How to Lead People through Digital Transformation

Alicia Gaba | December 6, 2018

The truth of the matter is, transformation of any kind is about people. Even digital transformation is more about the people than anything else–technology included. InterVision recently hosted organizational change expert, Ron West, on its podcast, Status Go. West bases his work one on one core truth: Organizations grow and evolve only when their leaders grow and evolve.

West eloquently states, “Companies don’t really transform, it’s the leaders in the company that transform themselves that gives rise to transformation in the organization.” The people involved in a transformative goal, have to be willing and ready to look at things in a completely different way. We spent some time talking specifically about the CIO’s role in leading through transformation, and these are the key takeaways.

What is the IT leader or CIO’s role in corporate transformation?

According to West, CIO’s are undergoing a massive change and shift, which is a reflection of what’s going on within organizations. IT is no longer maintenance and lowering maintenance costs. Everything in our world is now digital. For this reason, CIOs must be ready to transform themselves into someone with a wide and deep view of business. They must be able to look over the field to see what’s coming, or as West calls it, “Keeping yourself on the edge.” Another element that is hyper-critical today is ensuring the business knows what can and can’t be done with IT.

We are very clearly in a place where IT leaders must balance preserving legacy systems or transitioning between them, which may mean a lot of “keeping the lights on” activities. Transformation helps companies compete with those who don’t have legacy systems. CIOs must strategically keep a view on what’s coming and know what’s worth preserving, as well as lead their teams with this delicately balanced mentality.

West reinforces that, “It can be hard to let go of the known and understood.” This is truly why corporate transformation hinges on individuals transforming and being more open to growth. According to him, “Of all the leaders in every industry, 85% don’t get beyond the self-authoring stage, where they could handle a more volatile, complex world.” This he why he’s made a place for himself in the world helping leaders look at their businesses to balance the following questions:

  • What’s coming at me?
  • What do I have and how do I balance the two?
  • How do I not fall behind what’s going on in the industry?

West’s Hack for IT Leaders: Leaders who help others transform will transform themselves. If you take a more vested interest in growing the people on your team, you will actually grow more rapidly yourself.

The CIO is being forced to be more receptive to looking at things differently today more-so than ever. They must stretch the way they view innovation. And they must always have the confidence to persuade the rest of the C-suite that this is the way to go.

West’s guide to the three skills most needed in today’s CIO:

  • Chaos forces you to highlight the gaps of what you can and can’t do–CIOs must be skilled to make meaning from chaos
  • CIOs must be able to understand and talk about what’s going on in technology in a persuasive way
  • CIOs should always balance the challenges presented by the gaps in competencies with support from the people around them; otherwise, the challenges will be too much—they must be skilled at balancing challenges and support

For more great insights from Ron West, check out his guest appearance on InterVision’s podcast, Status Go.

For more great insights from Ron West