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Managing the change process: why the digital transformation demands a clear attitude

The motto of DMEXCO 2019 was “Trust in you”. In 2020, it will be “Attitude matters!”
© Koelnmesse GmbH / Alita Holzhauer

Mastering the change process: a challenge for any company

Change processes increasingly necessitate restructuring measures, which have to be implemented in ever shorter timeframes. However, establishing new structures, strategies, systems, processes, and workflows as part of change management always involves a great deal of effort from everyone involved, whether it is the leaders of the change process or those who are affected by it, namely the stakeholders.

In general, people are skeptical of changes and tend to reject them because they convey a sense of uncertainty with regard to the future. Even a change that is later perceived as sensible and positive once the change process has been completed will be perceived as a potential threat and risk during the change process.

For this reason, managers responsible for implementing the change process need to have an impressive skillset in order to execute the process quickly, comprehensively, and in a way that encourages stakeholders to cooperate as well as accept and support the transformation. Such skills include:

  • Conflict management
  • Project management
  • Coaching
  • Communication techniques

This list lacks one important trait that is not only essential for managers in charge of a change process, but in our opinion, actually plays a key role: a clear attitude – that’s what matters. But what does this mean exactly in relation to the change process and how does the right attitude have a significant influence on the overall success of the change process?

A clear attitude provides stability during the change process

On the journey of change, it is not only important to take the stakeholders along with you, but you also need to keep your own goals in mind in such a VUCA setting. Applying agile methods, such as Scrum, or transforming your entire organization according to the design thinking approach are effective ways of

  • counteracting the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) of the digital transformation, and
  • bringing the whole staff on board and establishing a culture of change.

This alone is not enough, though.

In a culture of change and continuous adaptation to new situations, which form the basis of agile methods, there will always be the risk that clear guidance, i.e. aligning all actions with one specific goal, will get lost along the way.

If you constantly adapt your actions to external conditions, you run the risk of just blowing with the wind and following an arbitrary approach. Every change process needs a clearly defined perspective, a point of focus, a goal worth striving for together.

It is management’s task to set this goal. It is the essence of your organization, its attitude put down on paper. American digital companies in particular also communicate this attitude as part of their mission, not only internally, but also externally in an assertive and highly public manner as an integral part of their brand.

Here are some of the most famous mission statements that encapsulate the attitude of these global corporations:

  • Apple (when headed by Steve Jobs): “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
  • Microsoft: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
  • Facebook: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
  • Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • Amazon: “To serve consumers through online and physical stores and focus on selection, price, and convenience.”

Practice what you preach: attitude inspires

You can’t fake an attitude. It reflects the inner values that influence how you think and act. If you have doubts yourself about a plan to change something, even the strongest arguments won’t be enough to convince the stakeholders and make them enthusiastic about your project. If you don’t come across as credible to your employees, your integrity, and consequently your authority as a leader, will take a heavy blow.

A successful digital leader is someone who reaches predefined goals and makes his or her vision tangible to others so that they want to achieve those goals, too. However, the strategies and tactics used to accomplish this and overcome obstacles must remain flexible as part of the digital transformation. The vision must therefore be inspiring and motivating enough to make everyone involved willing to be a part of the journey.

Do my attitude and actions speak the same language during the change process?

For you to be seen as a leader during the change process, your attitude and actions need to correspond. But how do you know if this is the case? Well, you have to take a critical look at yourself and make yourself aware of your actions. Take the time to ask yourself the following questions regarding how the change process, your organization, and your personal attitude are linked:

  • How useful is the desired change in your personal opinion?
  • How will the planned change process benefit the future of your organization?
  • To what extent will the change process help achieve the corporate goals?
  • Is the aim of the change process in line with the motivation and attitude of your organization?
  • Do your actions today match what you asked of your employees a week ago?
  • Do you completely stand behind what you are communicating to your employees and would you want to implement all this in exactly the same form yourself?
  • How often do you qualify or withdraw statements you have previously made?
  • Does your communication give every employee a sense of appreciation?
  • How do you define credibility for yourself and how is it manifested in your daily actions?

It’s not the end of the world if you can’t give a clear answer to every one of these questions. They are mainly intended to encourage you to reflect on yourself. To be able to show a clear attitude to those around you, you first need to know how you stand on certain topics yourself.

Good leadership during a change process involves regularly reflecting on your own attitude, how your attitude is perceived by others, and how this all correlates with your actions. It is not only normal, but even desirable for there to be discrepancies. Only then will you be able to position yourself more clearly, convince others, and ultimately grow in your leadership role.

Attitude matters!

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