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  • Writer's pictureJeanette Peterson

Transformation - Roadmaps without roads

In today’s world of digital transformation, It would appear that the proverbial roadmap everyone is talking about looks more like a map without roads. In reality, it might look more like a blank piece of paper with two red dots, one showing where we are, and the other where we want to or are recommended to be.

Don’t get me wrong, these two red dots I am referring to are incredibly important to understand. Just like any journey, a starting position and destination are necessary. However, the combination of them does not add up to a roadmap of any kind, regardless of how you choose to spin it.

So this then poses the question- What are these roadmaps that we all seem to be talking about?

In simple terms, these things we broadly called roadmaps are only the what is the problem part, not the how to solve it part. Which incidentally, is the most significant part of the work of preparing to transform an organisation.

To understand this conundrum, we need to take a step back and understand the dictionary meaning and definitions of a roadmap. Why because it might articulate how in business we manage to blur the lines and create absolute confusion in the process. I say this with tongue in cheek so to speak, because the next paragraph could quite possibly confuse you completely. But let’s give it a go anyway.

Well, the dictionary definition of a roadmap is; a plan or strategy intended to achieve a particular goal. Sounds straightforward enough. So then to dig deeper, the dictionary defines a plan as; a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something, and a strategy is defined as; a plan (detailed proposal) of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.

So why then is a digital transformation roadmap provided, culminating in what can be years of analysis of the current state, and projections of a future state, yet still having neither a plan nor a strategy?

This is a question I have been asking for some time. I am sure that many organisations at the beginning of the discovery phase of mapping out the current and future states, thought an actual roadmap with roads, so to speak would indeed be coming. Yet when they get there it is a roadless map.

This appears to be happening because what we are all calling a roadmap is just a problem statement combined with a future ideal of where you could or should be, without the actual roads that will get you there.

What I am about to say next might surprise you, and offend the Roadmapers. However, it needs to be said, or else digital transformations will continue to fail unabated as they are right now, costing millions of dollars and valuable time.

The Roadmapers are problem statement subject matter experts, and many of them are very good at it. However, the vast majority of them have never actually solved the problems they are uncovering in your organisations, nor do they have human capital or digital technical expertise to apply an enterprise strategy to them. I would suggest you read that again because it is vitally important to understand this fundamental gap in current digital transformation roadmaps provided by consulting firms.

For simplicity let's call the first dot A and the second dot B. The Roadmapers, and often your own staff have spent vast amounts of time and resources to get a clear view of dot A, being your current state. Dot B is then a combination of where you would like your organisation to be, mixed in with a mere suggestion as to a good place to be from the Roadmapers perspective, with absolutely no roads provided to get your organisation there.

The gap I am talking about here is no small space. It is a Grand Canyon-sized gap, which when discovered can often leave organisations in a more confused state than where they were when they began. Not only will there be emptier pockets, but also an overwhelming sense of what still needs to be done.

All this is happening whilst many companies are stuck at dot A, whilst dot B on the roadless map appears to get further and further away. In some cases, the confusion begins to make the dot B seem to almost disappear completely.

Why? Because technology and customer expectations are consistent and fast-moving targets. The moment you stop analysing dot A, your current state, it is already beginning to change and become irrelevant. To make matters worse the longer you stay at dot A, the more irrelevant the view of the current state becomes.

So what is the solution to this conundrum?

The first and most important step is to understand that there are 8 essential practices of transformation management success. You cannot deliver an effective digital transformation by simply breaking the problem into bite-sized chunks. Just as your organisation's problems don’t exist in isolation, neither do the solutions needed to solve them.

I have witnessed repetitively in organisations over 25 years that they try to transform through project management practices instead of transformational management practices. This is a hard and often expensive lesson to learn, in time, resources, and ultimately financial cost.

In project management, there are 3 commonly practised phases, discovery, planning and delivery. These are excellent practices once you get down to delivering a specific solution. However, successful transformation management requires a much more robust approach. Project management practices are used successfully in technology upgrades, not whole-of-business transformations.

Here are the 8 essential practices in transformation management success. They are in no particular order and one affects all the others interchangeably.

1: Discover the problem

2: Develop a future vision in mind

3: Build a strategy

4: Analyse & Develop your people & organisational capabilities

5: Build the real roadmap to tomorrow together

6: Deliver objectives on a solid foundation

7: Develop creativity & be prepared to fail

8: Develop the flexibility to adjust your course

When you begin to understand that what the Roadmapers provide in their roadmap is only the tip of the iceberg, you will begin to paint a clearer picture of the road ahead. In reality, the Roadmapers are merely addressing the first practice, with a baseline recommendation for the second practice. Then and only then will you have some clarity as to the work ahead of you. This will enable you to better plan your financial and people resources more effectively to achieve a successful digital transformation, without disappearing into the gap.

There is potentially a long road ahead that is best walked together with your people, through an approach that is both transparent and inclusive. Through the building blocks of resilience; you can collectively wade through the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity together.

The longer you have stayed on the red dot you are now standing on in your organisation, the more work you have to do to get to where you need to be. Do it right and the organisation can not only achieve success, but you will also create the potential for joy in the journey for everyone on the way.

If you are an organisation that has found yourself standing still, confused about digital technology and how to maximise it in your organisation. You are not alone.

Workplaces are changing and organisations of the future need new ways of working to gain the greatest benefit from digital technology advancements. In the end, your organisation is nothing without the people that work within it.

After all, an organisation is merely an organised group of people with a particular purpose. Sometimes it pays to remember this very basic definition of a word used to describe something inanimate like a company. There is no company without people.

There is a future for us all in the digital world, it is just about beginning to understand the journey ahead and new ways to get there. Whether you are a c-suite executive who is likely not a technology expert, or a person who interacts with the customers, we all have a role to play. The sum of us is far more powerful to achieve transformation than any single decision-maker individually. Let's harness that power for collective success.

If we can support your organisation in developing the 8 practices of transformation management success, don’t hesitate to reach out to start the conversation. Together we can help your organisation to avoid disappearing into the gap.

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