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Allan Maram
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June 22, 2022

INSIGHTS ARTICLE: Arcadis - Digital Transformation: Why You Have to Go Back to the Future

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Digital Transformation: Why You Have to Go Back to the Future

 

Introduction 

Approximately 3 years ago I interviewed with a start-up, who have since grown tremendously. They provide coaching to people at all levels, not just leadership or management.  They have a national network of coaches who facilitate coaching sessions over video calls.  Logistics are easy, and the coverage is broad.

It is difficult for people to grow and develop in a stagnant culture, or where managers or leaders need coaching or actual counseling themselves. Consider this in the context of organizational transformation.  Efforts to coach sporadic individuals often fail, because underlying root cause aspects have more to do with enabling contexts and team/leader behavior. 
 

Silo-based, self-interested and politics driven environments can create fear and survival behavior, which is not aligned to change capability.  These contexts hinder growth and perpetuate non-productive dynamics, that affect the delivery of external consultants as well.  Hence, efforts to track the progress of transformation initiatives, and underlying root causes, can be way off the mark.  

So, where does this leave us?

I believe that there is opportunity to build capability through appropriate interventions, in areas of the business that may be open, at some level, to experimentation or possibility.  An openness to change is often learned as a cultural cue.  The prevailing climate and culture thereby set the tone for what is possible. 

There is limited time to think in the digital space.  Old operating models can take ages to align to new digital business models and products/service offerings.  What is needed is an unconscious bias towards change and innovation.  Put differently, what is needed is change capability, developed through an enabling context, that orients - ways of seeing, noticing, feeling, being and behaving - almost unconsciously towards change, growth, and well-being.

How do we go about shifting “frozen” contexts which may inhibit movement and growth?

I set out to answer this very question and I made unexpected discoveries and linkages.  I found that both teams and their leaders share common properties I.e., they both have narratives that link to some image “the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves”, where the image is merely a construction, but interpreted as reality.  Teams carry much of their history, including difficult experiences (which restricts the flow of energy), just like individuals.  They both carry productive and unhelpful scripts, and intrusive thought patterns, which color sense-making.  

Once surfaced, those aspects need to be “felt”, “experienced” and openly “discussed” – through an empowering process.  Defusing from unhelpful thought patterns is critical to lay the groundwork for choosing which experiences to leave behind or take with into the future.  

Teams and leaders are then empowered to “choose” a context to lead from - a context that aligns to chosen ways of being and behaving, devoid of unhelpful attachments.  Only then can a new future be truly envisioned and “lived” out in the world, in line with chosen values. This is different from envisioning a future that may be adversely tainted by a lens of the past. 

How can this be implemented to create sustainable traction? 

Practically, this could be applied as an accelerator, where different areas or strata in a business could be incubated.  This could serve to accelerate traction in the broader organization, through the influence of leaders who have experienced elevated commercial outcomes in the business, and who may be better positioned to influence the prevailing narrative about what is possible. 

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