Articles, Leadership, Organizational Change

Internal Politics and Digital Initiatives: Q&A from MITSloan Webinar

My webinar “Don’t Let politics Block Your Digital Initiatives” triggered high interest and lots of questions. I’m writing a series of posts in response to the questions I did not have the time to answer during the event: “So many questions, so little time!”

I suggest you listen to the webinar first or check out the slides I used in order to understand the context for the questions in this series.

Here are the questions, grouped by theme, each one linking to my response as they are written.

PLEASE NOTE: I have answered the first 6 questions as you can see in the links below. These pages did not get many readers so I decided not to finish the list. If there is a question you’d like me to answer, drop me a note here.

Overcoming challenges

Q1: What in your opinion is the biggest political challenge in digital transformation?

J: Fear.

Q2: On what level of the organization do you see most of the internal politics happen?

J: Territorial Challenges

Q3: How do you improve situations where BU managers or others posture alignment for digital platforms to upper management but are not really invested?

J: Walk the talk at the top.

Q4: What is the difference between a normal change management and digital initiatives?

J: Digital changes your vision of the world.

Q5: How would you know that politics are being managed well enough not to impact the success of the program, apart from just measuring the digital transformation KPIs?

J: Stories beat numbers.

Q6: What are your views on dealing with senior execs who downplay digital? How can you create a change that goes in the right direction?

J: Bring the outside in.

Decision-making power

Q: How do you handle ownership for digital transformation initiatives? We have internal power-struggles over which group is the “leading” driver of digital transformation (revenue, communications, technology) – which is exhausting and frustrating.

Q: You didn’t much elaborate on “Where to locate the decision-making power in a project team”. Would you have time to?

Q: What is your view on defining common objectives at the top level regarding digital initiatives to stimulate collaboration?

Q: I’ve noticed that performance is spread over company functions. For example, empowerment at the front line level is based on personalities whereas HR is considering empowerment by position/function.

Q: I worry that “local initiatives” might seem great at first, but introduces significant medium-term operational risks. it seems like it can lead to fractured systems that are do not inter-operate well, and that are particularly prone to failing if key individuals leave.

Internal politics in government and non-commercial organizations

Q: Do you have any advice for navigating internal politics in a government setting? Any thoughts are welcome, whether general or related to how elections/appointments can add another layer to internal politics. Thanks!

Q: Does the same approach work for city, county, or state governments as the approach you described for commercial, for-profit organizations?

Q: Do you believe that the same principles apply in other settings, such as the design and implementation of social, political, and regulatory solutions, outside the boundaries of the firm?

Maturity and success

Q: How is digital maturity measured?

Q: How does an organization measure the success of a digital transformation initiative? And is there a gold standard to work towards?

Q: What are the major internal factors to achieve digital maturity?

Q: How does one deal with political resistance to your recommended interventions?

New profiles and skills

Q: How do you deal with transformational issues related to people who do not fit the profile anymore for the transformation and new challenges to come?

Q: What implications do all these changes have in the portfolio of skills that employees in these organizations need? What skills rise in importance, which one fall, what entirely new skills arise? What has surprised you most about these shifts? Same question, but specifically regarding leadership skills. (refer back to UNHCR case)

Q: I completely agree with everything that’s been shared. The greatest challenge I see is that while there may be cross BU/functional teams, the individuals within those teams still have individual KPIs vs. project & cross BU KPIs. Have you seen any research of effectiveness in this area?

Sabotage the saboteur

Q: What advice do you have for “sabotage situations” – and how can you turn them into success?