Leaders must create a change culture and promote a digital mindset across the whole organisation to achieve successful and sustainable digital transformation of their business.
Isaac Leow, Director of Owlz International Group, was speaking at the webinar on ‘Leadership in Digital Transformation’ organised by WOU’s School of Business and Administration (SBA) on 13 August 2022, and attended by about 20 people.
He described digital transformation as the “process by which companies embed technologies across their businesses to change the way of work”, such as CRM for sales, and various other apps. Digital transformation leads to increased efficiency and greater business agility, and unlocks new value for employees, customers and shareholders, he added.
He cited a study where 90% of CEOs believe digital economy will impact their industry, but less than 15% are executing a digital strategy. He said every successful digital transformation is driven by a combination of people, processes and technology.
“It is the people who drive the change within an organisation to reach their goals. You can have the best process, the best technology in your company, but if people are not implementing it, there is no progress,” he stressed.
Leow remarked that learning new technological skills is essential for digital transformation, but it is not enough. “What is important are people with a digital mindset, and the culture within the company. Leaders must motivate employees to use their skills to create new opportunities, and bring about the right work culture so that everyone works towards the company’s ultimate direction.”
He said leaders can push the change culture by making it clear to employees how digital transformation also serves their interests. “Transforming into a digital enterprise is not a one-off project but a journey, where the changes you will address span across people, processes and technology. It is a culture that needs to be developed by the company, the CEO, the management team, and it is a continuous process. The CEO must encourage digital transformation in the day-to-day operations.”
He continued, “Companies that quickly adapt to these changes can have a great competitive advantage, and be more relevant in the market.”
Elaborating on changing the mindset of the people, he said leaders must examine the language they use to promote change. “The way you think and talk about change is important. When someone makes a change towards the betterment of the company, celebrate and praise it. Encourage every small win.”
“Next, connect with the people. Involve them in the planning and implementation of your solution to reduce resistance and improve their buy-in to the change. People support change that they help create and for their own reasons, not just for the interest of the company.”
Leow said, “With effective communication on the need for change and its benefits to the organisation, more people will adopt changes willingly. You will notice a marked improvement in employee performance. It happens when they feel supported and understand the purpose of change”.
“Thirdly, when you as a leader encounter resistance to the change you want to make, embrace the resistance as your friend. Ask questions and listen to the concerns. Understand why they refuse to change. We need to identify the potential barriers to making change, so as to increase our odds of building support.”
He reiterated that the leader needs to maintain the change culture across the organisation. “For successful digital transformation, leaders may have to remove some star performers who are blockers, identifying and empowering people who have the knowledge needed to streamline changes as they surface, and bringing in external talent to augment internal capabilities,” he concluded.