Looking to transform your organization’s digital capability? (If not, you should be.) Positioning the organization for digital maturity, are you convinced the right culture is in place? (Again, you should be.) Glenn Leask, President and CEO of Competitive Capabilities International (CCi), provides crucial insights.

Change is daunting. It comes with challenges which, to some extent, are difficult to predict. A digital transformation may be even trickier still because the workforce may be hesitant, and feasibly concerned about their redefined roles and the future of their jobs. Recent studies illustrate this in numbers: Whilst three-quarters of people questioned in a survey of 10,000 global workers said they are willing to learn new skills, almost 40% said they were worried about automation putting their jobs at risk.

Digital transformation, then, is actually a dual transformation. It requires a metamorphosis of the company’s culture, so that it is attuned for a structured, orchestrated progression towards digital maturity. “Get this right,” say Leask, “and the synergy of human creativity and attitude with digital capability will position your company advantageously for the new manufacturing paradigm.”

The advancing frontiers of value creation

Technologies, successfully fused into operations to remodel and revamp manufacturing into full-scale digital operations or digital operating systems (DOS), can leverage 40% to 50% in end-to-end value chain improvements and gains.

Through connectivity, huge data streams, rapid analytical capabilities and automation, DOS enables a manufacturing enterprise to gain heightened network visibility, forge greater efficiencies, and accelerate its agility. Phased appropriately and orchestrated correctly, digital operations can deliver significant competitive advantages; ROI analyses are already reflecting improved revenue growth and net profit margins for digital leaders – as much as 50% higher than digital laggards in the same industry. (For greater context, and detailed advantages of digital systems in manufacturing, download CCi’s white paper, Digital operating systems: The next generation of production systems.

But the crux, according to Leask, is how digital is bridged. “Strong traditional disciplines and philosophies – Lean, continuous improvement, and organizational culture – are the foundations for capitalizing on digital and unlocking its potential,” he says.

Finding talented talent

The vision of a digital factory and an optimized end-to-end value network must include a highly skilled workforce. However, Leask believes it would be a mistake to recruit and gear talent for skills only. “Look for attitude, not just aptitude,” he says. “The pace of change today – technological, but also business volatility – means that challenges will keep coming. High-performance people are those who look forward to challenges, who want to embrace them in pursuit of a goal.”

Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker understood the importance of a company’s culture. He once commented that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” meaning that the success or failure of leaderships’ strategies and plans hinges upon the effectiveness and efficiency of what employees actually do. How engaged, energized, and motivated are they?

Purpose as primer

Digital creates new capabilities within manufacturing, and leadership can leverage this and steer the course. But the trigger and the consistent, steady engine is a sense of mission or purpose. This is tied to, and deeply rooted in, the culture of the enterprise.

And it must be communicated, clearly and powerfully. Communication is the key to successful change management and cultural renewal – and the buy-in to digital ignition. Depending on the size of the organization, it may be appropriate for a senior management team to dedicate regular time to communicate plans and progress at all levels of the company. This may also present an opportunity to engage employees and obtain feedback. “Empowering the workforce also means giving them the opportunity to input into major issues,” confirms Leask.

There are clear similarities between a traditionally-modelled high-performance culture and a modern, digitally-mature enterprise. But migrating one to the next is complex and requires planning, diligent execution, and an organizational openness to change. Leask uses the term “orchestration” to underscore the importance of a cohesive transformation.

Transformation is a journey

Leask loops back to leadership’s role. “Reimagining a digital workplace, a digital-first enterprise, is where it germinates. But transformation is a journey, not a destination, so leaders must keep reimagining.” It’s important, he believes, for leaders to standardize parts of their own work, so that the organization is simultaneously driven in two streams: delivery of short-term, key performance goals, as well as the longer-term vision.

This form of deliberate yet visionary behavior, too, is inspirational. In that sense, then, both digital transformation and cultural renewal start – and end – with leadership.

Download the white paper Digital Operating Systems: The next generation of production systems to find out how to align your people, practices and processes with new technologies.

CCi is a privately held global company that enables organizations to deliver sustainable results across the value chain through TRACC, a solution for continuous, integrated improvement.