How to create your Gold Card digital transformation programme

Leading at the edge of change

How do you create the access all areas transformation initiatives, that can change not just technology and platforms, but also bring together hearts and minds? 

How do you lead at the edge of change? 

These were the questions we tackled in our recent Arc Group Disruption Logic event with CIOs, IT directors, CMOs, Digital Transformation directors, and other executives in technology and strategy. Leaders from industries as diverse as banking, government, healthcare, media and pharmaceuticals, contributed to a lively debate on the leadership culture needed to lead in today’s age of disruption.

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Here’s what our leaders, wedged between the status quo and their organisation’s response to a constantly shifting environment, had to say.

1. It’s about the emotional “Gold Card”

Some programmes have a gold card, that the organisation supports no matter what. We need to acknowledge that some decisions are emotional decisions, and the gold card programmes are the ones that get through no matter what. Other programmes, you have to continually put forward business cases and progress reports, and you know that the organisation is not really behind it.

Strategic and transformation decisions are not all about rationality and numbers. It’s genuine emotional support that lifts programmes, and helps them to succeed. Taking transformation programmes forward successfully means that we must engage with emotions, with people, with culture.

2. Eye of the storm

Our leaders are at the eye of the storm. They, and we, live and work in organisations with anticipation and excitement about the future, and the benefits that technological advancement can bring. There is opportunity.

They also talked about people feeling fear and anxiety, as a consequence of the rate and scale of technological change, and the job insecurity that is generated. This vulnerability leads to a sense that we are living through a hurricane. There is a need to fight, though it’s unclear who the enemy might be, or we need to batten down the hatches, but when will the storm end?

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There’s confusion, as organisations become less and less sure about what to do, leading to a cultural and strategic void within organisations, where people are left to fill in the gaps between objectives and operations.

3. Leadership cultures are not aligned to disruption

Transformation can be seeded from the grass roots, but needs to be led from the top. Leadership cultures need to change to address the disruption we face today, and to bring people and the organisational culture with them. And there are serious gaps.

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We need to build commitment, or more accurately, ownershipin all parts of the organisation so that people lean in to the strategy and make it their own. In an age of disruption, a key challenge for leadership teams, is their ability to help shift thinking of others, to think in new and innovative ways, to see things differently. 

Leaders need to foster learning. When things are changing so rapidly, and there is so much to learn and embed, a learning culture is vital. 

Leaders need to build resilience in their organisations, the confidence to keep going even as things may be unclear. 

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Our straw poll found that the weakest capacity for leadership teams is in shifting thinking - the ability to challenge and reframe challenges to shift how people think. However, there’s room for development across all areas.

4. Let’s change the definition of success

We talked about not being afraid to "start in a disappointingly narrow way - small team, small tasks".  Building dialogue and a focus on the customer. Finding new ways to co-create and collaborate, and fostering a culture where have the confidence to try, learn from failure, and share what’s learned.

We ended with a challenge - how do we change the definition of success? How do we move to business cases that recognise risk, creativity and innovation, and integrate the need to shift thinking, shift cultures, and change the way we work?

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Thank you to all the leaders at our Arc Group Disruption Logic event, for their contributions, ideas and challenges, and inspirations. Together, we want to engage with how people feel in order to effect positive change. 

To create the access all areas, gold card transformation programme that delivers success, we need to shift the way we think - build radically new leadership cultures, with people and emotions at the heart. Let’s change the definition of success for digital transformation. Let’s change the way we work.




Willson Hau