In the last WTF session Setting Up to Succeed at Digital Transformation we discussed the corporate environment in which most Digital Transformation initiatives are required to perform. The People – Process – Technology ecosystem, as well as the silo structure of most mature organizations play a huge part in both the stability of the company and a natural resistance to change. But all of the People affected by a DT initiative do not have the same perspective.

There is a basic division of three functional People types who must interact and align to successfully implement change – Owners, Evaluators, and Implementers. Change initiatives require all three to be on board in order to move from idea to execution. Any one of the types can slow down or stop the change from occurring.

Owners hold the highest level of responsibility for deciding if the change will be approved and implemented. They typically think in a longer term, concept / strategic horizon and are interested in the holistic value proposition of the change. While Owners hold the ultimate decision-making authority, they will look to the other two types for detailed input into analyzing the change and actively executing it within their organization.

Evaluators analyze the proposed change within their very specific subject matter expertise. This detail-oriented, technical group values thinking, knowledge, and data. A change idea must be vetted through all of the relevant subject matter Evaluators for it to successfully move forward. The roadblocks are many. Any one of the Evaluators in a subject evaluation chain has the ability to slow or stop the change from occurring simply by withholding approval. For an evaluator, doing nothing and maintaining the status quo is safer than to approve changes that might have unintended consequences. A high-risk situation for the Owner is created should changes have negative impacts in an area of evaluation where approval has been withheld.

Implementers manage the functional areas of the organization impacted by a new change and will be responsible for integrating it into their daily operations. Action, accomplishing, and maintaining smooth operations are valued by this group. Doing something when operations are in upset condition, even if it the wrong thing, is preferred to doing nothing in the moment. Conversely, for this group change is typically very risky if operations are currently running smoothly. Any upset or negative impact on the daily operations will be viewed unfavorably.

While an Owner will worry how change impacts the entire organization and Evaluators worry about how the change will impact their own area of subject matter expertise, Implementers are focused on how the change will likely screw up their own daily operations. If the Owner moves forward with a change without buy in from affected Implementers, a high-risk situation would likely appear should the change have any negative impacts in the daily operations.

Base Camps Make Huge Leaps Possible

Looking at the totality of a proposed change creates organizational at-rest inertia and discourages groups from engaging it due to the seemingly impossible size. It also fosters an environment where unfocused friction can derail the process. All successful Digital Transformation programs use a form of base camp planning.

The base camp approach breaks change down into manageable size steps, providing both a vision of the path to success and a series of small wins which successively build momentum. Creating milestones of achievement where success can be celebrated creates a unifying goal set, builds positive reinforcement each time a base camp is achieved, and reduces the resistance to change. While effort and resources are focused into the areas where progress supposed to be happening, energy is not wasted in areas that will not contribute to success. Celebrating the achievement of the previous base camp provides momentum in progressing to achieve the next one.

While base camps are the simple answer, managing them is not at all simple. A base camp plan needs to follow the critical path, properly sequenced both in series and in parallel to so that momentum is not lost due to an unidentified friction point suddenly halting the progress of the change initiative.

In the next session – What does success look like? Implementing basecamp examples.