Establishing the foundation for a thriving digital transformation

Any promising change initiative begins with identifying the projects focus and clarifying its goals.  Digital transformation is so all-encompassing that companies often find it difficult to adhere to these fundamental best practice principles for change management initiatives.  Part of the dilemma is that various misconceptions prevail about digital transformation: 

What exactly is it? How and when can it be achieved? 

Diverse views on the matter crop up and inevitably lead to a lack of alignment across the organization.

Flight guide for your digital transformation learning journey

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Ensemble Enabler has developed a special modular experience consisting of 6 core topics to support organizations to address the digital transformation process at any stage of development. This can be scaled across the entire organization both quickly and effectively.  

The result? 

  • An aligned understanding of the digital challenge
  • a better focus on the critical issues, and 
  • a significantly greater engagement of employees from all levels in the organization.  

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Each of these 6 core module topics will be described in more depth below. However, before we take a deep dive into the content of the six modules, let us look at the litany of key misconceptions about digital transformation which persist in most organizations. 

The Essential First Step: clarifying misconceptions

Even though digitalization has been a part of our world since the 1990s, many fundamental misunderstandings about what digital transformation means for organizations still prevail.  Eliminating these misunderstandings and creating alignment across the organization is the critical first step to mount a successful digital transformation initiative.

Here are some of the most common misunderstandings about digital transformation which are prevalent in many organizations:

Misconception #1       
Digital transformation is optional.

Although this misconception is gradually waning, there are many companies that continue to believe that parts of their business do not need to be transformed. A historical precedent provides food-for-thought about this kind of mindset:

In the early twentieth century, many manufacturing companies thought electrification simply meant replacing steam engines with electric motors.  The true gains came however from the redesign of production processes.  Many factories failed to understand the conceptual changes required.  The result: 40% of industrial trusts formed between 1888 and 1905 failed in the next 2 decades.  

Atkeson, Andrew and Kehoe, Patrick 2007 Modeling the Transition to a New Economy: Lessons from Two Technological Revolutions." Economic Review, 97 (1): 64-88

Fast forward to the 21st century: in his recent book entitled Digital Transformation (2019), Silicon Valley Guru Thomas Siebel predicts that:

 "It is estimated that 40 percent of the companies in existence today will shut down their operations in the next 10 years....Merely following the trends of change is not enough... Organizations need to reinvent the way they interact with the changing world."

Misconception #2
Digital transformation is difficult to define.

With the myriad technology offerings which exist in the marketplace, the endurance of this misconception is understandable.  Yet the definition of digital transformation is straightforward: it is the process of learning as an organization about how best to use technology to support its business goals.  

There is no "right" way to use technology. Twitter for instance, can be used as a customer service communication tool (as the airline KLM does) or alternatively as a window to understand what the competition is doing (as the pharmaceutical/chemical company Bayer does). Each business needs to discover for itself what the best use of a given technology might be.  

Misconception #3:                                                                  
Technology is the key element of digital transformation. 

No, it is not. Learning is at the heart of digital transformation.  A four year study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Deloitte which interviewed over 16.000 managers in diverse industries concluded the following:  The true challenge of mastering digital disruption (and a major part of the solution) is enabling people

Companies can effectively navigate the challenges of digital disruption by launching  initiatives which are far more organizational and managerial than technical.

"In a digital environment, organizations must shift from a world of 'scalable efficiency' to one of 'scalable learning'".  

Hagel, John, Beyond Process: How to Get Better, Faster as Exceptions become the Rule, Deloitte Insights, November 13, 2017

Misconception #4:                                                                              
Digitalization is led and owned by the Chief Digital Officer.

This flawed thinking leads to digital transformation proceeding in the following manner:  the leadership of an organization announces the nature of the next digital initiative and employees are expected to fall in line with this proposition.  

The problem with this approach is that the adoption of any kind of new digital technology actually hinders employee performance for the first few months. Why? It requires time to figure out how to best to integrate the new tools into a workflow.  Such top-down initiatives run the risk of creating significant resistance downstream.  New ways of working require providing employees with the adequate time and cognitive resources to explore, experiment and learn. 

Moreover, a top-down process often misconstrues the intrinsic nature of digital strategy. Traditonally formal business strategy has been formulated at the top and subsequently implemented throughout the organization in a multi-year time frame. In contrast, the development of a digital strategy is by nature iterative and requires substantial bottom-up feedback.  

Digital strategy is a continual process of identifying the overall goals, developing short-term initiatives which move the organization closer to the goal and then rethinking the nature of those goals based on what the organization has learned from those short-term initiatives.  As such digital strategy requires not only top-down commitment but bottom-up feedback as well.  The degree of digital maturity is measured by the extent that technology is adopted through pull (i.e. employees introducing novel technological solutions themselves) vs. push (i.e. all initiatives conceived and pushed into the organization from the top).

Misconception #5:                                                                                      
Setting up agile teams is sufficient.

This is the IT view of the world.  This perspective promotes the idea that everything can be solved with agile teams and agile methods.  The predicament of this approach is that these methods are not actually applied to the organizational culture as a whole, but usually just practiced within specific teams.  Some companies even go to the extent to ensure that their agile teams are 'quarantined' away from the normal business so that they do not 'infect' or clash with the traditional corporate culture.

Here is the stumbling block. Digital transformation means creating an agile organization - not only enabling agile teams.  Digital Transformation is all about transforming the organizational culture itself.

Misconception #6:                                                                            
Digital transformation is a final destination.

Truly digital organizations never arrive.  Digital transformation is a never ending journey.  Opting to initiate this journey is similar to the situation which the men of the Spanish Conquisador Hernán Cortés faced on the shores of Mexico when Cortes burned the boats which brought his men to the New World.  Once the boats are no longer there, there is no going back.  You can only go forward.

Furthermore, nobody knows where this journey leads.  We only know that we have no choice but to embark on it. 

 In the famous words of Antonio Machado: 
"Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking."

Ensuring a successful digital transformation

The misconceptions outlined above all elucidate that digital transformation requires the participation of everyone within an organization.  All levels of an organization need to learn, grow and adapt in order to become a truly digital organization. 

A bold new vision about how an organization will adapt to this constantly changing world needs to be championed by C-Suite executives.  Project managers need to responsible for creating an operative environment which is more conducive to effective work and collaboration in the digital age. Employees need to respond to digital disruption by mastering new skills through continual learning.

The first step in the digital transformation journey requires that these misconceptions about digitalization inside of your organization are uprooted and employees are supported to develop an understanding about what this journey means both for the organization and them personally.

In order to support the development of a vibrant organizational culture which fosters a thriving digital transformation, a 6 core module program has been developed for the use by organizations of all sizes:

Digital Strategy 1

Casts off the misconceptions about top-down, technology-centered, CTO-led digital transformation initiatives.  Explores what digital strategy is and why it matters.


Delves into the iterative nature of digital transformation and the importance of bottom-up feedback for a sustainable initiative.  Explores the attributes of a fail-early, learn fast culture.

cross functional

Throws light upon how communication across departments and functions acts as a potent catalyst for digital application breakthroughs. Examines the importance of breaking down silos to facilitate digital transformation.


Examines the core skill of digital transformation - scalable learning.  Underlines the urgency for all employees of an organization - from CEO, office and shop floor workers - to develop a growth mindset.

New Work

Scrutinizes the impact of digitalization on work processes and the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the organization. Addresses opportunities which employees can set in motion during the course of a career in a digital world.

Organizational Culture

Reveals the underpinnings of a truly agile organizational culture. Reflects upon the qualities of leadership throughout an organization to promote sustainable digital transformation: Digital transformation is culture transformation.

An impactful and sustainable approach for any digital transformation initiative

Our custom-designed learning modules on digital transformation offer a cutting-edge approach to learning within an organization while promoting "scalable learning".

Informed by the most recent research recommendations on outstanding digital transformation initiatives, these six core modules topics have been developed exclusively by Ensemble Enabler to address the core issues related to this continuous challenge. Through our powerful NETWORK CONNECTIONS approach, each module embodies the principles of interactive adult learning while establishing the foundation to foster scalable learning throughout an organization.

Involving employees in this learning journey about digital transformation fosters alignment throughout the organization by getting everyone "on the same page". This leads to substantially more productive deliberations on digital strategy and, as a result, a far greater level of engagement in its transformation processes and initiatives.

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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