Bet boldly!

That’s just one call to action from the October 2018 McKinsey Quarterly article, “Digital Strategy: The Four Fights You Have to Win.” The article offers great context and advice on winning digital strategies for today’s business leaders, including how to avoid the risks of being tentative and the pitfalls of “incrementalism.”

When it comes to success, here’s how the McKinsey article frames the need to be bold when executing a digital transformation strategy:

“The mismatch between most incumbents’ business models and digital futures is too great — and the environment is changing too quickly — for anything but bold, inventive strategic plans to work.”

Being bold, having a clear strategy, strong leadership, and agility are all key success factors. But that’s not enough, according to the McKinsey article.

Success also comes down to winning the common every day “fights” that virtually all companies face when undergoing digital transformation. Take a look at how leaders are setting themselves up to win with some real examples:

  1. Fighting Ignorance — Executives that aren’t “fully fluent” in the meaning and reasons behind digital transformation face an uphill battle. Failure to truly understand the business impact of digital can also lead to the wrong investments and prevent you from implementing a long-term strategy. This underscores the need for today’s execs to know the digital landscape and be comfortable communicating its value, both internally and externally. Companies have used several techniques to win this battle. This includes setting up “digital academies” for leadership teams to learn more and have a forum to ask questions, in addition to carrying out company-wide assessments of digital capabilities and more employee engagement.
  2. Fighting Fear — Is digital hazardous to your own future? Digital change can bring about fear within the organization, including how it impacts jobs in the C-suite and among other leadership ranks. Leaders need the knowledge, support, and tools to enable digital transformation success. Honest dialogue, workshops, and support networks are some best practices that can effectively support leadership teams for sustained success in the face of digital transformation.
  3. Fighting Guesswork — The need for speed can put digital disruptors in an uncomfortable position when it comes to risk versus reward. Sometimes the requirement for an aggressive approach can push companies into the unknown too soon. According to the McKinsey article, companies can avoid guesswork by charting proof points during the course of a project, rather than at the end. Always make the business case for an investment in digital. Use pilot programs that allow for testing and knowledge gathering along the way for informed decisions that contribute to the long-term strategy.
  4. Fighting Diffusion — Successful leaders overcome the urge to spread people and resources too thinly when taking on digital transformation. Instead, leaders should “view your company as a portfolio of initiatives at different stages of seeding, nurturing, growing, or pruning.” It’s this business-oriented perspective versus a technology perspective that keeps digital strategies on track. Because your different initiatives may be at different stages of growth, the investments you need to make will vary. By evaluating emerging digital products, digitizing existing products, and eliminating products that have no future in a digital world, companies can ensure the best use of its people and resources to enable success.

To learn more and read about examples in a range of industries, read the full McKinsey Quarterly article here.

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