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Unlocking the Bottlenecks of Digital Transformation Using ADKAR

A Case Study on a Multinational Corporation

Organisations, from small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and multinational corporations (MNCs), need to evolve to address the rapidly changing business landscape today. Digital transformation has become an ubiquitous term, as many organisations leverage on digital technologies to drive business results, innovate and make continuous improvements.

However, it is not uncommon to hit a roadblock even with sophisticated digital programmes and elaborate roadmaps in place. Digital transformation necessitates changes in business processes – policies, procedures and people need to change. The change of mindsets and behaviours can be a long-drawn process, with a multitude of variables coming into play that affects the speed of adoption.

MNCs face the added challenge of leading digital change across regional teams which each tend to have their own set of strengths, weaknesses and country-specific factors to grapple with.

The Case

One such MNC, with a regional-wide strategy that required restructuring in their Claims departments across Asia Pacific, encountered a bottleneck in their digital transformation as the speed of technology adoption as well as mindset and behavioural shifts differed across their regional teams.

In the transformation project, not only were there digitalised processes to be adopted, but changes to functional Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These changes fundamentally altered the nature of the role of the Claims team – from that of a largely paperwork processing department to playing an advocacy role that affects the profits and losses of the organisation.

Even with an advanced digital programme that could be adjusted and implemented within a matter of a few days, weekly regional meetings and structured roadmaps, people were not supporting the project and adopting changes as quickly as desired. While efforts had been made from top-down to drive change, there was a missing gap in knowing if and why changes were being not translated downstream.

To quote the words of the Regional Head encountering a roadblock - “I speak to a townhall of 130 people. When they leave the room, I don’t know what they are thinking. I want to be able to stop talking for an hour and just be the sponsor of the programme.”

The Regional Head decided to engage our firm, aAdvantage Consulting, as third-party consultant to conduct a deep-dive management interview with CEO and Claims managers of regional teams to identify these missing gaps.

The Approach

Based on the findings of the interviews, the ADKAR model was used to assess the readiness of change of each country (source: Prosci).

Source: Prosci

Each regional team was evaluated on which level they were at for each stage of the ADKAR model (High, Medium and Low). Thereafter, they were mapped on a two-by-two diagram in terms of their Awareness and Desire (“Want to do”) and Knowledge and Ability (“Can do”).

Based on country’s position in the diagram and which quadrant it lied in, it was suggested that the Regional Head take on a different leadership approach for his Claims team – Collaborate, Delegate, Direct and Equip (Refer to Figure 1).

The Outcome

In this case, some regional teams demonstrated willingness to change, but required time in building skills and knowledge to enact change. On the other hand, other regional teams possessed high abilities in enacting change (e.g. being empowered to make decisions and advocate for the Claims department) but were in fact, less willing to change with the mindset that “All was good” given the environmental factors they had to work with.

While the ADKAR model has been traditionally used to address stage-based, sequential project management, assessing the countries based on their levels of Awareness, Desire, Knowledge and Ability and subsequently mapping the stakeholders helped to paint a picture of each regional team’s needs and mindset in comparison to their peers. This allowed the Regional Head to see how his leadership approach should be adjusted to each team accordingly.

Digital transformation is an ongoing process of changing the way you do business…It requires mixing people, machines and business processes, with all of the messiness that entails. It also requires continuous monitoring and intervention from the top to ensure that both digital leaders and other non-digital leaders are making good decisions about their transformation efforts.

- Thomas H. Davenport and George Westerman, March 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology publication

A committed sponsor who was willing to invest his time and effort into understanding the gaps, being open to possible mistakes and change accordingly also contributed greatly to the success of this project.

At the heart of digital transformation lies people, with all the messiness that entails. With the ADKAR model, approaches to managing teams can be tailored according to levels of change readinesss, thus unlocking bottlenecks to digital transformation and allowing digital leaders to make better decisions in their transformation efforts. The organisation culture must be set right before the people can be equipped with the right skills from accredited agencies to make an impact in the transformation efforts. A great example is Equinet Academy, who offers WSQ-accredited Digital marketing courses to upskill marketing teams.


Author: Jodi Lau, Analyst, aAdvantage Consulting

Jodi is an Analyst at aAdvantage Consulting Group, a boutique firm partnering clients in achieving impactful transformations.

She has worked closely with clients in areas of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods of Research. These include Mystery Customer Audits, Focus Group Discussions, Customer Experience Surveys , Employee Engagement Surveys and In-Depth Interviews. She has also been involved in IT Change Management Projects.

Author: Yeow Chern Han, Director, aAdvantage Consulting

Chern Han is the Co-owner & Director of aAdvantage Consulting Group, a boutique firm partnering clients in achieving impactful transformations.

He has 20 Years of experience in organisation development consulting and training. As a coaching and facilitator, he has help implemented successful corporate transformation initiative through intervention such as business review and planning, change management, team building, team coaching, executive coaching and leadership development training.


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