Choose your (Digital) Transformation Strategy

Stay true to your purpose, take honest stock of your current position, and have good enough data to see how best to make a difference for those you serve. If you do this, you cannot but win.

“Strategy is a pattern in a stream of decisions” — Henry Mintzberg

When I published ‘Understanding innovation and the product lifecycle’ on June 16th this year, it was not meant as a stand-alone article. Instead, I wanted to set the stage for what is to come, defining a customer-centric (digital transformation) strategy.

The next few articles should be read in sequence, and this is number three in the series, actually! The first was ‘About Customers, Products, Markets, and JOBS.’ on the 11th of June, followed by ‘Understanding innovation and the product lifecycle’ on June 16th.

By now, you may have realized that my view on strategic decisions considers only three things;

  • Your true north (or purpose)
  • Your context (environment), and
  • Understating how well your products are doing in creating value for customers

If you want to win, you need to stay true to your purpose, you need to take honest stock of your current position, and you must have good enough data to see how best to make a difference for those you serve (your customers primarily). If you do this, you cannot but win.

And, winning is not defined by a short-term view of how profitable the organization is — that type of attitude is a perversion created by financial markets.

Winning is defined as us staying true to our purpose and maximizing value for all stakeholders.

You say what about the money — surely that is important!

Yes, it is, but — continuing to make money is a much more desirable outcome than making money now.

Moreover, focusing on short-term profitability makes a mockery of the concept of investment — the market’s fixation with the short-term financial performance today makes absolutely no sense!

This perverse view of business is the cause of much that is wrong in the capitalist system today — capitalism use to have a head and a heart, not just greed. I blame Milton Friedman for ever publishing his now-famous 1970 Times magazine article, where he argued that businesses’ sole purpose is to generate profit for shareholders. Yes, Friedman said a bunch of other things that were great, but no one remembers once they get an excuse for greed!

But I digress…

Invest now for a longer-term return, for a sustainable return.

A financial return — yes, but also in meaning, growth, happiness, purpose, and a place in society.

The key message here is that every decision you will take from hereon must contribute to you fulfilling your purpose. Everything else is a distraction!

So how do we do that?

We use data we collect to answer four simple questions:

  1. What do we need to continue doing?
  2. What do we need to stop doing?
  3. What do we need to start doing?
  4. What do we need to do better?

If you are a Scrum person, this may sound familiar; it was, in fact, originally borrowed from Lean.

This set of articles revolves primarily around products, and secondarily to some extent, your business model (the way de create, deliver, and support our products and services).

We cannot make ANY decision without decent data!

But what data, where does it come from, and how do we get it?

It always amazes us that organization's first instinct is to look for this data outside of the organization.

Who can tell me about my market, my customers, my products, sometimes even my performance?

Let me buy that report, dataset, or hire that guru!

The reality is that you already have much of the data you need, or if you don’t, it’s relatively easy to collect it yourself.

By the way, there is a unique benefit in collecting the data yourself — it’s called insight!

Yes, unique insights are often a bonus in collecting data yourself and answering the question you want to get answered because you understand the context better.

The process of gaining meaningful insight starts by asking the right questions, and then it’s followed by making sense of it, and that ah-ha moment you will experience is the result!

In previous articles (Understanding innovation and the product lifecycle, and About Customers, Products, Markets, and JOBS.), we eluded to the fact that you specifically need information about;

  1. Customers
  2. Your products
  3. And the jobs your products do for customers

If you have this data, you should be able to answer most, if not all, of the three questions!

Once you have answered all of the questions — you can start thinking about how innovation can help you make a difference. To do that, you need to apply improvement or innovation techniques — by specifically asking the 4th question:

4. How best can we use disrupting forces to our advantage? (Read more in ‘Digital Transformation Gamechangers — not Technology’ published on 10 July for some hints).

You will notice that Agile ADapT is riddled with questions — what’s up with all these questions we need to ask?

Simple, finding answers to questions brings insight, and insight is the best fuel for action!

For each of the three (make that four) questions (actually, categories of questions), you need to answer three simple questions again.

The questions may be simple, but there is no single answer to any of these!

The questions are:

  1. What do we know, and how do we know it? (Can I trust it to be true and valid?)
  2. What don’t we know, and why should we know it? (the most difficult one to answer)
  3. What is the easiest way of finding out what we need to know, on which we can reliably base decisions?

You say — it can’t be that simple!

Well, there are lots of ways we can get better at it, and there are lots of ways to find data to better support decision making, BUT only once you have these simple sets of data!

So YES, IT IS THAT SIMPLE!

This is the fundamental data you need to make the right decisions!

As you start doing this more and more — you will become better and better at it. However, data collection and refinement of data collected is NOT a one-time activity! You need to have the tenacity of a two-year-old when seeking answers to your questions!

In the next article, I will explore what to do with the data to gain unique insights! Until then…

p.s. I know that many reading this would love to get their hands on a more definitive list of questions that can develop additional insights, and yes we have a list (not definitely though) like that, but if you want to lay your hands on it, you need to get it from our the Agile ADapT work-group on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8911226/

This article is part of a series exploring the use of Agile ADapT™, a Digital Transformation Method for incumbent organizations struggling to compete in the digital age.

Johann Botha - the digital change provocateur & CEO of getITright®, specializing in building organizational agility & other digital-age capabilities.