From Manager to Transformation Leader

October 12, 2020 Hannah Olson

Digital transformation means more than just changing the way your developers build software; it means changing the way your organization runs. While transformation efforts have been a priority for many organizations, 77 percent of CEOs said their digital transformation efforts have been accelerated due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to a recent survey by Fortune and Deloitte.

As digital transformation efforts become more crucial than ever, so does the role management plays in leading these efforts. At our SpringOne 2020 virtual conference, Michael Coté spoke with a panel of transformation leaders about how the role of managers and executives needs to change in order to lead a successful digital transformation.

During their discussion, Neville George, manager at Comcast; Jon Osborn, IT executive at Bell Tracy, Ltd.; and Jana Werner, head of transformation at Tesco Bank; shared how they have helped change their respective organizations. 

Become a servant leader by removing barriers for your team 

“When I think of servant leadership, it's really about removing barriers from teams.”  —Jon Osborn

“[I]t's the idea of supporting people asking questions and helping them [remove] barriers. And setting the context for people to be successful and optimizing their work, their environment, their culture, their processes, really ultimately enabling people and getting the best out of people I would say.” —Jana Werner

Cultivate a culture of communication

“So our culture that we are developing is the fact that when there are problems, we have open communications. We can easily talk about our problems, but in addition to talking about our problems, we also come up with solutions. One of the things that I encourage my team to do is, I think we want to hear what the problems are....Now, when you have that buy in up and down the stack, we are all on the same page. And then we can easily say we can achieve these goals in a much better fashion, than having that cut off, where if people don't know what the challenges are and are not communicating that effectively, it just goes back to us not being able to achieve the goals of our organizations.”  —Neville George

Let middle management help facilitate change

“So a lot of times it starts at the team level and the team is loving it, and everything. And then these middle manager people are like wait a minute, I don't have to tell you what work to work on. You have a feedback loop and you're just operating on it, and so kind of what's my job?... I think finding the right people to start with is important. Somebody with the right mindset, or a group of people with the right mindset. And then you have to reward them when they're doing a good job, that's a requirement.”  —Jon Osborn

“And you would think that I've got used to change, but change is very different and difficult for everybody. It is nearly impossible to put together a team that has the same level of enthusiasm for change, whether it is a team of individual contributors or managers. Collaborative decisions and discussions up and down the stack. When you see changes happening in your industry, and you need to bring together your technical leads and your management to start talking about how does this affect us. So that collaboration up and down the stack is definitely one way that managers can become unfrozen if you may, because they no longer feel that they alone have to make that decision. And I think also, it's very important to keep your teams informed. When these changes happen, it doesn't have to be a perfect read that hey, we are going to do this.”  —Neville George 

Make strategic vision achievable so that it’s meaningful

“I think one thing is don't make it too abstract, don't make it too long term. So it needs to be clear that something can be achieved by people in that strategy. And that's not something that the next generation does, or the next two generations after me. It needs to be tangible, achievable, and it needs to really clearly link to something, that I think intrinsically motivates people. So that goes back to my mental purpose...So I think finding a way to tap into people's desire to help customers or make things better, are ways to connect people to the strategy that becomes really usable, and then can naturally guide people all the time back to what they're doing and see if that aligns.” —Jana Werner

Bring business and IT together 

“Putting the business people literally on the team with the IT people, can really help to bring reality to what we're trying to do. So having business people along for the ride with you, allows the whole team to sort of react and change, and move into these spaces that you had no idea you're going to have to do three months from now. So I think that partnership really, really matters. And it's really no different than these feedback loops that you have to generate to get high performance teams moving quickly. You got to have a business person involved who's knowledgeable and willing to go along for the ride. And count with the executive level too, by the way.”  —Jon Osborn

“Sometimes it's very difficult to understand and translate what that management speak is to actual work….And when you are an individual contributor, it is not very natural for you to see that connection, because once we put on our engineer hats, we just want to go, go, go and just accomplish stuff. So I think managers play a very important role in making sure that we can connect the dots for individual contributors. And I think that is the piece that is important for managers, to enable people to understand what this means, and what the value of they do in terms of business outcomes.”  —Neville George

Shift your team’s mindset from outputs to outcomes 

“So I think I'm trying to get them to look at outcomes, rather than outputs as a massive mindset's hard for someone who's got their mind full, and who's been successful doing output work all their lives to think in a different way. So we are looking at really getting people to think about outcomes and value. And even concepts like flow, which are probably very common in the engineering space, I think in financial services they're not that obvious yet. So starting to ask managers to say can we have optimized flow for teams is still a little bit alien. And getting people used to that idea and explaining it in different language and making it accessible, I think is where we're shifting.” —Jana Werner

“Again, I kind of go back translating your business needs, from your organization into manageable pieces that you can say, I am working this towards this major goal of my organization.” —Neville George

Advance digital to advance your career

“But my genuine view is if you love and enjoy it and working this way, I have actually seen this happen. And you love and enjoy what you do, you treat people as Neville said like your family and you support them. And that way naturally makes you then successful as a leader in the right conditions, and therefore based on that success, the advancement happens.”  —Jana Werner

“I think as you demonstrate success and having teams operate in a new way, you're going to naturally accumulate more work. I think these people are going to be like wait, this works really well. Here's another product, here's another team, can you train them. And you're sort of naturally going to extend your reach.”  —Jon Osborn

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