The Digital Transformation has been on top of CEO’s agendas in 2015 and continues to shape 2020 strategies all over the place. Many industries – e.g. the financial services industry – will transform dramatically due to new technologies such as blockchain. In other industries, potential threats for current business models are more diffuse. The omnipresent solution for this type of uncertainty seems to be “a digital DNA” combined with “an agile culture”. Knowing that, many companies still struggle with getting there.
This article will show you why you need to be clear about the reasons for change first instead of getting lost in discussions about the how.
Why do you get up every morning for work?!
In December 2015, shortly after Impact Hub Zürich started the NEXT partnerships, we were asked to help one team to define their transformational mission within the company. They have received a mandate from the CEO to be the leading team in the digital transformation. So the question was to find out: What does this mean? And how is such a big change within the company even possible?
Before digging into the details of change and discussing different change management methodologies, we asked the team: Why does your company need to transform? People said: “Because we want to stay the #1 in our industry.” Or: “Because we need to be better than our strongest competitor.” Or: “Because the customer has to be in our focus.” And we kept asking: “Why is the customer important?”. “Because the customer pays our bills.” And we kept asking: “Why is important that your company still exists in 10 years? You are all smart people: you can easily find another job somewhere else.” And people did not know what to answer.
Everyone is on a mission
When I listen to inspiring and successful people, I notice that they all are on a mission. They know exactly why they do what they do. So, we decided to talk about the why first. We started that conversation during an offsite where the participants were asked to share their personal story on how they became who they are today. After listening to the stories, we identified common patterns within the group. It turned out that people had quite similar and very personal reasons for why they work in that company: They all believe that the basic value proposition of this company and the whole industry has had a noble purpose once it got founded – just like all the start-ups in our community. The company knew its purpose: the very reason for its existence. But over the years, the purpose has been lost. Shareholder value became more important than fulfilling the purpose. Money over beliefs. And people agreed that they would be proud be to tell their grandchildren one day, that they managed to refocus on that noble purpose.
Purpose changes your perspective
At this point the Digital Transformation did no longer appear as a threat but much more as a chance to refocus on the deeper purpose. The participants instantly knew that they did not just get another task but much more a privilege to build exactly the company they would be proud to work for. And they committed themselves to use this opportunity to change the company for the better.
Leading with passion
After these two inspiring yet exhausting days in the mountains, I went home energized and optimistic that this team will make the transformation a success. And so I told my colleagues, family and friends about this happening. And so did they: They’ve written year-end-emails where they spoke about the power of purpose and stood in front of their sub-teams to tell their personal story and how purpose will lead the transformation from now on. The feedback was incredibly positive: People said that they started to believe in their management again and were overwhelmed to see them as a team of true leaders.
After completing her Master Degree in Cultural Analysis and Management at the University of Zurich and working in Deloitte’s Human Capital Consulting practice, Johanna now puts all her energy into promoting cultural change in large corporations. In line with her interest in culture, organizations and the future of work, she enjoys reading, going to the theatre and working outdoors. Sin...
Johanna Stephan, Corporates, Intrapreneurship,