Five Principles to Lead and Succeed at Digital

Benjamin Lavoie, Global Director of Technology, Anheuser-Busch InBev
Benjamin Lavoie, Global Director of Technology, Anheuser-Busch InBev

Benjamin Lavoie, Global Director of Technology, Anheuser-Busch InBev

Organizations are being squeezed. There are being pressured externally as consumer preferences change, customers connect to build and destroy brands through their social networks. Artificial intelligence and disruptive technology creates, evolves and destroys business models, geopolitical pressures escalate, labor markets change as demographics change, workforce ages, and the rise of players like China and India, and the push for omni-channel need to be present consistently across multiple platforms to each individual consumer.

Organizations are in parallel being squeezed internally by pressures such as a lack of consistent Vision and Leadership for what capabilities are needed to succeed in the future and how to acquire and deploy those capabilities within the organization, legacy IT and data systems providing an impediment to organizational agility and speed, a culture that may be resistant to change, organizational and data silos which are creating internal friction to integration and allowing the business to operate as one enterprise, generational shifts as new workers and workforce models such as staffing on demand disrupt traditional HR processes and new ways of working including agile which require the organization to rethink how it defines success and tracks progress.

With all of these pressures is it any surprise that only 20 percent of small businesses and 36 percent of large businesses will stay profitable over a period of more than three years.

The good news is there are organizations that have found a way to manage this terrain successfully, and as Napoleon Hill first said “Success leaves clues.”

When we look at the winners, we see common principles consistently applied. Those principles are simple and yet powerful when applied successfully, they transform an organization to compete and deliver value as the external and internal pressures accelerate.

  ​If we hope to stay ahead of the technology curve and lead an organization into 2025 and beyond, we must make it a personal obsession to continually disrupt ourselves, to open ourselves to new thoughts, trainings and learnings 

Principle #1: Focus on all 3 levels of execution excellent.

The Execution Pyramid model includes 3 levels of execution. First is vision, there must be a sufficiently compelling vision to mobilize the resources for success and overcome the organizational inertia inherent to deploy any large scale change management initiative successfully.

Next we need to focus on the strategic level of execution where we convert the vision to a practical strategic roadmap with milestones, portfolio and project plans and resourcing aligned to deliver.

Lastly we have to actually execute the day to day tasks and activities for the projects and initiatives to be embedded into the organizational DNA and drive value sustainably over time.

We all have a bias an individuals and organization to focus on one level at the expense of the others. But if we hope to deliver a transformation that is sustainably successful, we have to build our team’s competency around all three levels.

Principle #2: Be Obsessed with Solving Relevant Problems

Too often technology leadership falls prey to the “my baby” syndrome where they focus on how great their solution is. Instead of getting blinded by this bias, build a healthy focus and obsession on the problem itself, understanding that problem and solving it.

Principle #3: Executive Sponsorship

The statistics still holds true that over 70 percent of change initiation efforts without executive sponsorship stall. You must take a disciplined marketing approach to engage your leadership, especially those influencing key decisions or holding the resources to succeed, and actively manage those relationships. The best strategy is to focus on making the dominos of key stakeholders fall. This focuses you on that one key “domino” stakeholder and fully engaging them instead of trying to manage large groups of stakeholders and only being partially effective.

Principle #4: Stay Calibrated to Truth

To lead digital transformation you must create standards, dashboards for performance that are SMART and also objective and provide one source of truth for how the business is doing and how the projects being delivered are doing. We have to avoid relying on subjective feedback for project status where possible and track output variables like process KPIs to validate benefit delivered. Lastly we must stay calibrated to the end user of the applications and how they feel about the application and its usefulness. Too many times we get the middle management filter on how the application is doing in terms of user adoption and feedback. Creating a strong process and tracking performance with objective and validated metrics where possible is critical to avoid these traps.

Principle #5: Personal Transformation

If we hope to stay ahead of the technology curve and lead an organization into 2025 and beyond, we must make it a personal obsession to continually disrupt ourselves, to open ourselves to new thoughts, trainings and learnings, and install that passion for growth into our teams. The pace of a team is the pace of the leader’s growth in today’s digital marketplace. These five simple principles, if practiced consistently will dramatically improve the changes of leading digital transformation successfully and leading your organization into 2025 and beyond. Let’s work to build those habits now as we are collectively in need of Digital Leaders that can survey the terrain and lead us to higher ground of passionate employees, a growing organization and raving fan customers.

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