Our daily work with different organisations confirms the overall thesis about lots of opportunities for working smarter. An over-use of the term “digital transformation” may have turned some folks off, but we experience heaps of options for improving performance using digital technology in general. Unfortunately, we also observe a reluctance to change. Here we present the three primary reasons for not pursuing obvious opportunities as we experience them, along with ideas on what to do.
Problem #1: Technical constraints in systems
Historically technical systems always had constraints, and engineers are trained in working around these. The overall approach was to manage around scarcity. Over time, technology has become less hindrance, but the “scarcity mindset” still prevails in many organisations. Thus, some reluctance to change is caused by a mindset of “not possible”.
Problem #2: Requirements unclear or at least ambiguous
We hear about plenty of opportunities for working smarter, but often these ideas are not well defined. All too often, they are in the category “wouldn’t it be cool if we could do something different” without detailing a clear objective. In the absence of clear and well-articulated goals, the organisation defaults to a regression to the old ways of doing things; don’t change anything.
Problem #3: Silo thinking
Sometimes it is difficult to instigate change across organisations or different departments. The necessary technical skills or knowledge reside in one department, and the business opportunity in another. Unless there is a clear communication enforcing and supporting such initiatives, ideas for change will never gain momentum.
How to get started on improving performance
As previously mentioned the lack of change is (most often) not due to a lack of ideas. There are many great ideas, but all too often these are stalled or delayed forever. Here we present some straight-to-the-point suggestions on what to do, to get started on the path of using digital technology for improving performance.
Lead the way
Somebody has to raise their hand and say “I take the initiative on this one”, and it might as well be you. One of my clients once said something like: “Most tech projects are not tech projects at all – they are more culture change ventures”, and I tend to agree. And any change of any kind requires someone, who will at least take the joint initiative. One place to get inspired is by the above famous quote by Steve Jobs:
In most cases, people don’t want to change anything. It is a well-known fact that you will face two different schools of thought. Those who advocate that don’t touch it if it isn’t broken, versus those who support to change things simply because change is a good thing. Independently of the predominant thinking in your organisation, Steve Jobs was on to something. Most people find it difficult to imagine things being different, especially if the most needed change is presented abstractly.
Therefore, lead the way, take the initiative and remember people cannot easily express what they need if you ask them.
Start small – minimise the risk
Most people are risk-averse and will think more about what can go wrong, then consider the upsides of changing things. When discussing risk, we must remember that we talk about the perceived threat, not the actual facts-based risk. Most people are emotional decision-makers and therefore perceived risk plays a huge role in how they evaluate things. I’m fond of this quote by legendary marketing expert Jack Trout:
One way to get around the perceived risk is to start small. Find something, small enough to be perceived close to risk-free, but sufficiently large to make an impact when you succeed. The advantage of this approach is two-fold. First of all, you’ll experience less opposition simply because the stakes are not that high.
Secondly, this approach provides you with some leverage in the form of less expectation. Sometimes people like to kick off things with a big bang, which can be an efficient way to gain some traction in a hurry. But the downside is an increased awareness and therefore, level of expectation. With a big bang kick-off, you sell your idea hard and create a high level of expectation of results.
Therefore, start small to get around people’s natural risk aversion.
Perfect is the enemy of good
Ship your project as soon as you have something to show. Most likely, it will not be right the first time around. By now, it should be clear that people will be reluctant to commit to your ideas on how to improve performance. The old mantra of “show, don’t tell” is the way to go, and therefore the sooner you can have something in front of the users, the better.
The reluctance to engage before your launch will be met by an equally strong response in the form of feedback. And feedback is valuable. No feedback means the users are indifferent, whereas any feedback means buying in on the ideas. There are at least two benefits of this process. Firstly, the solution gets better from the user’s perspective. Secondly, the user takes ownership of the idea and the presented solution. Both of which benefits the overall objective of introducing solutions to improve performance.
Building something valuable is an iterative process. Based on feedback, the solution will be adapted and in the end, much better. The chance of getting it right from the beginning is close to non-existing, simply because the users will ignore the solution in the early stages. No matter your plans, things will change when the solution meets reality.
Therefore, ship your project as soon as possible to get feedback.
We call this approach “Start over”
With the Ignition platform, we have the perfect tool for building such smaller and adaptable solutions. Instead of trying all kinds of tricks and twisting on the existing SCADA systems, we use Ignition in parallel and start over valuable solutions. This way, we don’t interfere with existing systems and are likewise not constrained by technical limitations.
This short video explains the concept.