Why speed is not the silver bullet & sustainable change is more important in digital transformation

Updated: Jan 5

Most are tackling it – but few are achieving material success. The past decade has been dominated by organisations attempting to drive digital transformation, but according to a recent BCG survey few are succeeding, with 70% of digital transformations falling short of their objectives – and whilst there are many key reasons for a lack of material outcomes, speed is not often discussed as one of them.


The pace of change in the market around us has seen organisations gravitate towards prioritising speed as a key tenet of transformation programs, believing that swift decision making to respond to external factors is the key to success. But as the saying goes, be careful you don’t just end up with a faster camel – sometimes speed won’t enable you to get to your desired destination.

So why isn’t speed always the answer?


Loss of momentum – In the early days of digital transformation, organisations focus on building momentum, but what they often fail to realise is that digital transformation is not a sprint – it is the new norm which will require businesses to continuously evolve overtime. Both large and small businesses will also need to endure a period of change to rebuild foundations, and often this alone can take a number of years. The main challenge with our relentless appetite and pursuit for speed is that we can’t often sustain the pace set out in the early days. Executives and team members become burnt out, and as teams begin to realise that the material change can’t be achieved in a 3 - 6-month period they begin to lose focus and interest.


Progress for the sake of it – The focus on speed inevitably means that organisations prioritise any progress over the right progress. Organisations are attempting to move forward so quickly that they are often missing the important step in establishing what it is that they most want to achieve from the change. Investing the time and effort in building and actively communicating the vision, direction and key priorities enables teams to come together to solve the right problems – and enables the alignment required to accelerate when required.


Teams inevitably hit roadblocks –Too often, businesses are looking to modern digital businesses as the beacon, so many businesses built over the past 5-10 years were built without the legacy of the past. Sooner or later, digital transformation efforts run aground, and teams start to face huge hurdles and roadblocks created by legacy technology, bureaucracy and hierarchy, old assumptions, and inefficient processes and interest in transformation wanes or progress holts. It is these enablers (people, process & technology) that need to be addressed if sustainable change it likely to occur. Often these are the elements that lie beneath – the things that can’t be seen and not the sexy, shiny side of transformation. Evolution of these foundations should be addressed early in the transformation process to ensure a level of momentum can be maintained over time once low hanging fruit has been addressed.


Incrementality – Speed can often lead us down the path of incrementality and can cause a failure to look at the longer-term horizon. I’ve had many a conversation with executives and witnessed first-hand the belief that agile is the strategy and the long-term strategy and direction doesn’t matter. Whilst incrementality enables us to iterate and evolve rapidly, sometimes it falls short in enabling us to drive material change that moves the needle.


Unfortunately, when it comes to Digital Transformation there is no silver bullet or easy way to transform. Organisations need to prepare teams for the road ahead by building sustainable agility that can be endured overtime and not simply opt for speed.

Before pulling the speed lever, leaders should consider key critical questions:

  • What are the strategic challenges we seek to address in the medium term?

  • What foundations do we need to address across key enablement areas to enable agility and scale over time (i.e. technology, operating model etc)?

  • How are we preparing our teams for the change and how will we maintain momentum over the medium – longer term?

Giving consideration to these questions helps balance the need for speed today with ensuring that sustainable change is achieved for tomorrow.


If you’re looking for help on your digital transformation journey, we can help. Get in touch with us to discuss our advisory services.

40 views