It’s funny how sometimes a word finds an idea, and once in the lingua franca, there’s no letting go. Up until a few months ago, I’m not sure ‘digitisation’ was a thing, but now it’s everywhere, and like a fantastic pop song, it now feels like it’s been around forever.
We are working on two significant digitisation programmes that are driving deep, structural and disruptive change in both organisations, both of which are large multinationals. Understandably, both programmes have big OD and change management agendas at their heart, but it’s the communication dimension that I’m finding most interesting.
We may be forgiven for assuming that the communication of ‘business digitisation’ should be digitally led. Surely it’s up to communicators to practice what is being preached, right? Well yes, but only up to a point. And I have a hunch. That it’s our over reliance on such mechanisms that is causing a lot of disruptive change to go wrong, or to not take hold.
In my view, and from what I’m seeing in both the organisations I’ve mentioned, there is a direct correlation between the depth of change and the level of emotional commitment needed from colleagues to pull it off. To secure that kind of commitment takes intense stakeholder engagement, and frankly, there’s going to be a lot of resistance to overcome. That means paying close attention to relationship building, trust building and constantly reinforcing the ‘why’ of the change as well as horse-trading over the ‘what and how’.
A well thought out stakeholder map is therefore vital, but even more important is doing what the map demands to keep people close. Great stakeholder management comes down to building trust, and the best way to build trust is through regular, unvarnished, old-fashioned face-to-face contact. With this foundation in place, digital communication can be a powerful, cost effective and time-efficient medium to keep stakeholders engaged. So if it’s change you want, when it comes to business digitisation, before you go digital, best go analogue.
I remember vividly my first digital transaction (don’t we all!). Sat in a slightly unhinged ad agency, I could barely suspend my disbelief that ordering a case of wine on my laptop would result in it being delivered to my front door the next day. Even though that was over 15 years ago, only now is the debate about what the digital age really means for leadership beginning to take shape.
You can’t pick up a leadership book or piece of engagement research without someone telling you how fundamentally important ‘being a great communicator’ is in a leader’s skillset. And let’s face it, it’s not an assertion that many are going to argue with.