Unpacking Transformation 2020, Intro: Rewrite The Game

A Guide To Subverting Digital Transformation Hype And Clearing Your Path To Discovery, Ignition & Growth

A Writing Habit

Writing (and rewriting) is a powerful way to clarify your thinking, to clearly communicate your ideas to others, and to serve as a critical feedback mechanism that enables analysis & fine-tuning. It’s a skill that a majority of leaders won’t put into practice so it’s a great way to grow your advantage in any discipline.

This is an expanded rewrite of an earlier series that began to take shape as a how-to guide for HK5 Playbooks: A Framework for Discovery, Ignition & Growth – shared in part 7 and available now.

Amazon is famous for banning Powerpoint decks in favor of narrative-form written memos that are read silently, for context, in the first 30 minutes of leadership meetings. Ex-Amazon exec Marco Argenti just borrowed the idea for his new role as Co-CIO at Goldman Sachs. The practice has applications that stretch well beyond meetings.

Re-frame, Then Rewrite

Transformation is human not digital. And it’s not a standalone category. Anyone with skin in the game understands that the alchemy of change is some combination of leadership + key people/catalysts, culture, creative permission and technology that’s unique in different industries and even across teams withing the same org.

‘Digital Transformation’ is presented as its own category because it’s an easy pitch – like a prescription. Its persistent and lackluster results reveal the inadequacy of positioning DX as the top layer. The name itself, capitalized for emphasis, is a sugary promise that repeatedly gives way to bitter kool-aid. It’s time for tired ideas like org-wide buy-in, generic best practices, and the digital magic bullet to vanish.

Change = Business = Change

Change is the top-level category and digital transformation(s) is one branch. ‘Transformations’ is plural because, in addition to the category snag, the mindset of a singular event is both oversimplified and insufficient. An ongoing cycle of micro-transformations is more tuned in.

 Re-frame The Category, Then Rewrite The Game

  1. Make peace with uncertainty and forever-changing priorities: digital transformation is just a small piece of a big picture that includes everything happening internally, plus changing customer expectations, privacy & trust concerns, advances in technology, unforeseen retreat from globalization… The hysterical urgency is part real, part marketing illusion. Talent is your biggest risk – and some of them may already work for you.
  2. Digital technology cannot stand up on its own: people are required to build & implement it, provide input, and interpret output in order to extract ROI. Snazzy digital capabilities ≠ value i.e. my ability to do back flips doesn’t offer you any business advantage. “There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great [digital] efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”Peter Drucker
  3. One-size-does-not-fit-all: vanity definitions, prescriptions, someone else’s use cases & best practices all give us a false sense of security where none exists. The one truth I hear from successful people is “I feel like we’re making this up as we go.” You are. Any authentic approach to change is necessarily a creative pursuit.

I’ll unpack important considerations for business change/transformation in slightly more granular articles. Some early drafts (with different working titles) are already available and linked below. They are all getting a rewrite in the coming weeks for depth & cohesion. Hopefully the series delivers some useful approaches for working on your own discovery, ignition & growth engines.

Next Steps

Additional Topics

Thanks for reading and I welcome your questions & critique in public or privately at thomas@hk5.io. May the 20’s, once again, be roaring.

Read why digital transformation got positioned as a standalone category and why we need to re-frame our thinking in Part 1: Change

Thomas Irre is the founder of HK5, LLC and an advocate of analog transformation – a common sense approach to sustainable business transformation that emphasizes people & performance first, and arms them with a flexible technology arsenal that aligns to clear-cut business goals.