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Digital Transformation Part 2: Change Is Hard. How Can We Address Transformation Fatigue?

In part one of the Digital Transformation series, we talked about the 'Head', which is the vision. 

In the second part of the Digital Transformation series, we address 'Heart' - a people-based approach to transformation.

The fact that we’ve been talking about Digital Transformation for almost a decade now but only 30% of organizations feel that they have been successful. That’s an alarmingly small number for an industry that has been around for more than ten years.

Having said that we also discussed a winning formula (Exhibit 1). What do this 30% do differently and consistently that increases their chances of success by as much as 80%? According to an in-depth study by BCG winning behaviour is characterized by three key elements working together – the Head which is about the vision, the Heart which is about our people and the Hands which is about the job to be done.


Exhibit 1 

Organizations don’t change. People do. Lead with your heart.

The relentless pace of always-on transformation can demoralize even the most engaged employees. Sustaining it while offering employees meaningful opportunity and fulfillment is what the core of the Heart is about. 

Successful transformation today depends on people who are engaged and motivated to go above and beyond. Organizations can create this condition through a set of heart practices (Exhibit 2).

  1. Connection – Fueling transformation by fostering an emotional connection which will inspire greater commitment and the willingness to go the extra mile.
  2. Culture – Creating an empowering culture, shaped by leaders, that allows people to do their best work. 
  3. Empathy – Demonstrating care for those whose lives are disrupted by the change. 
  4. Leadership – A more holistic form of leadership. Leaders who clarify and navigate, who include and empower, and who enable their people and teams.


Exhibit 2

Change is hard. Fatigue is real. Overcoming fatigue is one of the hardest challenges in Transformation

One of the biggest challenges in the Heart imperative is to tackle Change Fatigue. It is one of the toughest challenges to solve and has the ability to bring progress to a grinding halt or even reverse it. It has no magic solution, no silver bullet framework or one-size-fits-all answer.

“Too many projects” – is a common narrative and often the main cause of fatigue 

Decluttering projects is a must for organizations. 

Beware the trap of Fail-fast culture

Fail-fast arouses the most cynicism from people during change management. As much as failing needs to be normalized, it also needs to be defined in some way. Else we find people wondering what it is they are supposed to do. Am I supposed to design an activity knowing it will fail? How much am I allowed to fail? What does failure look like?

Value progress over perfection and exercise your muscles to prepare for the triathlon of Transformation!

Digital Transformation is neither a sprint nor a marathon – it is a triathlon. Just like one trains different muscles for different events of a triathlon, so the same must be done for different aspects of business transformation.

Culture change is the hardest of them all. But it can be hacked!

Culture is arguably the hardest to change, yet it is the first place we must start from. It is daunting but small changes go a long way in hacking into legacy processes and culture.

Simple things like changing the size of meeting rooms and allowing no more than 4 chairs in every meeting room, reduced wasteful time spent on sometimes unnecessary and large meetings as well as forced people to be specific about their meeting agendas and attendees.

Ultimately, it’s all about the heart

  • If you don’t take a people-based approach to transformation, you are almost guaranteed to to fail in the long term.
  • If you take refuge in buzzwords and jargons, instead of taking the hard road of building Connection-Culture-Empathy, then again you will not build enduring success.
  • If you don’t exercise your muscles consistently then that downward dog will always remain painful and you will never be prepared for the triathlon.
  • If you seek perfection in everything you do then you may not be able to make incremental progress. Progress over perfection – take baby steps to success, littered with small wins and big learnings.

Reach out to Merkle Singapore at [email protected] to discover how we can aid in your digital transformation.