The true digital transformation can only be accomplished in an agile operational framework, so experimentation is critical.
The principles of the agile movement have moved beyond the IT department, seeping into the day-to-day functioning of the business. This modern way of running and organizing a business is gaining impetus, driven by the rush to digitally transform for competitive advantage. Such changes require transforming a company’s operating model and adopting iterative steps. Using the agile approach minimizes risks, validating the company’s efforts to meet the desired outcomes. Unfortunately, even though companies realize the benefits of an agile approach, but they struggle to implement them.
A critical element that firms miss is the need to change their corporate culture to support an agile environment. At the heart of this change is the long-standing practice of penalizing failure. The tolerance towards failure needs to be deeply ingrained in the business psyche. Most digital transformations demand the willingness to experiment to learn and test. Project leaders need to admit that much of the details of a transformation journey are unknown, and the best results are derived only through the evolution of the ideas improvised by failures. With the ambiguity of change in the big business model for the most ambitious digital transformation efforts, the organization must establish a foundation of learning for best results. This foundation can only be supported through an ongoing series of experiments accompanied by the risk of failure to best absorb the learnings.
The organization builds its confidence based on learnings from falsehoods and experiences. Decisions based on such criteria are often short-lived. The transformation initiatives based on other’s experiences only move forward on flawed foundations and incorrect learnings. Companies need tightly coupled components that could interact with each other, seamlessly building a great customer or employee experience.
Firms make promises, conduct evaluations, prepare specifications, undertake pilots, and spend millions of dollars promising initiatives that could become strategies. However, often, they end up exhausting themselves on such efforts and not achieve promised objectives. By exaggerating success or failing to learn from their failures, firms move forward with flaws integrated into their evolution journey, building an ever-compounding problem.
Resolving the issue to embrace the agile philosophy for transformation requires a shift of mindset from companies’ traditional intolerance of failure. Experimentation is an essential element, and companies need to celebrate their failures, learn from them, rather than penalize. In failing fast and failing forward, firms can do projects; understand their success ratio to address the gaps. Even if programs are not allowed to change, companies can objectively analyze the impact of individual projects to recognize the fail probability against the pre-defined objectives.
Some corporate brands have already changed their corporate lexicon renaming the term “failure” to something like “pilot to learnings.” The agile approach to transformation is beyond the managers or owners holding teams responsible for delivery of predefined workstreams. The company looking to adopt an agile approach sets the target but not the time or cost. It is essential to break the journey down into sprints or phases with goals for each phase, allowing adjustments as per the desired impact. Each target is designed to prove the viability of the change because of the transformation.
Moreover, an agile, iterative structure – experimentation –identifies where new business value can be created and ways to deliver new value.
That is the real success, not a failure!