• Mike Mullane

Digital leadership vs. blindman's buff in the boardroom

Last time you booked a flight, the likelihood is that you knew where you were going and how you would spend your time once you arrived. It seems obvious, but isn’t it odd that some companies undertake digital transformation with no idea of where they are heading or why.

The problem is that some senior executives not only hide behind management speak, but also can see no further than buzzwords when it comes to designing a strategy. They have studied the data and know about the serious threats posed by evolving technology, and the changing behaviour of consumers.

It is plain to them that only digital change can safeguard the future viability, or - in the case of public service media - the legitimacy of the services they provide. But there's no grasp of what that really entails.

It's like a game of blindman's buff in the boardroom.

Typically, what happens next is a review of internal processes, covering everything from project management to invoicing. Once the review is over, all effort will usually focus on tweaking, streamlining and cost cutting.

The communications department will very cautiously tackle social media, and management will equate fewer staff in some areas with leaner, more digital practices.

The fact of the matter is that even if project management becomes agile, it still won’t result in much because there is no guiding vision. Quite simply, the CEO has never taken the time to picture what an ideal, digitized version of her company might look like, or how it might engage future clients.

Companies need that vision to start setting milestones and move incrementally towards a goal. Staff need to feel that they are all working towards a common, corporate goal, rather than thinking only about their own silos.

Digital technology and social media have disrupted the media sector and torn down barriers, but any digital transformation plan worth its salt must be based on anticipating where those trends are taking us.

Of course there needs to be flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing market forces. That’s where agile project management comes in useful, not least because it keeps companies closer to the needs of their clients. There will always be a certain amount of resistance, but a clear corporate vision will allay fears and empower staff to contribute towards reshaping services. Hackathons at key levels, starting with senior management, are a powerful way to spur fresh thinking.

Forces and circumstance outside our control dictate the need for digital change. It’s what keeps senior managers awake at night.

It’s their job to imagine not only new ways that clients will interact with products and services, but also what added value the company can deliver to keep them loyal.

CEO’s essentially provide three things: a blueprint, a firm hand on the tiller and critically, a vision. Change without vision is like embalming a body: it might look better, but it ain’t going to sit up.

#digitalchange #vision #management

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