The old theory of change was that the best way to create it in an organization was to appoint a new CEO or C-Level Exec. The ‘new broom’ would ‘sweep clean’, taking out the people and processes that didn’t align with the vision of the Board, and somehow, enterprises would eventually get back to work, delivering on a new agenda.

The problem with this method of change is twofold:

  1. It’s not sustainable. You can’t just keep changing C-Level Execs in order to adapt to rapidly changing markets.
  2. It fosters fear of change. Because so many jobs and processes can be swept away with a new CEO or executive, and because the change can sometimes fail to deliver any real competitive advantage, employees see it as a net negative for a firm.

The new theory of change is that it should not just come with a new CEO, but rather be an ongoing ambition of a firm. And it should not (necessarily) result in job losses, but rather redeployment of personnel where future opportunities lie.

One of McKinsey’s senior partners has argued that a digital transformation program needs clarity, urgency, and planning. I would argue it also needs to involve all personnel and engages customers in the process. If this isn’t the path taken, the same problems occur for digital transformation as used to occur for change – it’s not sustainable, and employees distrust the process, potentially sabotaging intended benefits.

Digital and business transformation needs to occur throughout the organization and should be a continuous process. It is the best insurance for organizational sustainability as well as a competitive edge.