Digital Transformation & Maturity

Information oils all the wheels: People and culture

This is the second in a two-part series by TM Forum’s Managing Editor Dawn Bushaus which originally ran in its entirety in our Digital Leader Network newsletter. In the first part, Bushaus wrote about what the industry has been saying on the operational and strategic side of things. In this part, she focuses on how people within a company can drive transformation.

The right people in the right roles

The GC Index helps companies assess the potential impact of transformation team leaders and identifies what kind of team a firm needs to achieve its business goals. The ‘shape’ of the team and the combination of skills required varies greatly, depending on the starting point and desired destination.

Pascal Viginier, Special Advisor and former Group CIO at Orange recently outlined how Orange is using both the DMM and working with the GC Index to advance digital transformation. You can watch the full presentation below.

The GC Index helps companies discover the impact individual members of leadership teams can have on the organization as a whole. It focuses on five primary roles/character types:

  • Game-changers, who are disruptive and create original ideas. These are folks who “look at world differently and can be very disruptive,” according to Nathan Ott, CEO, The GC Index.
  • Strategists, who make sense of the radical ideas and figure out how they can work in practice. “A radical idea might be entertaining, but it’s no good unless we can make sense of it,” Ott explains.
  • Implementers, who make the ideas happen. They bring urgency, energy and persistence to the table to get things done.
  • Polishers, who look for ways to improve on the idea. “These are individuals who focus on standards, raising standards, and making things the best they can be,” Ott comments.
  • Play-makers, whose role it is to foster ideas by empowering others in the team. “This role is often overlooked when we’re in the heat of digital transformation,” Ott says, but it is critical.

At different times in their lifecycle, companies need to have differently weighted teams as they all have strengths and weaknesses, but all the roles in the team are needed for successful transformation:

  • Inventive teams are radical and leading edge but they can be distracted by possibilities.
  • Innovative teams are less radical; they focus on improving the services delivered to customers.
  • Transformational teams are well-balanced and know how to apply creativity in a business context.
  • Traditional teams thrive in a stable environment; they focus on quarterly results and getting things done.
  • Business-as-usual teams already know what to do and how to get on with it.

Culture is not one-dimensional

The problem for many telcos is that they often have a one-dimensional view of what talent is and what leadership looks like, according to Ott, which is a big stumbling block. He says, “One-dimensional views are focused on individuals and tend to confuse promotion with performance – if someone is great at their job, give them more money and responsibilities”. He adds, “Creativity might well lie with certain individuals, but successful innovation to bring about transformation is a team sport. All the team roles are essential.

“The way forward is to move to a team-based, reward-based structure where people complement each other and play to their strengths,” Ott says. “We sort of know all this, yet persist in using the individualistic old metrics and management approaches. Take football – a team sport – you don’t invest time teaching a striker how to play in goal, unlike in an individual sport where someone must improve their all-round game to compete.”

Finding the right mix

Orange applied The GC Index to its Global IT leadership team and discovered interesting results. When looking at the highest score for each member of the team, about 35 percent were play-makers, followed by strategists (24 percent), implementers (17 percent), game-changers (12 percent) and polishers (12 percent).

By aggregating a bit differently, Orange discovered that each of its team members have some game-changing qualities, and overall the leadership team falls into the transformation category, but its slightly traditional – see below.

“We have a pretty balanced representation of the different styles,” Viginier says. “It’s a bit tiring because there is a lot of debate and diversity in the team discussions before decisions, but from my perspective it’s pretty efficient.”

He adds: “The only point we can see is we have a lack of polishers (in yellow). After having implemented the team, when choosing the team, I would do it a bit differently and choose more polishers to apply the lessons learned.”

The way forward

In the end, responsibility falls to the CIO to find the right mix of leaders and foster a culture that is agile enough to fail fast and learn from it. This is the only way forward in the digital world.

Ott sums it up best: “If we genuinely want to embrace a safe-to-fail culture and move the organization forward, then we need to embrace original thinking and try out things that might not work. But someone has to say, ‘Let’s try that and see what happens’.

“It needs to become commonplace and at every level. We talk about it, but we don’t really do it. We need to measure people on the impact they make on the team: We need to be horizontal, not vertical, and move to being rewards-based. Until we do that, we can’t make the changes we desire happen.”


    About The Author

    Managing Editor

    Dawn Bushaus began her career in technology journalism in 1989 at Telephony magazine, which means she’s been writing about networking for a quarter century. (She wishes she didn’t have to admit that because it probably gives you a good idea of how old she really is.) In 1996, Dawn joined a team of journalists to start a McGraw-Hill publication called, and in 2000, she helped a team at Ziff-Davis launch The Net Economy, where she held senior writing and editing positions. Prior to joining TM Forum, she worked as a freelance analyst for Heavy Reading.

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