It continues to surprise me how little directors challenge me when presenting digital. Whether as part of the leadership team or as a consultant, rarely am I challenged. I can’t help but wonder why. Are directors sitting there thinking, this is not right, but they do not have the confidence to speak up? Are they fearful that asking the obvious will expose their lack of knowledge on the topic? Or do they think digital is about technology, so they leave it to the more IT-savvy directors?
Looking back at successful digital transformations, I recall the directors were active and engaged. The directors asked good questions. Asked how they could support us. Sought our help to educate them. With failed digital transformations, my experiences with directors were the opposite. We would present updates and – while directors would ask questions – the level of engagement was, well, different.
Organisations appear to be adopting digital without understanding its implications. Executives and boards commit to digital transformations despite being unsure how to govern them.
Media bombard directors with new digital terminology that is at best ambiguous. The new terminology rarely has globally agreed definitions, leaving it up to vendors to educate us. It’s no wonder confusion reigns over directors inexperienced with digital. Staying quiet and not asking questions would seem sensible to avoid looking foolish.
But I urge you to ask those questions sitting on the tip of your tongue. If your gut is telling you things are not right, I need you to speak up.
Your executive will focus on the performance targets you have set them and often this means they focus more on short-term goals.
You are asking your organisation’s leaders to keep the business running today and transform it for tomorrow. Digital is an investment for the long term and outcomes are never guaranteed.
For many executives, there can appear to be a lot of personal downsides to a digital transformation. As directors, you must support your executive. With so much pressure to succeed, I can see why executives may miss, ignore, or even reject the red flags.
You must play an active role, support your executive, and where you see those red flags, raise them high.