Starting the digital transformation with the right “why”

The KKWS method explained - How to get started properly

How do you start if you want to take digitalisation in hand – but don’t quite know where best to begin? Despite many support initiatives, the first step is often difficult for traditional companies and businesses. With the right questions, the need for action can be identified and the path smoothed.

Paving the way for a digital transformation (digitalisation vs. digital transformation) first means making a strategic decision. But little is done with that. Even the most beautiful roll-out plan can fail in everyday life, quite apart from the fact that transformation is related to innovation. And innovation cannot be prescribed.

It is therefore necessary to go beyond the top-down decision and find the right starting points. Of course, you can analyse individual processes and identify and implement the need for digital action. No question about it. But this does not create a culture that paves the way in the long term – towards a digital mindset. This means nothing other than that everyone involved is clear about what is at stake, what the “why” is.

Clarification of terms as a basis

Basically, it should be clear to everyone what is meant by digital transformation. The choice of words already plays a role: is a transformation meant or an automation of processes? Is a general willingness to innovate meant – or is it about a reorganisation of the company towards a self-organised design that allows room for change as a matter of course – and thus also promotes a digital transformation?

It’s a question of culture

Going digital ultimately means bringing the organisation into an innovation-friendly mode in the long term. This means empowering employees to think for themselves, to allow this and to demand it. It also means recognising and sharing knowledge, enabling learning. This is a question of culture, and culture must aim at this: we are moving away from control to empowerment of the employees, i.e. the teams. Convincing an entire company or departments to do this is a lengthy undertaking and must be approached with credibility. A proper initial analysis helps to systematically take the steps on this path.

Consolidating the “Why” with the KSWS method

The necessary steps for action can be defined and approached on the basis of the four dimensions K for Know, K for Know How, W for Want and S for Shall. As simple as the terms sound, the answer will be as individual and varied. This enables a company to go its very own way.

K – Know

This dimension helps to find out what is known by the employees and whether it is clear what it is about. Were there or are there introductions or inputs about aspects of a transformation – to digital business models, even to the platform economy? Is there a vision of your own business, or is it missing? And basically: are there pictures of the future – or do you just start with such an encouraging and energising act?

For Beginners: here is one of the first whys to answer. Where do we want to go and how do we get there?

This means in the implementation: there must be a decent and sincere information policy that transports thoughts towards a transformation and makes them accessible to all. This is also a question of trust and confidence – which brings us back to culture.

S – Skill

Becoming more digital also means finding out about skills and the will to acquire skills. This means digital affinity, but not only. It also means being open to a learning culture and to change. Specific expertise can be brought in externally and cultivated internally. But everyone should be taken along on the learning exploration. There are many variations and tools and vessels here on how learning from and with each other can be applied. Take yourself on this journey: Lifelong Learning at its best. This is the “spirit” that supports the “why”.

W – Want

Wanting is also a question of culture, and employees alone cannot be held responsible for this. A careful introduction and development of the Why is indispensable to generate a sustainable will to implement, even enthusiasm. It may even be the other way round: the will for a (digital) innovation would be there, but the mid- or top-management blocks? This is regrettable and makes it clear that, first and foremost, a “why” and a corresponding vision must exist at the top down. Promoting the will is again a fine-tuned and energetic work on the culture and on an open information climate. Not to forget, this also includes addressing fears. By their very nature, these are diametrically opposed to wanting. It must be possible to assume this openness top-down.

S – Should

The aspect of the will of those who define the ought is the decisive point. This must and should ultimately be extended to the whole company. If it is clear what is wanted, it can also be said what is wanted. Once again, it is important to create a climate that clearly communicates what is expected, but also what the incentives are and what the reinforcers are. The vision mentioned above proves its worth here, as do collective encouragements and idea marketplaces. But with little top-down control. Not control but experimentation and a certain affinity for risk are part of it. Naming the whole thing attractively and comprehensibly and intuitively is another freestyle. Last but not least, the space must be given so that goals can be pursued: Time and the climate of feedback and encouragement. Only if these incentives are set top-down, it is possible to create a climate of openness for new things and for digital change. But credibility also means not losing sight of the concern for employees. At this last point, the dimensions of knowing, being able, wanting and being expected intertwine.

It stands and falls with information and communication

In all points, true to good change management, the information policy should be kept in mind. Not only top-down, but in the purpose of a figurative network organisation in all directions back and forth. Typical here are facilities that invite exchange and, like break areas and incentives, also online exchange with tools and ideas. And finally: if the Why is clear, the mood is also right – no wonder that as digitally and innovatively affine companies have long since worked on their inner Why.

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