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Digital Transformation - Getting Emotional

I was at a party at the weekend and someone asked if "all that emotion stuff" I have been writing about will change the way I think about business transformation - as I am out there looking for my next project right now. (Clients please note!)

I think that somethings have become a little clearer. The things I have learnt over the last couple of years has really opened my eyes to the power of behavioural engineering. I am going to call it e-transformation for this article. I am not trying to invent another new word but I want to be brief.

It is also worth noting that I now think of all business transformation is now digital because digital is how we experience everything now. It creates a real challenge around trust that has become BAU today. Emotional engagement deals with this but I also think that any great programme manager or director reading this, is simply going to see this as a BAU check list.

In my career Big Ticket transformation has always been a hearts and minds business.....especially the really big technology programmes.

In fact - emotionally engineered business transformation has frequently been the most powerful type of change. The number of great case studies is huge. It is only the arrival of new ways of thinking about data like e-scores and customer power that has highlighted emotional engagement as a key success factor.

So here is a short guide to Emotion based business/digital transformation tricks of the trade from that experience.

First and foremost an "e-transformation" is the same process - you wish to get a change in behaviour in a group of colleagues, customers and other stakeholders. This maybe around a new process, product or just a change in circumstances such as M&A etc. Don't think about it as different. The current state of emotional science is focused on just asking easier to understand open questions and making the answers actionable.

E-scores make it easier to discuss problems because things are ok or they are not and they are important or not. There is a misconception that "emotional" slows things down but my experience is the reverse. Things move more quickly because people now understand how to express themselves and so you focus more on real issues, you get to them sooner, and you solve them more quickly.

There are a few differences for consideration and it is useful to list a few of them.

Rule 1 - Slightly different goals

  1. You are now adding some emotional goals to your required outcome of your project. In reality the goals are the same you want happy stakeholders who are satisfied. E-transformation projects just describe those things more simply in more common language.

  2. We use more how do you feel questions because they are more efficient at getting to root cause. Personally I have always used direct questions to get to problems because I believe that "bad news is not like wine it does not improve with age". Now the science of emotion modelling has just shown that being direct is the best approach - scientifically. For great programme managers it is business as usual.

Rule 2 - Get people emotionally engaged

Transformation is measured in part by the engagement of stakeholders at the end of the process. The difference is, you are now looking for stakeholders to become engaged at the outset. You are recognising the power of that emotional engagement through Autonomy Mastery and Purpose means focusing on making it the stakeholders project, and they are in charge. We are now so much more social in our daily behaviour and with modern project tools it is better to think of a transformation as a communications exercise in the digital age.

Rule 3 - Build a story that is easy to share....and then share it

This is a vital part of any project/programme with a couple important notes:

  1. Emotionally what do we want? Make sure that the stakeholders build a story that contains a why motive and a clear vision of next steps as well as outcomes. We want to know what our goal is, why we have that goal and what are the steps we are going to take towards it now. Keeping those 3 things clear and simple is a vital part of managing your story.The now steps are important but I will come back to that.

  2. Make sure that story is shared withe everyone. Personally I use It allows me to share a story, videos etc. with every stakeholder on their mobile or desktop. You need to allow for (and encourage) everyone to be involved in the building of the story. The story itself is now a key artefact in any transformation programme. Regular reviews and contributions keep your story fresh and are at the heart of the transformation habit you want to instil in your stakeholders.

Rule 3 - Build habits that are better than the ones that exist today

I think the real area of change in my understanding has come from my understanding of habit. I now break down old and new behaviours into habits where possible. The power of habits and behavioural nudges is literally vital and we now measure success using that criteria. Where as previously you might look at adoption rates as the success criteria you are now looking at those adoption rates at a more detailed habit level. Dramatic culture change comes from the habits we build.

But there is a much more important part of habit management to be considered.

We are always going to be in transformation - because things are moving so quickly. Making change a daily habit is neither easy or something that can be delivered in a single programme. It requires effort and long term commitment. However it does mean that your next transformation programme is in part about building an organisation that is emotionally committed to transforming itself as a core function.

Rule 4 - Get out of everyones way

If I could summarise what social networking has changed about transformation - it is that everyone knows that they have a voice and they are expected to participate. Use that to drive the knowledge and experience of colleagues into your programme outcome and you are more likely to succeed in delivering on time in budget and more importantly what is needed. Participation is messy, requires patience, and frequently makes scope creep a nightmare but it delivers what is needed now not what was designed then.

The best ideas in Customer Experience transformation frequently come from front line colleagues and customers and so they are vital to your process. The vision and the why comes from transformation team at first but the stakeholders own them and develop them on. They make the "why" their own. Behavioural science is moving at a fast pace and is a vital part of programme management and you can learn more about the latest best practice and learn about emotion in transformation you can follow this link.

The relationship between behaviour and technology has become the central plank of any transformation now because it is more cost effective and more reliable.

So - Are we getting more emotional about transformation?

No - In my view we are just getting better at understanding it.

Yes there is a long way to go!

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