking and behaving as been called time and again, yet never loud enough to make a big enough dent in our mainstream leadership mental model and behaviours.

So, on the one hand we have digital transformation growing at an almost exponential rate across all business communities whilst at the same time a growing chasm between leadership participation and the digital transformation delivery itself.

Answers not questions are needed

When we recognise what is needed we can see it, experiment with it, develop it. To date we’ve been bombarded with ‘leaders need to think differently’ (And I humbly hold my hand up as one of them), without a straight line answer of HOW.

Throwing a few expert masterclasses at your board, executives or managers won’t do the trick. Neither will a development program that promises mindset shift. What’s needed is a guided mechanism for fundamental shifts in thinking and behaviour — oh, and it needs to stick…

And so digital transformation success continues to grow further away from our leaders mental and behavioural capacity to participate and role model the future.

Output? Culture shift stalls and the change agents from across project management, learning & development, technology, change management, product and service design get more stressed taking more of the responsibility of success on their shoulders. Shame on us as leaders.

Enter the three amigos

There is light at the end of this tunnel. There is a solution. It’s simple, it’s real and it’s darn right critical to every business out there trying to survive these times and thrive as a business as well as collectively as a human race.

The solution (In part of course, I’m not a magician!) is down to what we call The Three Amigos.

Amigo one — The business coach and/or executive mentor.

Think about this for just a second. The majority of leaders who are seasoned leaders having been in post for X number of years are probably unaware of the damage their failure to turn up to the digital transformation table is causing. And to confess this, unpack this and explore this needs safety, trust and privacy. Enter the business coach and/or executive mentor. This amigo is in such an important place to be able to support the leader on their own digital transformation journey. If they know this story themselves. If they themselves have eaten from the tree.

So the key here is to ensure your digital transformation takes account for the training and presence of this amigo (internal or external) to deal with the deep poop, and baggage, many of these leaders have to alleviate themselves of to get in the game.

Amigo two — The digital practitioner

Wow, since COVID-19 I think we should be clapping for these guys like we have for our health professionals. These are the ones who have put in the hours, worked the weekends and literally overnight managed to get us all online, virtual and zooming — with capability support and guides for workforce wellbeing thrown in for good measure — Any digital practitioner who has stepped up to help their organisation keep running over the last year — I APPLAUD YOU ALL.

Now, back to the amigo thing. These digital practitioners get it. They understand the power of technology, data and new ways of working. So we should be elevating their training and support and connecting them with the business mentor and coach.

Amigo Three — The disruptive leader

We’ve been working across business and government internationally since 2013. We’ve profiled over 2,000 leaders in mindset and behaviour using The Dilyn Way Profiling tool and one thing is a fact…in every business over a given size (which is a few hundred only), there exists leaders who want to create a better future. They know we design our futures not walk into them. They understand and role model ‘thinking differently’. Yet, time and again their voice is taken by the winds of tradition — not to be heard, and so they are left marginalised.

We should be on the look out for these leaders who dare to think differently in our systems and give them voice. Counter intuitive? Not at all. If we can foster the Malcolm Gladwell Tipping Point with the amount of disruptive leaders present in our organisation — we’ve landed the third amigo. Then, as with the other two — we support them and connect them together.

So there you have it, the three amigos — the true power behind successful digital transformation.

Are you one? Recognise anyone in your system? Recognise a gap?

For more information DM me or head to our community where we bring together these three amigos to connect, support, experiment and power our businesses and governments towards a better world.




Mel Ross is CEO of Adapt2Digital and Chief Architect of The Dilyn Way best practice profile and approach to leading in a digital age.

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Mel Ross

Mel Ross

Mel Ross is CEO of Adapt2Digital and Chief Architect of The Dilyn Way best practice profile and approach to leading in a digital age.

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