How important is Communications to Digital? On a scale of ten: eleven. Communications is the oil in the engine of digital transformation. With well understood and structured communications any digitalization effort ads a key element of success. Easy enough and everybody will agree. The problem isn’t the acknowledgment of relevance and importance to outcomes; it’s the understanding of what it really means and eventually, how to do it.
What’s more important in digital communications? The reason and content (What is this all about?), the media (How does this information get to me, and how often), or the source? (Who is talking?).
In my experience, the WHO talks (about what) is most vital. A CEO poster on a wall, an interview or even a town hall are useless tools if meant to function as motivation. Digitalization asks people to stop doing things and start doing different things in new ways. That’s not something people like to do by nature. So although it is important to know what is coming at you and why, it’s more important who’s bringing that information and ultimately, what it means for the individual receiver. And the more disruptive the content, the better you make sure it’s “personal delivery” by trusted people.
Respect or Trust?
C-Level seldom has an employee’s trust, they have (institutional) authority people will respect. Trust is something that turns a manager into a leader. You have to earn it in the trenches by own behavior and actions in the day-to-day and only those will be followed. Any employee can tell you instantly who can be trusted (who is a leader, formal or informal, high or low in the ranks doesn’t matter) and who cannot be trusted. EVERYBODY knows it!!
This conditions the size of the digital playing field and if too small presents a deadly risk to outcomes. It makes clear why early stakeholder identification and leadership backbone structuring is so important as well, to name another key element of success.
Getting back to communications:
C-suites (and CEO) and divisional managers CANNOT MOTIVATE their “troops” unless you can bring them personally into the game *). It’s not even their role. They have to concentrate on getting the vision straight and translate it into “actionable desired results” and make sure the “backbone” is strong and wide enough to play the game. So it’s very plausible for them to focus talks on a cognitive level of the WHY and the WHAT and make sure the “leader density” of the backbone is pumped up properly and corrosive people are taken out. Their institutional credibility and authority (respect) help the organization understand the “I GOT IT”. But when it boils down to the “LET’S DO THIS”, higher management has nothing to ad as they do not have trust.
Trust is something only direct and direct above team leaders have as a result of continued exposure and behavior that identifies them as leaders. They are the ones with the credibility to motivate their people to move ahead and try new things. Higher levels of leadership have to protect them and let them do and try. That’s where their trust comes in. If a team leader doesn’t trust his chain of command to support him in uncertainty, even when things may go wrong (which they have to as that’s how things mostly improve), he will say “yes Sir” and hide in the bushes and digitalization projects will fail.
Effective digital communications is a planned, balanced and integrated approach between Respect (WHY and WHAT) and Trust (HOW and WHEN), from CEO to team leaders and if nothing else works, pulling in informal leaders as well (but not as a standard approach!).
*) CEO’s (and some C-Suites) can (and should) play a crucial role in digitalization projects even though they do not have the credibility or trust from employees. They have the institutional authority needed which is a fantastic playing card for resetting culture quickly.
What would happen if a CEO would show up at 3 AM in an oil gathering center, unannounced, unknown to his chain of command, and have some coffee with the petroleum engineers and well checkers on duty? Showing his interest in the new tech, asking questions?
And what would happen if a division manager would invite his young talents to do a photoshoot together to make the company aware of RTOC benefits and opportunities? What if a Minister of Petroleum Would invite a few Well checkers to his office, again unexpected, to have some tea and coffee and ask them about their worries, learnings and what he can do to help them?
What if the CEO is suddenly not the last one to enter a meeting, but the first one? And comes 5 minutes early? And establishes brand behavior?
What if he decides to sit and work in the RTOC in midst of the engineers and start doing this regularly?
These are just some (real) examples on how a CEO and divisional leaders can “single-handedly” reset the company culture almost literally overnight, simply by defining and now showing the new desired behaviors they want to prevail (that benefit transitions).
This should not happen by coincidence, but become an essential part of any digitalization strategy. It has nothing to do with posters on the wall or websites or magazines or town halls. These media need to support the “WHY and WHAT and even the HOW, but it’s the C-Level behavior and the following uncontrolled informal communications between employees that will set the new bench and socialize new desired culture, as well as warn some managers in the “backbone” about now undesired behaviors.
The single most difficult part of any O&G digitalization project is creating this high level of awareness and apatite to engage and help leadership understand, prepare and interpret their own crucial change roles. If it works, innovation projects will fly. If they stay in ivory towers, they signal that this isn’t to be taken seriously and winds will blow it away.
Can it be that simple? That straightforward? We have been right so far but don’t take my word for it. Intelligent change for this new reality starts at the top and only if we can engage, we can be of use.
The funny thing is that this part of the success formula for digitalization projects comes for almost free. On the contrary, it will save money and will make investments pay off.
At DOFAS we claim to be able to predict (monetized) outcomes of digitalization efforts immediately after stakeholder analysis, where we look into Communications and 6 other essential success drivers. We have a model for that called Triple7 ™ and a measurement tool (DOFASHEALTH ™) and we like to figure it out working a couple of days shoulder to shoulder with leadership teams as half of the awareness job is showing and growing the understanding about what makes “IT” tick and while at it, what they themselves can do to make it happen and once they act, how huge the impact on outcomes really is.
CEO’s and division leaders are always surprised about how little, in fact, is really needed (from them) and how huge the effect is on outcomes, if well done, timed properly and meant by heart (Employees always know when managers fake!).
If you would like to know more about how you can increase success probabilities of your projects, speed up your digitalization-, IOF- and RTOC projects, save real money and make more with less; you are just one call away from it.