(Digital) Innovation is equal to change. Not only technological change, which is  “just” a conditioner but above all changes in the way you organize your business and operations and consequently, the way your people engage (with each other) and work (now together) using new technologies. That’s called “Culture”, it’s the way things are done.

So EVERYTHING gears around “culture”, not around technology! And it needs to change in a synchronized way. Sounds easy right?

Yet most projects fail.


Understanding the introduction, it becomes easy to answer. Projects fail because they often start on the wrong side of the equation and/or fail to involve the whole stack and/or (over)focus on technology (alone). As a result, you end up with the conditioner, but can’t make the stack use it.

Translated for example into the Oil & Gas industry; your Real Time Operations Center works perfectly well, but nobody is using it (properly).

The root cause of that problem is policy making (recognize that digitalization is about culture first, not about technology alone) and (lack of) now also changed ways to lead people through and towards new behaviors.

Nothing less, nothing more.

< 5% success rate

Last year I was requested to take the change lead in a >100 million € digital startup that was meant to spear point the (pharma) organization’s adaption through advanced digitalization efforts. On paper it looked like a winner, so I signed up.

After de usual in-depth stakeholder analysis and first cross teams workshops, my conclusion to higher management was that the project had less than 5% probability to become successful at that point.  I use a tool for that sake which we developed earlier in the Oil & Gas arena (DOFAS Health tool) and makes visible (also in dollars) where the bottlenecks lay. It basically measures 3 parameters; technology, and leadership and project management capacity. Depending on the observations and answers of the stakeholders to the questionnaires and dialogues, the automated system generates a situational result, pointing out the areas with room for improvements. In combination with other analytical tools from PROSCI, for example, and in-depth experience of the interviewers (interview techniques, body language, observational skill…) outcomes of projects become predictable and corrections can be made very early in the project.

In this case, management didn’t like the idea of not having the whole pizza (and turned thus into part of the problem), wasn’t willing to take the suggested corrective actions to get it all, or at least move away from the abyss. I couldn’t, therefore, be of much help to them. Only last week I heard that the project didn’t deliver any results and most of the freshly hired top talents left. 100 million euros and a full year later, nothing was achieved while the leadership had all the instruments and information available to act upon.


The conclusion of this and many other cases I have seen and worked on is that the mindset of the chain of command and the C-suit leadership team is crucial to success or failure.And this goes especially for the person at the top of the tree. It doesn’t make sense to identify and develop change champions down the line, to look for obstructive or passive employees, if the management itself has not yet adopted a new culture of openness and collaboration, and showcases it to the organization.

Co-workers tend to copy and follow such behaviors. So if management deploys so-called change champions in their organization to get “it” done, what they are saying is that they and their chain of command aren’t doing their leadership job and in fact admit that they have no steer or impact on their employees behaviors.

People generally do not obstruct, protest, hide or sabotage. That’s a myth. Their behaviors are always reflections of those of their leaders! So if what you see isn’t what you like or need, then start changing the mindset and behaviors of your own management!

Successful digitalization begins in the minds of the C-suite management and cascades down, It engages in honest and open dialogues, first with that little man sitting on the shoulder, later with the management teams. At DOFAS we provoke these dialogues, first thing, as it’s they produce new mindsets, being the most fundamental building blocks for any successful change.

4 to 6th of September at https://www.engeniousglobal.com I will be addressing the Cultural aspects of O&G digitalization. Please look me up for more in depth discussions.