I found “Raising Your Digital Quotient” in the June 2015 issue of the McKinsey Quarterly to be an intriguing and timely read.
While the writers (in their examination of the digital performance of major corporations) highlight the importance of digital strategy, digital and technical capabilities and alignment of organizational structures, talent development, funding mechanisms and KPIs (and rightly so), two broader themes in the article also resonate for me as a coach and presenter on social media.
One primary thematic element underscored by this article is the significance of relationships-both internal and external-to the success of a company’s digital agenda. The need to operate effectively among functions, suppliers and partners runs throughout the authors’ stated four lessons for identifying one simple metric as the “digital maturity” of a company. For example, they point out that “…collaborative cultures take on even greater importance as companies look to boost their DQ, since many lack the established digital backbone needed to unify traditionally siloed parts of the organization, from customer service to fulfillment to supply-chain management to financial reporting.”
In some ways, the need for effective internal relationships in digitally-sensitive environments calls to mind the somewhat tongue-in-check Steve Jobs quote: “My model for business is the Beatles: They were four guys that kept each others’ negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts.” In her article on “Strategic Co-opetition: The Value of Relationships in the Networked Economy,” Julie Bowser of IBM Global Services stresses, from an external standpoint, that “[the new concept of “co-opetition] requires companies to create business strategies that capitalize on relationships to create maximum value in the marketplace.”
“Co-opetition,” she explains, is “a model in which a network of stakeholders cooperate and compete to create maximum value.” Bowser points out that “Internet and mobile technologies have made it even more necessary (italics mine) for companies to both compete and co-operate (hence the term “co-opetition”, explored by Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff in their book by the same title) by enabling relationships through information sharing as well as integrating and streamlining processes.”
A second message that can be drawn from the McKinsey article is the value of middle managers, whose significance is sometimes lost in discussions surrounding senior leadership, to the successful deployment of a digital strategy. For example, McKinsey’s Tanguy Caitlin, Jay Scanlan and Paul Willmott, principals and director, respectively, point out that within high-digital-quotient companies “the most critical thing is midlevel talent: the ‘boots on the ground’ who can make or break digital initiatives and are ultimately responsible for bringing products, services and offers to market.”
This “managerial value” perspective is echoed by other luminaries, including Tom Peters, who communicated that “vision is dandy, but sustainable company excellence comes from a huge stable of able managers.” Peter Drucker, arguably the founder of modern management, shared that “a manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge,” and went so far as to say that “the productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager (italics mine).”
These two underlying themes are related, of course, in that they both reflect the critical value of people to the goal of raising a company’s digital quotient. At the end of the day, for this to occur, individuals both internally and externally have to want to realize the efficiencies and improvements inherent in creating a “fast, agile culture” and conducting “test and optimize releases.” Success in any strategic initiative relies upon this fact.
Finally, in appreciating the necessity of engagement, I feel Drucker put it best: “[We need to] accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.”