WTF is Digital Series: Part 6. People, Culture & Transformation

This is the culmination of the last 5 blogs in the WTF series and is really where you begin to kick start all of your learning, knowledge and skills into an Action Plan and get rolling! It is essential that you develop the right culture and allow leaders the mindset to allow for innovation. In my opinion, your people are your top priority.

Ensuring you adopt the right mindset for digital transformation is absolutely crucial. You are highly unlikely to have all of the skills needed to drive this change hanging around your existing organisation and perhaps possibly less likely at Board level. There is still a ‘job lot’ of older skool CEO’s (not talking age here!) who have successfully delivered with that top-down approach for years, and I am not knocking it but times have changed, and digital requires a change of thinking at the top table if businesses are going to be around in the future. I have so much respect for senior players who have started to embrace Digital, there are a handful of perm secs (Clare Moriarty & Richard Heaton) who are regularly out on the circuit publicly and privately helping their teams support this agenda, that really impresses me! Our new Minister for Health has a strong pedigree in Digital, for me, this can only be a positive! I know a number of government departments are exploring putting their top teams through some Perm Sec/Director digital awareness; this is great news and is being echoed across the private sector. A number of clients have been asking us about services in this space from our Leaders practice, people know it is needed, and it’s beginning to be okay to ask for help!

Engaging others in a digital vision, Juliet Bauer was a huge advocate for this as my previous SRO at NHS Digital. The NHS.UK programme had stumbled before we arrived with team ideas about how things would be but no support or buy-in from the top table(s). The advent of a visual proposition showed people the art of the possible, it made it real for people to truly get behind this. One word of caution here is in ensuring people know its conceptual, e.g. that blue button will not actually be on the homepage in that way. This is rarely a one-off piece and rather needs to be shared, re-shared, debated and re-shared for the first few months of something being kicked off.

Addressing the digital skills gap is almost certainly one of my favourite areas; baselining the digital skills of an organisation is essential before any real transformation can commence. Having had years in IT Director and CIO roles, this has always been very much bread and butter with my technical teams. The advent of digital makes this even more prevalent, specifics like the discipline around User Research cannot be overlooked, this is such a contributing factor to the success Government has had in adopting digital… #UserNeeds! I did some work with Thomas Bryant when I was at DfE, and he was mapping out the Digital Skills Framework for GDS, over the years this has evolved into a tried, tested and proven model of assessing individuals on a 1:1 basis. Rita, who has recently joined us to help grow our Leaders Practice has been responsible for running these for me at DfE, TNA, NMC and more recently NHS Digital. The approach that we’ve taken includes mapping SFIA/GDS Skills Framework and running 1:1 sessions, really making that investment in people; this gives you a great opportunity to understand more about what they are interested in, want to focus on, external skills that can be utilised and their desire to get involved.

Creating organisational capacity for change, an obvious statement but this relies on managers understanding what their staff are currently working on. In the nirvana of a business, the strategy is ‘golden threading’ through the organisation and everyone’s PDR’s are aligned (I’ve never seen this place btw) then you have a very clear view on capacity. More realistic is the best guess approach and as I’ve used before the handbrake; if stuff can be stopped to prioritise doing something different this is recommended. Understanding the skills you have is key, getting your top team thinking digitally, I expect they use it way more in their personal lives than they do work right now; it’s a case of opening up those opportunities. Sticking ‘Digital’ on your company name does not mean you are done and sorted if anything the opposite!

Measuring impact, this is a fascinating one and has been successfully achieved across government in pockets; the gov dashboard is a great example. Establishing some critical success factors is essential; within the NHS.UK programme we were wanting to drive the update of digital tools ultimately reducing footfall into A&E. This required a sweep of ‘As-Is’ data before we even commenced the digital tracking. Another great way is the transparency around the work you are doing; success and failures need to be shared so others can learn, this daisy chain has been powerful in gov success. Lots of the organisations I have worked for don’t actually use marketing per say, as such finding this data to baseline can be challenging; for the private sector, this tends to be easier.

Building momentum and breaking inertia, defo one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced! With a 20yr interim career and frankly a disruptive personality I was often called in to break a few eggshells and get the party started. A note of caution for hirers, do be careful what you wish for; one person cannot do all of this, and if you are hiring disruptive they tend to be; not just on a Tuesday when you need challenging at your board meeting; but always!

Starting small is a sensible approach here; we deployed iPads into the reception at NMC to reduce traffic into the building. We also moved to a digital service rather than posting letters out, creating an environment where people can work in a digital way, implementing agile, helping policy people become product leads, buddying up and mentoring people in similar roles with counterparts who are further on this journey — the list is endless!

Creating an Action plan and getting motoring — as a company we have done some great work across a number of clients public and private, to roll out one example here would be blasé of me; we would absolutely need to work alongside you to understand your business to get this right!

If any aspect of this series resonates and you want to know more, ask questions, debate, then please do drop me a line, my transparency in blogging is absolutely about seeking feedback :)