Big companies all over the world have launched major initiatives to digitally transform themselves. By some measures, nearly a half of these initiatives are not meeting their goals, and some are even failing.

While many reasons for this have been cited, one has received very little attention: the traditional top-down approach by senior executives to designing the work in the middle levels of the organization. This approach was often hugely successful in the last big era of technology-driven business process change: the age of reengineering. And it appears to be in vogue this decade – perhaps because senior executives believe that only they will be willing to look for opportunities for artificial intelligence and other digital technologies to replace labor in the middle and front lines of the organization.

However, this paper proposes a new approach. We believe that capitalizing on the digital technologies we have today (especially AI and machine learning) requires organizations to take a much different approach to transforming their operations in the middle. As we point out in our paper (and as an increasing number of studies confirm), to digitally transform the work in the middle of their organizations, senior executives must empower their leaders and teams in the middle to redesign their own operations.

It’s a very different approach to technology-driven transformation, one that demands big changes in mindsets and behaviors at the top and middle ranks of companies about how best to design work and manage people.

In this paper, I explore the key changes in mindsets and the resulting behaviors at the top and the middle to make digital transformation initiatives succeed.

By Don Jones