Leading Change

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The Need for ‘Techno-Supporting Skeptics’

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Digital technologies will increase the high levels of ambiguity that executives must navigate. Aspiring leaders may respond by ignoring the challenge, which isn’t sustainable. A better response is to harbor healthy skepticism of the digital technologies they champion, develop values that will lead to better decisions, and work to institutionalize those values at the organizational level.

Digital Is About Speed — But It Takes a Long Time

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The ability of digital technologies to accelerate business is giving rise to new value propositions — new ways to eliminate hassles and create solutions. But research from MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research suggests that while business leaders need to start redesigning their existing systems and roles to better solve customers’ problems, they will not be able to do so quickly. Case in point: The slow and steady digital transformation of Dutch technology company Royal Philips.

The New Digital Mandate: Cultivate Dissatisfaction

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Employee satisfaction can be a double-edged sword. Satisfied employees produce higher quality-outputs and have less turnover. But satisfaction can inhibit innovation: People who are OK with the current way of doing business are not likely to transform it. They need to be aggravated enough with their current situation that they are willing to take the risks to change it. By sowing the right kinds of dissatisfaction, leaders can drive their organizations to higher levels of innovation and value.

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What to Expect From Agile

What happens when a company whose roots go back over a century — a bank, no less — decides to adopt agile management methods developed in the software industry? Though ING bank in the Netherlands is less than three years into the process — and it’s therefore premature to declare the initiative a success — taking a deep dive into the organization’s early experience with agile is nonetheless instructive.

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.

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Seizing Opportunity in Data Quality

Bad data is the norm. Every day, businesses send packages to customers, managers decide which candidate to hire, and executives make long-term plans based on data provided by others. When that data is incomplete, poorly defined, or wrong, there are immediate consequences: angry customers, wasted time, and added difficulties in the execution of strategy. Getting in front on data quality is crucial, and presents a terrific opportunity to improve business performance.

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.

Don’t Confuse Digital With Digitization

“Becoming digital” is a totally different exercise from digitizing. Digitization involves standardizing business processes and is an important enabler of digital, but digitization on its own won’t make a business a digital company. Instead, a digital transformation involves rethinking a company’s value proposition. To become digital and pursue a digital vision, companies must embrace information-enriched customer solutions delivered as a seamless, personalized customer experience.

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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The Case Against Agility

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Leaders today must wean their companies away from three pieces of conventional wisdom about digital strategy: agility, first-mover advantage, and minimum viable product. These ideas have anchored technological decision-making for over a decade but are highly unsuitable for the emerging world. In conditions of environmental uncertainty and interconnected technology, we need more thoughtfulness rather than more speed.

The 2017 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

The editors of MIT Sloan Management Review are pleased to announce that the winner of this year’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded annually to the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development, is Emilio J. Castilla’s article “Achieving Meritocracy in the Workplace.”

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