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 have long been a passionate believer in the fact that authenticity matters. Perhaps now, more than ever before, because, in an age where the tweet is more toxic than the sword, concealing the tensions inherent in the complex balancing acts we play becomes less possible every day.
Take a look at most of the studies that explore the traits of successful leaders, and you’ll see communication is usually close to the top. In a study by the Leadership Council in late 2015, it came out as THE critical skill. We’ve all been witness to the talented executive who struggles to make it to the next level, held back by their abilities to inspire and influence on a grand scale.