If your company is moving toward digital transformation, which it should be by the way, here is an important fact to keep in mind:  It is almost 2 times as likely that an organization working toward digital maturity will have a single person or group dedicated to leading the digital transformation vs. a less technology organization trying to keep up in the digital age.1  Along with typical leadership support, this person needs to be driving the digital transformation if the goal is to stay ahead of your competition.

The leader of your digital transformation needs to be the driving force and must offer support, but you also need a team of resources dedicated to the project. Will any resource dedicated to the leader’s team bring around a successful transformation?  We have all been there when the request came for a dedicated resource from each department to support a project or new program. And who was chosen from the ranks? The best from each department was supposed to be given up for the good of the company, but we know those department managers are focused on their area of responsibility. When it is time for you to lead a transformation project you will want the right team of resources for the benefit of the organization and of course your own success.

Unique Team Members

team leader digital maturityPrior to creating your team, there is a period of time required for creating awareness within the organization. Some may call it an information dump, but it needs to be closer to creating a climate for change. People and the culture of the company will need to change for your project to be successful. Here, I will focus on building your team and not the “how-to” in the creation of awareness throughout the organization. The awareness phase is your opportunity to locate the employees I am describing as the “unofficial influencer” and “naysayer”.

We all know the naysayer in the organization, usually because they have no problem being vocal about their opinions. We understand turning their opinion in a positive direction is a powerful coup in reducing resistance to your transformation project.  If you really want to lock in the resistance reduction , then include the unofficial influencer along with the naysayer. Who is the unofficial influencer in your organization? The leadership or managers may not know who the unofficial influencers are within the company.  These people may or may not be in controlling roles, but are looked to by other employees for direction and guidance. During the awareness stage, you will want to be on the lookout for names or groups of people which are referenced the most in discussions regarding the coming transformation.  More than likely they are your unofficial influencers, and they can be confirmed with small group or one on one “project research” discussions.

Leading of the Unique Team Members

The team make-up of employees will depend highly on your organization and the project at hand.  You will of course need employees with specific skills and knowledge along with a sprinkle of unofficial influencers and nay sayers. Although the number of team members is up to you there are some basic guidelines I would suggest. Make sure the team and influencers cover the majority of the cross-functional areas of the company. Nominate the employees to be on the team allowing the employees to make the choice to join the project. Empower the team members in their responsibilities on the team and overall success of the project. Allow the team members to make decisions as colleagues irrespective of their status on the organizational chart. These are all steps in building trust and ownership of the transformation success. There may be a few other steps unique to your companies situation to build trust, but imposing or directing the actions of the team members will undermine the team members ultimately resulting in resistance to the project.

Change From Within

In a project I once worked, there was a quiet but well-liked lady from the assembly line invited to be a part of the transformation team. She did not have the skills to lead change, but she was coached and taught a great deal during the project. From inside the project she was exposed to information about the need for the transformation, and was empowered to question and make decisions alongside team mates with Master Degrees. In time, she was standing in front of corporate leaders to speak on her part of the project presentation. The audience all felt her dedication and desire for the transformation to succeed. And on one occasion she stood up in a meeting full of leaders, managers and hourly employees to make a passionate plea for the management of the facility to stop resisting and support the change.

Can you think of an employee who could be your unofficial influencer, your superhero?  Find them and empower them or else they may turn out to be your kryptonite.

  1. C. Kane, D. Palmer, A. N. Phillips, D. Kiron and N. Buckley, “Strategy, Not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation” MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press, July 2015.

Duan, L., E. Sheeren, and L. Weiss. “Tapping the Power of Hidden Influencers.” McKinsey Quarterly 1 (2014): 117-20. Print.

Paul Dustin, MS, PMP

Paul is an Operations Excellence professional with over eighteen years of functional leader experience and consulting project management work combined. He brings a unique perspective to his projects with extensive experience in lean manufacturing & sequencing environments, Project Management Professional Certification, and the goal to accept nothing less than success for each client.