Despite adopting frameworks like ITIL or DevOps as if they are the shiny new thing, 70% of digital transformation projects still fail due to neglecting fundamentals like attitude, behavior, and culture. It’s a learning curve a lot of companies are not willing to ride.
Paul Wilkinson has found multiple trends for why digital transformation fail. He discussed them and also explained how to implement a proper game simulation on the 30th Episode of Ticket Volume, our IT podcast. He introduced his book and set of cartoons called ABC (Attitude-Behavior-Culture), which he has now rebranded as the Shiny New Thing That Really Helps, and talked about other pet subjects that could lead you to a successful transformation.
Wilkinson the self-proclaimed "retired pointy-fingered-grumpy-old-man-in-IT," brings a wealth of experience to the table. With over 40 years in the IT industry, he served as the Business Development Director at GamingWorks for an impressive 19 years. As an expert in IT management best practices, Paul specializes in translating theory into practice through the use of engaging business simulation games.
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5 reasons why digital transformation fails
Framework adoption like ITIL or agile aims to change people's behaviors but IT managers often overlook how difficult it is to change behaviors. This difficulty in changing behaviors leads to many failures in implementing these frameworks.
"People don't know how to embed learning into new behaviors, and then what do we do? We blame the framework: ‘See we told you ITIL is no good, we need ITIL version three, oh that's no good either! We need it on version four.’ There's never been anything wrong with the ITIL, it's just we don't translate that learning into behaviors sustainable, repeatable behaviors."
In 15 years of implementing simulations, Wilkinson was able to identify 5 trends or reasons why digital transformation fails, and they are all incredibly eye-opening:
- Lack of strategic alignment with their business goals: According to Wilkinson over 5000 organizations have too little understanding of their business impact and priority. This result is the same in every single one of his simulations.
- Little leadership and management commitment: Strategic alignment is often a waste of time due to the lack of leadership skills in managing behavior and culture change. Leaders struggle to make these changes work effectively.
- Lack of skills alignment: The focus on obtaining certificates rather than translating them into results and behaviors hinders skill development. Simulations can help embed learning into new behaviors.
- Everybody struggles with culture: Changing culture remains a significant challenge for organizations. CIO reports indicate that many struggle with cultural transformation.
- Disregarding continual improvement: Implementing frameworks like Agile or DevOps requires ongoing learning and improvement. Organizations need to develop a core capability for continual improvement. ITIL should be seen as a philosophy of continual learning and improvement rather than a one-time implementation process. Adopting Agile or DevOps should involve iterative application until the desired value is achieved. Organizations should regularly assess whether improvements are being achieved or if things are getting worse. Understanding the reasons behind negative outcomes can guide corrective actions. ITIL is a continual learning and improving philosophy.
"Nobody knows what the business goals are and nobody knows how to apply the frameworks to support and enable business goals. So we just don't know enough about the business but equally, the business doesn't even know what their own goals are. One of the trend reports I looked at even said only a third of business managers know what their top five strategic goals are, yet these are the same people insisting their IT projects have the highest priority."
The value of game simulation
Is this the solution?
Wilkinson shared his experience with GamingWorks as a way to change behaviors through simulations and games, and how it helped him understand ITIL better. It pretty much helps translate theory into practice by bringing all stakeholders together in a simulated environment.
He confessed the traditional training methods were boring, and people didn't know how to use the knowledge gained from them. Business simulation games provide a more interesting way of learning and making the knowledge stick.
The takeaway is that continually applying the "stop, reflect, discuss, agree, and improve" process leads to iterative improvements. Simulations are valuable for experiential learners to learn lessons from different perspectives. It teaches aspects of Agile and the importance of stopping, reflecting, and doing the work.
The Apollo training, as a famous industry example, is well-known in the industry and has been widely seen through pictures and videos online. It takes storytelling to another level by turning it into an experiential learning experience. Participants learn the same lessons but from different data points and perspectives.
For Wilkinson, simulations are easily applied in real-life situations, especially those with group participation. All kinds of points of view get condensed in a clear reflection on what went wrong and right to identify areas for improvement.
His advice is to participate in continuous learning exercises between game rounds leading to improvements in performance.
How can we make game simulations work?
The way we can make game simulations work is by creating a reality in the first round because the first game round aims to create a sense of recognition among participants. Between game rounds, participants reflect on what went wrong and right, as well as their values.
Continuous improvement exercises are applied after each round to enhance performance figures. Wilkinson invited managers to take 20 to 30 minutes at the end of each meeting for reflection can lead to significant improvements. This will result in numerous improvements throughout the year.
There you have it, no organization has successfully implemented all ITIL processes from zero to optimize maturity in one go. Regardless, this is just a summary of Ticket Volume's episode featuring Paul Wilkinson, but there's a lot more to discover in the recording. Be sure to listen to the full conversation with Matt Beran to learn more about why digital transformation fails and how simulations can help.
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