The digital transformation impact resulting from the current crisis hit a little bit like a 6 am H I IT workout on a monday morning: Unpleasant and a tad painful, all while you haven’t even really opened your eyes to what’s going on.
But as you embrace the pain and settle into the situation, you start feeling the benefits of what you got yourself into (at least that’s what I keep telling myself). The difference here is that said workout, at least on some level, is voluntary. The outcome, the results, matter more than what you go through. It’s part of the journey to a better you. It’s time we embrace that in business, too.
Many organisations have spent much time in recent years perpetuating the innovation and agile gospel, but without any real willingness to question the assumptions defining the reality of their business. As COVID-19 metaphorically pulled the carpet from under their feet, many of them find themselves stumbling into a jog. This demonstrates that the reason little has happened prior to now was not down to capability, but instead a lack of motivation to act. That’s a rational choice, in the same way that it’s rational to spend another hour in bed and skip the morning workout. Avoiding near-term discomfort involved in making the healthier choice seems like a good idea from the vantage point of your desk. But the avoidance of short-term discomfort through our decisions can lead to greater suffering down the road. It’s a pity whenever we make decisions that seem to be rational when in fact they’re the opposite.
As the times have gotten tougher globally, those of us who’ve always been a fan of that 6 am workout actually stand to benefit greatly, because they already believe in biting the bullet and dealing with the situation at hand. They may even perceive the challenge as an opportunity to level up their game. But even those of us who’ve skipped the many invitations to leave our comfort zones in the past may find the opportunity to make those meaningful and transformational changes a reality right now. Never before has it been more clear that we must collaborate to address the problems before us and reinvent the nature of organisations so that they’re ready for the digital age. This means that however much it hurts right now, we can expect to emerge from this renewed and ready to grow.
In order for such a desirable outcome to lead us beyond the crisis, we must make sense of the ‘why’ behind the effort. Just like the motivation getting us to that early morning workout isn’t to attend, but to become a better and healthier version of ourselves, the purpose behind the change we’re making in response to a current status quo should be sound. This is the opportunity to think about why our organisation exists, what is its real and actual value beyond turning a profit, and how much helps those it serves.
As the saying goes, you don’t get people to build you a ship just by instructing them to put together the parts, but you get a great ship by growing in them a yearning for the adventures of the vast ocean. This is particularly true when you need your people to do the extraordinary and go the extra mile, as current circumstance may well necessitate (and you want to make sure they do, because the last thing you’d want on your ocean adventure or disgruntled sailors).
Make this the time where you discover common ground across your organisation and use it as a foundation to achieve the uncommon. It starts with the good old courage to tolerate a little discomfort – and a clear idea of why it matters.