Becoming a Digital Champion Starts with People

The path to becoming a digital champion in this Vortex of Change requires people and technology. But know that if you can’t help the people change, the technology on its own won’t get you there. Keep in mind that people doesn’t just refer to HR or your employees, people also means the CEO. Think of it this way: The C in CEO should stand for culture since part of the role of CEO is shifting from knowing it all to learning it all. Reimagining your business for the future is a not a trivial task! It should impact literally every facet of your business to some extent. This isn’t business as usual, and it should take even senior leaders well outside their comfort zone.

In our two previous blogs in this series, I’ve shared some thoughts on two key steps in your ongoing journey: what the business looks like in the future (the business vision) and the business strategy to get you there. This post will try to shine a light on what I believe is the single hardest part of any change: the people. Your people are your single most valuable asset. They make the company what it is, but as the specter of business reinvention in this digital age looms large, what are you doing to address the quantum leap in culture and workforce enabling that is unquestionably at the heart of your reimagined business?

Here are three themes to consider:

  • Believers Become Advocates
  • Embracing the Now
  • Are People More Important Than Strategy?

Believers Become Advocates

I’m often asked the question,  “Where do I start my journey of transformation?” It starts with a desire to change and the creation of a singular business vision. This begins with the leadership team who has the responsibility to agree and align on what that is. That’s agree and align versus define and share after the fact. There’s a big difference. You have to get the people to embrace and believe in the new direction. Don’t sell it to them; that simply perpetuates the “Ivory Tower” syndrome of yesteryear and, frankly, indicates that not much has really changed.

Believers become advocates, so as you start to consider the path forward, let your people have a voice. Be open to the democratization of ideas and opinions across the different generational demographics that make up your organization. Your human sensor network likely has some amazing insights, innovations, and approaches, and many of your people have proximity to the edge, namely the customer!

Even if an employee decides not to provide input for whatever reason, the mere fact you asked for it and are willing to take note of it makes people want to lean in, engage, and row the boat as hard as possible to help the company be successful. Let your people guide you, and do it consistently. When believers become advocates, good things can happen.

Embracing the Now

The nature of work has changed. The psychological contract between employee and employer is turning upside down. The 9-to-5 job is gone. Productivity can’t be measured based on the number of hours worked, and innovation can’t be left solely to research and development.

Embracing the now means fostering and incentivizing innovation and acting with velocity (speed and direction). That means taking a good hard look at work practices (including tools and the physical environment), plus ensuring you are providing accountability at every level. Empowerment at the edge enables more rapid decision-making closest to the point of impact, acting in the company’s best interests and further improving employee belief in the direction of the company and their role in driving it.

It also means embracing a philosophy of “good enough” to ensure you get a time-to-market advantage and start to operate at the speed of the customer. Perfection these days is overrated. If you wait for something to be perfect, it’ll take a while, and by the time you think it’s done, the goal posts will have shifted, and you might be done! Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, and Slack do this. Chevron, Netflix, and Allianz are other good examples. Intel too. Incentivizing ideas and empowering our employees has helped us create over 600 patents over the past five years.

Are People More Important Than Strategy?

That’s not an either/or question. One drives the other, and if you can find the best people, they can bring your strategy to life.

The challenge for senior leaders is to ensure the organization is able to attract, develop, and retain the best talent. This isn’t easy, especially for large established business. Grey cubes aren’t cool! What range of skills and expertise do you really need? Perhaps some or all of the seven critical skills identified by noted education expert Tony Wagner. Where will you find these skills? Will you build them? Buy (at what cost)? Borrow? Bind?

There’s also the aspects of diversity and inclusion across the workforce. You need to make sure you’re not just hiring the same types of people across your entire organization, else you run the risk of falling into the “agreement trap” — thinking that consensus always results in good decision-making. The opposite is true, as diversity creates a healthy conflict that leads to the development of the best ideas. Clearly, this includes the ever-increasing spotlight shining on the millennial generation that will form 50 percent of the workforce by 2020 and whose motivations, values, and work styles are quite different from older generations. I could write an entire blog on this, but suffice it to say, you need to get your organization’s arms around this growing segment of the workforce if you expect to stay ahead.

In my next blog, I’ll talk about the digital business platform, the changing role of IT as a business unit, delivery of a platform for innovation, and the idea of monetizing data. Until then, you can learn more about Intel business leadership at our blog or sign up for the IT Center newsletter.