By Matthias and Seda Röder

Many small and medium enterprises today have to go through a digital transformation in order to remain competitive or to redefine their business models. However we keep hearing that those transformation projects fail due to poor management. Because in most cases managers forget to create a playful environment and excitement around their transformation efforts. The management style and strategy are indeed the most important key stone when managing digitization. Establishing an eager-to-learn mindset can be challenging in cases where teams have been around for a while and, more crucially, sceptical towards change. Here are three management strategies that have proven useful for us in various projects in incentivizing team members to build and increase digital competency.

  1. Build an internal digital community. Analog teams that are confronted with digitalization topics face many hurdles. In some ways this process is like learning a new language. Make sure that your team knows who to turn to with questions and issues. Ideally, you can set up a chat group to address these issues for the whole group. Great tools for community support are slack, telegram or even facebook groups. Sometimes it might be useful for team members to ask questions one-on-one. Integrate time for questions and sharing of learning in your weekly team meetings. Encourage everyone to share their insights and never forget to distinguish those who are brave enough to ask questions!
  2. Encourage and reward experimentation.Trying out new tools and applying newly acquired skills are powerful motivators. They tap into two of our basic drives: curiosity and creativity. Make sure to provide team members with a budget to try out new services or platforms for digital management and productivity. Following the principle of „perfect is the enemy of done“ will free your team from preferring the status quo over the potential benefits of change. Finally, try out new formats for working together, such as company-wide hackathons, design-thinking workshops or simply making time for individual micro projects.
  3. Integrate management and development/IT teams.This is the most fundamental change and if implemented well, you create fast learning digital teams in no time. For it to be successful, members from both teams must be working on the project together, forming a close bond and association. Whenever possible, do not rely on agencies or outside consultants, unless you are willing to work closely and fully integrated in your team. Make sure that every aspect of the project can be understood in basic terms by everyone involved. Technological discussions should always be framed in general terms. Technical terminology needs to be explained carefully and great emphasis should be put on making sure that everyone is on the same page. From our experience, this is the single most important driver for forming a digital mindset in the team.