Change Management

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Five Rules for Leading in a Digital World

To thrive in times of digital transformation and rapid change, organizations accustomed to siloed bureaucracy must become nimble and customer-centric; command-and-control models must give way to distributed leadership. Many leaders fear letting go, but they must evolve quickly or risk extinction. Research at the MIT Leadership Center suggests that executives and managers who do five things in particular are best equipped to navigate what lies ahead.

A New Era for Culture, Change, and Leadership

Renowned social psychologist Edgar Schein and his colleagues defined how we thought about organizations and leadership in the 1950s. But in the digital era, Schein — working with his son, Silicon Valley executive Peter Schein — has developed a new perspective, one that advocates combining culture, change, and leadership into an integrated process, rather than viewing them as three separate topics of importance.

Building Digital-Ready Culture in Traditional Organizations

For legacy companies, culture change is often the biggest challenge of digital transformation. How can they become more agile and innovative without alienating their best employees or wrecking their best existing practices? This article provides a framework for leaders in any industry. The process begins with understanding four key values of digital culture: impact, speed, openness, and autonomy. It then involves adopting or refining a set of digital-ready practices, grounded in these values.

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The First Law of Digital Innovation

  • Read Time: 8 min 

Most of us know Moore’s law, that the power of semiconductor chips grows exponentially, not linearly, over time. Moore’s law, though, is only part of the technology equation. There’s another critical law that needs more attention. It’s this: While technology changes quickly, organizations change much more slowly. That means digital transformation is as much a leadership challenge as a technical one.

The Surprising Value of Obvious Insights

Findings don’t have to be earth-shattering to be useful. In fact, obvious insights can help you overcome three barriers to change in your organization: resistance to new data (“But that’s not what my experience has shown”), resistance to change itself (“But that’s the way we’ve always done it”), and organizational uniqueness bias (“That will never work here”). You can also gain trust by confirming what people already believe.

Key Words for Digital Transformation

By many rights, one might have expected to find Adobe on the register of companies disrupted by digital. And yet the 35-year-old software developer has persevered by embracing the very technological forces ― think cloud, mobile, platforms, IoT ― that could have meant its demise. The result? This legacy producer of packaged software designed for the desktop is thriving.

Using Digital Communication to Drive Digital Change

  • Read Time: 7 min 

Leaders trying to get their organizations to adopt new technologies or ways of thinking tend to kick things off with inspirational speeches, but then communication grinds to a halt. The lack of information leads to doubt, cynicism, and anxiety — emotions that quickly become obstacles to change. To fix this problem, leaders should model the behaviors they want to see, using digital tools to deliver a steady stream of messages to employees and gathering and responding to feedback.

Consider Culture When Implementing Agile Practices

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 13 min 

Adopting agile development practices helps organizations bring their products and services to market quickly and respond nimbly to market changes. In an increasingly global business landscape, taking the time to address cultural differences when implementing agile is crucial for project success.

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When Communication Should Be Formal

Formal communication channels, such as protocol-guided meetings, are often eschewed by today’s managers and employees, who prefer the ease of email and apps. But informal avenues can lead to oversights and inefficiencies that hurt performance. That’s the central finding of research from IE Business School on manufacturers of high-tech machinery. Fortunately, formal communication protocols can be designed to both maximize performance and overcome people’s resistance to adopting them.

Why Tech Companies Don’t See Their Biggest Problems Coming

Technology companies, such as Facebook, often fail to make crisis management a central feature of their operations, thanks to five blind spots to which they are especially susceptible. Recognizing these shortcomings is the first imperative; the next is developing a well-designed crisis-management program that includes several key features. All tech companies should take heed, because failing to reflect — and then act — can worsen the consequences of crises that come down the pike.

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Unpacking the AI-Productivity Paradox

Systems using artificial intelligence increasingly match or surpass human-level performance, driving great expectations and soaring stock prices. Yet measured productivity growth has declined by half over the past decade.

How Effective Leaders Drive Digital Change

Success in managing digital transformation starts with clarification of priorities, effective feedback, open development communications, and a willingness to take risks. These four behaviors, which allow employees to share ideas more freely and embrace taking risks, can lead to higher-performing teams during digital transformation.

Leading in a Time of Increased Expectations

Traditionally, big energy companies focused primarily on power generation, not customer-centricity. But that’s changing — and today’s digitally empowered customers have opinions about everything from where their energy should come from to when their bills should arrive. Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy Corp., reflects on guiding her company through this transformation.

Turning Strategy Into Results

Businesses develop strategies to address complex, multi-layered business environments and challenges — but to execute a strategy in a meaningful way, it must produce a set of specific priorities focused on achieving clear goals. Rather than trying to boil the strategy down to a pithy statement, executives will get better results if they develop a small set of actions that everyone gets behind.

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