Digital transformation: a good decision a day keeps the panic away

Change management, agilisation, design thinking, collective intelligence, horizontalization of management, digital leadership, all these terms come to mind when talking about digital transformation in general, but also, and more recently, about the integration of artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, and so on…

According to the experts (of whom I am part since I am writing these lines), the prerequisite for the transformation of a business model resides in tools and methodologies that will serve the elasticity of the company, functioning just like a suppository that enables the passage of molecules essential to the healing of a patient. As a good mother, I had the opportunity to administer suppositories to my children when they were very young, for the simple reason that, before a certain age, they could not “swallow the pill”. And it is rather funny, to continue along with this metaphor, to note that as soon as children become old enough to be aware of the discomfort inherent to the inoculation of a foreign body through the most intimate orifice of their anatomy, surprisingly, the era of the suppository comes to an end!
The same goes for today’s companies: the blessed age of the almighty, omnipotent, all-knowing, all-powerful boss/dad who, by a simple look or gesture, could convince his employees of the need for a suppository is over. Employees (and I include managers) are perfectly aware of the existing pain. Indeed, it is often they who feel the first symptoms. Forcing them to take some medicine without addressing the root cause of the pain is thus difficult… Just like a mother, management is responsible for the framework, decisions, indicators and good running of a company, for the vision upon which the company operates and for the action plans necessary to achieve it. In addition to management, the Board of Directors (the father), must validate these principles and make available the resources required to achieve them, intervening physically in the company only at key moments, most often in times of crisis or to praise performance.

Whatever the theories of change, agilisation and other beautifully packaged placebos you may come up with, faced with a deadly virus, few people will follow you in the idea of treating it with cucumber soup or, to go back to my earlier metaphor, suppositories… Most companies that undertake this type of treatment nowadays actually suffer from the same, contagious, virus: lack of courage.

This lack of courage, which contaminates all levels of a company, is evidenced by endless meetings that result in no decisions, by emails that everyone copies, by press releases that no longer communicate anything, by employees who end up keeping silent about their suffering, by people unable to make any decision… It results in sick leave or resignation (with the most resistant employees preferring internal sabotage by practicing active presenteeism), in management instructing consultants to make diagnoses that no one will finally take into account (or even to recruit new profiles who will leave fairly quickly “for lack of having managed to integrate” or for “strategic differences of opinion”). As for the Board of Directors, the step from collegiality to cowardice is sometimes only too easy to take.

Digital transformation is not a matter of tools, nor of methodology, and even less of technology. It is a strategic vehicle that will help ensure the company’s sustainability in a rapidly changing world. But only ONE strategic vehicle amongst others. The ability to define a vision, to rethink the business model and to make the decisions that allow the implementation of these elements are the determining success factors for a company in the digital age and will continue to be so in the age of artificial intelligence – or any other current and future industrial revolution for that matter.

So, before wanting to put your employees and company on self-medication drugs, start by sitting at their bedside. Where does it hurt? How long ago did the pain begin? Why did you not see the problem sooner? What is your responsibility? How can you change the environment to make employees feel better? What is their first need? And the list of questions goes on. You may be surprised to find that it is often sufficient to go back to basics: consideration, common sense, timely decision-making, warnings when necessary, and above all, a clear direction. |

Aline Isoz
Director Strategy and Digital Transformation
Mazars Switzerland
Independent board member

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