Digitization – We need a project plan and approval and we need it fast!

Change management - easily "conjure" a plan and agreement out of resistance

I often discuss digitization with experts and am always amazed at how complicated digitization is approached. It’s clear what needs to be done … But then there’s always this one argument: that people aren’t behind it at all! But even the supposed resistance is – actually – quite simple and can be transformed into approval and motivated participation in one fell swoop.

Digitization is a no-brainer – off into the digital world!

At its core, digitization is completely logical. Moore’s Law still applies, according to which all digital processes run about twice as fast every two years – at the same cost. This doesn’t even take into account acceleration through better hardware architectures … In other words, everything that runs digitally will simply become faster and cheaper without any intervention on our part.

But what does that mean in concrete terms? Everything that goes digital goes digital! Outsourcing data to the cloud, completely digitizing processes, digital documentation (ideally with VR), developing physical products on the digital twin and only printing them out, no matter where in the world. Or why not just let the customer do everything and only provide the platform? Or at least crowd-working? What if we also outsourced logistics and production best …?! In the end, all that’s left is the creative work. Okay, okay – that’s a bit of an exaggeration now. But it helps to sharpen the view.

Generating a plan from resistance – how do I get my people on board?

Again, regarding the “people are not behind it at all” mentioned at the beginning: I come from classic project management and there is a simple trick to turn resistance around. When you have to set up a project plan, the first thing you ask yourself is “Why isn’t this all working?” or “What’s stopping me from achieving the project goal?” The answers and the insight gained, from these seemingly simple questions, is amazing: resistance – whether my own, or that of an entire team – is ultimately nothing more than the expertise of what can go wrong. And that’s what you need to know in order to build a plan. Feel free to try it out for yourself: It works in your own small cosmos as well as in large teams, departments or across departments.

Back to digitization: So the easiest thing to do is to get all the key players together in a room and set the following task:

“Starting tomorrow, we want to handle everything digitally (see above), nothing more physical, everything in digital. WHY CAN’T THAT EVER WORK?”

The considerations and arguments as to why it doesn’t work are written on cards (for the sake of digitization, this is best done on a virtual task board) and the cards are rated according to the size of the obstacle. And there you have a prioritized list of things to do or avoid in order to become fully digital. But be careful: it can easily add up to 150-350 obstacles. But if you take it step by step, that’s no problem either.

How does it work with the approval now?

Why consent? It’s been there for a long time! In the form of the key players. If you see the key players, including their original concerns, not as resistance, but as key players with the necessary expertise, the knot is untied as if by magic. In the company, all hell breaks loose every day, yet the key players come every day and drive the business forward. And why? Quite simply because they are loyal to their company and invest all their energy in keeping the business running. Otherwise, they would already be gone … The key players also know very well that time does not simply move on without change, without the will to change. This also makes it clear why they will support digitization. The next Tesla or the next Amazon has already been founded. And it’s clear to everyone that it makes sense to run ahead instead of behind.

But there is something even more interesting: key players are knowledge carriers, i.e. those who know how something works or how to solve a problem the fastest. They joined the company a long or short time ago because they want to be creative, develop ideas and use them to drive the company forward. If all mechanical, repetitive tasks are eliminated in the course of digitization, there will be more time for the essentials: for creativity, for ideas and their implementation. The central insight is therefore quite simple:

“Digitization enables each individual to do more of what he or she has always wanted to do!”

How do you eat the (digitization) elephant?

Once approval has been obtained and the potential problems are sorted by criticality on the (virtual) table, the next step is to work through them: Solutions must be found for each of the problems. And key players wouldn’t be key players if they didn’t already have the solution ready, or at least had the desire to find it. The great thing is that each additional solution fits together with the others to form a large, practical and well thought-out plan. But please take it step by step: You don’t eat an elephant in one piece, but in slices.


Of course, the article simplifies some aspects. But the concept is universally valid: If I want to achieve something, I have to know my obstacles! I have to “challenge” the solution and not the people. Because they are the ones who want to move something forward.

Only one question remains: Where do the resources come from to implement all this? Where to take from, if not steal? For the solution, see “The trick with the bottleneck!

Founder of BlueDolphin – the first international community for supporting self-organized changes. As Senior expert for high-performance/high-speed agile transformations at Consileon and former head of PMO of 1&1 Internet, GMX, and web.de, he brought over 500 digital innovations to life. He has always questioned the speed and productivity of organizations – and integrated classic project management with Agile since the beginning. As an international keynote speaker, author of many books about hyper-productivity, and consultant for breakthrough performance increases – Wolfram is known to bring flow to organizations and the sparkling back into the employees’ eyes.

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