As we hurtle towards the end of 2018, I find myself reflecting on the year that was, the year that soon will be, and what to make of it all. It’s been a year of possibility with more ideas, more innovation and more opportunity than ever before but have we achieved what we set out to or is there, like every year, still a hell of a lot more to do?

I spent some time with the digital team at Origin yesterday, and after reflecting on our discussion and my own digital experience last year, it looks like 2019 will be another year of more delivery and more deadlines when it comes to all things digital but how confident are we in actually achieving it all?

If recent reports from Gartner are anything to go by the answer is “not very.” In their Digital Business Transformation Report – An Australian Perspective, they reported that “Australian enterprises have not made sufficient progress in the digital business initiatives they have started” and that our “ambition surpasses our performance.” Ouch!

To succeed in 2019, I’ve come up with five ways to make sure next year is radically different when it comes to hitting your digital deadlines.

How many are you going to adopt to demonstrate your buy in to digital?

1. Don’t set deadlines set priorities

Whatever digital means to you and your reasons for doing it the majority of your success will come down to HOW you do it. Too many organisations are still delivering the “old” way. Setting deadlines for teams to meet in a bid to build confidence that IT WILL happen at the executive level when the chances are that IT WON’T!

All that deadlines do is create a culture of top-down expectation rather than bottom-up collaboration.

  • Teams on the ground will “do what they can” in a bid to meet the deadline and you will end up with something that is half-baked.
  • They will deliver what you asked for as opposed to coming up with potentially better, more innovative ways forward.
  • They will think that you “don’t get it” and their buy-in and commitment will wane once they realise that you’re setting them up to fail.

It’s simply not the way to get things done.

Instead be clear on the vision and set priorities not a date! WORK WITH THEM to answer what is possible rather than waste time and money on failing at the impossible.

2. Trust your talent

Steve Jobs famously said “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” and this can’t be more real than in digital. Most of us haven’t earned our leadership stripes in a digital world, but our digital talent has, and we need to trust them to help us! Once you get beyond deadlines and talk about priorities, ASK THEM what is possible, by when, and see their buy-in and motivation fire up! I would back a talented, ambitious person who has committed to deliver every day of the week over someone who was trying to hit a deadline that was set for them so don’t do it!

Trust their competence, ask questions and you’ll build your digital knowledge in the process. It’s a win-win!

3. Contribute yourself

It’s easy to set digital deadlines, get a regular update via reports and meetings but is that really buying into your digital future or are you just waiting for a digital initiative to be delivered like it is another tick in the strategy box? You are part of your organisation’s digital journey; you can’t tick the box if everything around you is digital and your not so what is your contribution going to be?

  • Attention – are you giving the team physical attention, can you see them and more importantly can they see you?
  • Resources – are you helping them be successful or have you just thrown them an oily rag?
  • Time – are you rolling your sleeves up and getting involved?
  • Opportunity – are you giving people the clarity they need to excel and permission to go beyond the norm?
  • Help – are you leaning into tough problems, do you know what they are?
  • Care – are you making people feel safe and trusted, are you demonstrating that you care?
  • Recognition – are you celebrating their efforts regardless of whether things are a success?
  • Experience – are you sharing your insights so others can benefit?
  • Relationships – are you connecting and enabling people?
  • Reassurance – are you encouraging progress even when times inevitably get hard?

4. Dig deep on digitals credibility

It doesn’t matter what you are delivering, sooner or later everyone needs to see results. If they are not there your credibility, and the reliability of digital as a whole, will start to degrade as people lose faith and their ability to trust it.

In his book The Speed of TrustStephen M.R. Covey talks about four cores to building credibility

  • Integrity – what is the real reason you are going digital? Are you embracing people, process, and tools or do people think that there is another agenda?
  • Intent – are you clear on the broader vision or are your digital initiatives disjointed leaving people confused what the big picture is?
  • Capability – have you sourced the talent you need, both from your existing teams and externally, to deliver on your commitments?
  • Results – what are your demonstrable results? Make sure they are financial, non-financial and TANGIBLE! If you have built something stop people and show them, don’t reduce it to a bullet point on a report, demo it!

5. Connect, connect, connect

The success of every project, digital or otherwise, comes down to the people on it and how engaged and connected they feel.

  • To you
  • To the idea that they are delivering
  • The broader vision

You need to lead the way on building this connection with them, so they, in turn, connect with you. It underpins the delivery culture that all of your digital initiatives will sit under, so you need to decide whether you want the metaphorical door to be opened or closed.

Tell them your story, explain what digital means to you as a person and a leader not just to your business. Talk about the challenges, successes and even failures you have faced before and listen to their stories in return!

The more connected they are to you, the more open they will be and the more you will be able to work together, and ultimately all trust the journey ahead.

That is when you hit deadlines and delivery really starts to fly.