It’s funny how some things — important ideas in particular — seem to go through cycles.

For a while, they’re the most important thing you’ve ever worked on. Then you reach a point where things settle down and you move on, until one day these ideas come roaring back with newfound relevance.

I’m having one of those moments right now around an important topic that I’ve been working on for several years: readiness.

And, as I’ll explain in a moment, the reason the importance of readiness has come roaring back into my consciousness is because of its relationship to something that is a top-of-mind issue for everyone right now: resilience.

The Big Idea: The Digital Enterprise Readiness Investment

Four years ago or so, back when Digital Transformation was just starting to pick up steam, I was already getting sick of it.

Everywhere I turned, tech companies were throwing around the term like it was candy (and they were standing creepily outside an open van door!).

I was frustrated because I had spent my career living what it meant to really do digital transformation, but that wasn’t the conversation most enterprise leaders were having with their vendors and consultants. Instead, everything kept coming back down to executing a digital transformation project.

I realized that part of the issue was that we were all talking about digital transformation as an end-state. It made sense, therefore, that if we were envisioning an end state that it would take a project to get us there. And that’s when it dawned on me that we were looking at this all wrong.

It is sort of like a football team stating that they want to win the Super Bowl (the end state) and, therefore, laying out a set of “projects” (e.g., new plays) that they would need to get to that goal. They may, in fact, need those new plays, but the foundation upon which they would build them was a set of fundamentals. In short, they would need to build up to and maintain an elite level of readiness if they wanted any chance of becoming Super Bowl champs.

It is this idea of readiness — a focus on maintaining a set of fundamental capabilities — that enables elite teams to rapidly learn new plays, build new skills, adapt to different opponents, and even change strategy mid-game. Without readiness, all the trick plays in the world will do you no good.

I realized that readiness was the secret sauce of almost any elite sports team, military unit, or business leadership team that delivered consistent wins — and it was what most enterprises were entirely missing when it came to their digital transformation efforts.

As a result of this realization, I created the foundation of what would become the Digital Enterprise Readiness Framework (and which would be fully developed by Dr. Frank Granito). The Framework is a set of critical capabilities that represents the foundation on top of which organizations can execute digital transformation projects and which enables them to transform themselves into a Digital Enterprise.

The one question that always haunted me, though, was whether or not organizations would ever be able to quantify or visibly see the results of their investment in creating this state of readiness.

Our pandemic-ridden world has now given me an answer. And it comes in the form of resiliency.

The Impact: Why Readiness Begets Resilience

As I’ve written about recently, I’ve been amazed by both the personal expressions of creativity and some of the WFH (work from home) hilarity amid this crisis.

But it’s not just individuals that have been on this spectrum. It’s organizations, too. Some, like FedEx and 3M, have been able to take a massive and overnight increase in demand in near-stride.

Others (and I won’t name names here) have been, well, let’s just say a little less adept and adapting to this craziness.

In fairness, this is a ridiculous situation, and I’m not trying to slam any organization for having difficulties.

Still, I find it remarkable how some organizations have been able to respond with aplomb while others haven’t. As I contemplated the reasons, it brought me back to this idea of readiness.

As I’ve spoken with numerous organizations over the last several weeks, the consistent refrain has been, “we’ve initiated our business continuity plan (BCP).”

While I was excited that so many companies actually had an actionable BCP ready to go, I also noticed something else. Regardless of whether or not an organization had a BCP, the greatest indicator of whether or not they were faring well during this crisis is what I’ll call their cultural footing. How well they communicate, their degree of organizational and strategic adaptability, and their ability to sense changes and respond to them without being threatened, seemed to determine their sustainability.

Not coincidentally, I realized, these were the very traits that we defined in our Digital Enterprise Readiness Framework.

Whether they have called it readiness or not, those organizations that have maintained a state of readiness seem to be the ones that have the most resilient culture and, as a result, seem best equipped to weather this pandemic-induced storm.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this is far from scientific. But the connection between resiliency and readiness is now slapping me in the face daily.

The Next Step: Invest in Readiness

The basic concept of readiness is easy to grasp. It’s hard to do anything well if you have not prepared properly — if you’re not ready.

But the reason the concept of readiness is so critical — and why it is hard to fully get your arms around in a corporate context — is that it demands awareness and maintenance.

We rarely talk about the concept of readiness in an organizational context, except with things like a BCP. But, as their name implies, those sorts of things are just plans of action. They are not a cultural state, and that’s the challenge.

Readiness is, at its core, a set of cultural constructs that you invest in building and maintaining.

Going back to the examples of elite sports or military units, all of that constant training they do is, in fact, an investment in maintaining their readiness.

Your challenge, therefore, is to take a moment to think about what it means to bring your organization or team into a state of readiness. I encourage you to check out the Digital Enterprise Readiness Framework.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, this is a perfect time to start to educate yourself and your teams on this important concept. It’s also a great time to begin shifting perspectives about its importance and how to maintain it as you come out of this trying period.

If it’s helpful, you can also check out an online training program that The Institute for Digital Transformation developed in partnership with ITSM Solutions on the subject of Digital Enterprise Readiness.

But whatever you do, don’t miss this opportunity to do a little soul searching about how you can ensure that the next time some crazy, unexpected situation hits, you’ll be ready for it.

Tag/s:Digital Enterprise,