Moving to a Digital Organisation

Moving to a more digital organisation is about choosing the ways of working that will fulfil your strategy. As tempting as it may seem, there’s little to be gained copying the structures or models you have found elsewhere.

On Friday, I had a conversation with leading HR professionals about their organisations transformation towards more digital ways of working.  The conversation was focused on what steps HR professionals can take to help assist this transformation. A key first step was to understand what we meant by a more digital organisation.  Digital maturity is an ongoing process.

What are your goals?

Different organisations are competing in different markets and facing a wide range of challenges and opportunities.  Becoming a more digital organisation can mean a lot of things: radically transforming to digital only, becoming digital first, adopting services approaches, improving customer focus, speed and agility or even just managing a digital channel team more effectively.

The goals of any change should be to help accelerate or make more effective the organisations creation of value towards its strategic goals.  Each organisation has its own strategy and goals.

What does digital mean to you?

An outcome of that strategy will be where the organisation sees digital ways of working:

  • the digital team manages a channel to market
  • digital interactions are a way to engage and learn from customers and other stakeholders
  • We use digital product management approaches to manage digital products and channels
  • We use digital product management approaches to manage all products and channels
  • We use digital product management approaches to manage customer propositions
  • We see our business as a series of digital services and platforms
  • We are looking at new digital ways of working across the whole organisation

The model chosen will shape any changes to ways of working.

What are the dimensions of change?

Structure is the most obvious lever that HR can pull to make change in organisations. The temptation is to see the change to digital ways of working as a decision about structure.

While structure may be important for other reasons, particularly signalling changes in power or other elements of culture, there are a wide range of other dimensions that need to be considered in any change to digital organisation models.  These dimensions commonly include:

  • Strategy alignment and the strategy execution process in the organisation
  • Decision making, resource allocation and power
  • Work Practices and models
  • Cultural elements like psychological safety, autonomy,  growth mindset, risk appetites, etc
  • Capabilities to support the above

What’s the best model? Your Own

Many HR teams see the transformation to new digital ways of working as finding a different model that has been successful in an organisation and copying that.  The broken photocopier model doesn’t work because both:

  • the model is rarely copied in full or effectively; and
  • the culture and goals of the two organisations differ

Instead of moving from model A to a totally distinct model B. The challenge for HR teams is to start to iterate from model A to model A1.

HR must start to think digital in its ways of working too. HR can run a series of agile experiments to loosen the degrees of freedom on the dimensions above in pursuit of the organisation’s goals. Small iterative steps will deliver a new model that is consistent with the organisations purpose, allows employees to have agency in the changes and evolves the culture in constructive ways.  The outcome of the successful experiments will build the organisations own future model.


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