Digital transformation: Should we uberize the chain of command?
Do you know the hairy people of the digital transformation? Digital transformation sometimes gives the impression of being a vast trench warfare, pitting siege against the ground, career officers and troops. While the generals decide on offensives, the hairy have the feeling of following paradoxical injunctions.
“Digital transformation mutinies” are therefore more and more frequent: refusal to adopt tools, inertia of field managers, data not reported, disengagement of employees.
Should we uberize the chain of command?
The idea is nothing new: digital technology is disrupting managerial lines by making information accessible more quickly and by shifting sources of legitimacy and expertise. but companies continue to favor very top-down digital project deployments: validated projects are presented to officers, who are then responsible for transmitting them to soldiers.
Problem, the amount of information is much too heavy, indigestible. The maps are poorly drawn, even contradictory, and the estimate of the resources to be committed for the next battle is approximate. As for the coordination between the third marketing infantry army and the IT army corps, it is no longer relevant, the liaison colonel being on leave due to burn-out. What if master sergeants and soldiers had the ability to correct maps and feed back information directly from the field? The responsibility of non-commissioned officers in the deployment of digital transformation is far too heavy to assume.
The transition from strategy to operational
In “War and Peace”, Tolstoy recounts for 100 pages the battle of Austerlitz, enormous absurd mess, won by the French more by chance than thanks to the genius of their generals. He tells, for example, how the officers of the Russian general staff roam the battlefield to report the positions of the various battalions to the great General Koutouzov and take orders. But by the time the officers gallop to the general and then return, the position on the ground has already changed three times, rendering the order inapplicable. Avoidable butchery ensues.
In the digital age, responsiveness and adaptation to an unstable environment are popular skills; leaving someone the opportunity to decide on their own, independently, would avoid these back and forths. But how to consolidate the information and prevent two regiments from going to the same place, abandoning a central position?
Information on the war effort
The press has always been at the service of the war effort. Photos, cinema, newspapers: we must encourage the troops and assure them of the support of the “rear”. Thus, in the transformation of companies, we are witnessing an overload of information. The deluge of project announcements undermines their credibility and ownership. Keeping up to date with business news now requires an hour of watching and reading per day! The employees experience a sort of “fomo” of their own company which they summarize by: “It happens without us”, with a somewhat disenchanted air. And when announcements such as “German bullets do not kill” arrive, contradicted by daily observation, the field is necessarily skeptical.
Perception of priorities
Fresh out of the Military School for Digital Transformation, our generals have developed polished strategies, drawing on the precious advice of spin doctors defectors from other armies, true digital Clausewitz. But the corporate body sees all of this from afar.
The gap between the announcements and reality is strong. While a company announces innovation projects with the blockchain, 50% of employees still struggle to upload a video in less than a minute. While groups buy start-ups for tens of millions of euros to diversify, their own employees see their salary increases refused. The siege announces the arrival of reinforcements and resources, but our hairy people continue to work with wet powder and their uniforms with holes.
Do we still need an army?
Without going so far as to announce the big night of big companies, we can legitimately wonder if the digital economy is compatible with giant companies, resulting from an industrial economy. Should we enter into an indirect strategy based on guerrilla warfare? Should armies be recomposed into small, autonomous, mobile groups, following directions rather than orders? Will drones and other bots replace infantry?
Antoine Amiel is the CEO of LearnAssembly, a company specializing in the design of digital training courses (Moocs, social learning, digital academies). LearnAssembly notably co-produced with Gilles Babinet the first online course on the management of digital transformation.