Get Reworked Podcast: Breaking Down the Myths of Digital Transformation
The shift to remote and hybrid work is just the tip of the transformation iceberg. To make the most of the massive investment in digital workplace technology over the last year-plus, we need to think much more deeply about digital transformation.
In this episode of Get Reworked, Anh Nguyen Phillips, global CEO program research director at Deloitte Consulting and co-author of "The Transformation Myth: Leading Your Organization through Uncertain Times," tells us why people are the linchpin in successful digital transformation.
"They have the creativity, the ingenuity, the passion," Anh said, "and all of that feeds in to creating the most impactful, innovative, life-changing kinds of technologies that we have, and that we will have going into the future. But we can't tap into that creativity and that innovation without focusing on the human element."
Highlights of the conversation include:
- Why we need to focus on enterprise transformation, not just digital transformation.
- Why having a higher purpose is essential to making the most of digital technology.
- How digitally mature companies approach leadership and organizational culture differently.
- The five traits of organizations that get transformation right.
Plus, co-hosts Siobhan Fagan and Mike Prokopeak talk about their own underwhelming pandemic lockdown-inspired achievements. Listen in for more.
Have a suggestion, comment or topic for a future episode? Drop us a line at [email protected].
- Anh Nguyen Phillips on LinkedIn and Twitter
- Book: "The Technology Fallacy: How People Are the Real Key to Digital Transformation"
- Book: "The Transformation Myth: Leading Your Organization through Uncertain Times"
- Book: "Work Better Together"
- Deloitte's Digital DNA framework
Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.
Mike Prokopeak: Hello and welcome to Get Reworked, your guide to the revolution of work. My name is Mike Prokopeak and I'm editor-in-chief at Reworked.co.
Siobhan Fagan: And I'm Siobhan Fagan, managing editor for Reworked. At Reworked.co, we're dedicated to covering the people, the culture, the technology and the infrastructure that makes up our quickly evolving workplaces.
Mike: Get Reworked is our podcast, brought to you by Simpler Media Group, where you'll hear from industry pioneers leading the way into the future of work, reshaping not just how we work, but also why. We're excited to bring you conversations about best practices, workplace trends and key technologies that support the modern distributed workforce.
Siobhan: Morning, Mike.
Mike: We're now 15 months into COVID-19, and hopefully now starting to come out of it. But we're also at this point where we're starting to see all the things that people have done while they were in lockdown during this, and it's honestly a little bit intimidating when you look at some of the stuff that people have done. Writing books, they have come up with albums, they've learned languages, they've done all sorts of things. And in fact, our guest today wrote two books over the course of the pandemic. Really makes me feel like an underachiever, Siobhan. What are the things that you did?
Siobhan: I came out with three albums. I recorded an entire movie. No, I'm kidding. I got out of bed every morning. I worked. And I already had the sourdough starter before all this so I guess I can't really claim that as a pandemic hobby. How about you, Mike?
Mike: We did get a pup over the pandemic and we've been taking her to training school over the last couple of weeks. So that's been our pandemic achievement, get a puppy and try to train it.
Siobhan: So why don't we bring on somebody who actually achieved quite a bit during the pandemic. Our guest today is on Anh Nguyen Phillips. She is the global CEO program research director at Deloitte Consulting and is the co author of "The Technology Fallacy: How People Are the Real Key to Digital Transformation." Those two books that you were talking about Mike, they are"The Transformation Myth: Leading Your Organization through Uncertain Times" and the other one is "Work Better Together." Are you ready, Mike?
Mike: I am. Let's Get Reworked.
Siobhan: Welcome to the podcast, Anh.
Anh Nguyen Phillips: Thanks for having me.
Siobhan: So back in 2016, you wrote that digital transformation is more about the people than the technology. So here we are. It's five years later, we've had a year of very much testing both of those limits, both the technology and the people. Do you think that companies have gotten that message?
Anh: Has it really been five years since I wrote that?
Siobhan: It has.
Anh: Well, you know, it's funny, because it has been five years. But at the same time, we felt that we needed to continue to share that message, which is why we published "The Technology Fallacy" in 2019, just two years ago. I think that companies are starting to understand this maybe intellectually, but it's like they're not feeling in their bones, right. So there's not enough change in behavior and priority. And this could be for a couple of reasons. One, I think it's hard to unlearn decades of what people thought was maybe the best way to run a business or an organization. But I think the other thing, too, is, you know, focusing on something tangible and quantitative, something that you can touch, like technology is easy. Shifting to something that's a little harder to figure out more qualitative things like people, I think that that's hard. And we just haven't figured out how to do that.
Siobhan: So your writing and your research, it often turns to this question of culture and leadership and internal skill development. How did you come to this, given that your specific title is about technology? And how did you establish this link between technology and the human side?
Anh: Well, it was interesting, because we set out to study this concept of digital transformation, right? A number of years ago, lots of companies were really thinking about it. It was important, everyone was saying that they were trying to do it. So we wanted to see what was going on. And we actually didn't set out to prove this sort of thesis. And we just stumbled across it as we were looking into this topic. And over and over again, what we heard from executives was, "Hey, I can figure out the technology. I'm struggling with other things in the organization, like the people, like the way they think, like the way our organization is, its culture, its leadership." And that's where we found, you know, wow, really, so maybe it isn't about the technology that's stumping people, it's something else.
And if you think about the connection between technology and humans, they're kind of two ways to look at this. One is humans I think are often at the core of why technology exists. But we sometimes forget that, right? So we sometimes get habituated into our technology and we forget that we've created this technology to make our lives easier to do things better, and instead, we've kind of become a slave to it. The second thing to think about is that humans are actually the people who create this technology. They have the creativity, the ingenuity, the passion, and you know, all of that feeds in to creating the most impactful, innovative, life-changing kinds of technologies that we have, and that we will have going into the future. But we can't tap into that creativity and that innovation without focusing on the human element. And figuring out how to elevate that human performance and draw those things out of us
Mike: Anh, do you think it's part of the issue here is that we're using the wrong words when we talk about transformation, because oftentimes organizations are talking about digital transformation. They want to go through a digital transformation and that kind of gets equated with technology.
Anh: Technology, right.
Mike: Is there a better way for us to be talking about it from your point of view?
Anh: Yeah, I think it's really about enterprise transformation. It's beyond just putting in new systems and having new platforms and shifting things that we used to do in an analog way over to a digital way. As you know, during the pandemic, we've seen lots of organizations say that they've experienced years of digital transformation in a short period of time, and it's true, we've shifted to serving customers digitally remotely, we've shifted to working remotely. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, there's a lot more to actually getting benefits out of technology than to just implement them, and it really requires a shift in mindset to really reap the benefits of this technology.
Mike: And that kind of brings us to the question of one of your newer books, which is "The Transformation Myth." What is the myth? Is that related to what you were just saying?
Anh: It is. So "The Transformation Myth" is a bit of a sequel to "The Technology Fallacy." So in "The Technology Fallacy," we really explored this concept of digital disruption. And digital disruption is something that's kind of this chronic disruption that we experience, technologies evolving and changing, and shifting the landscape, competitive landscape of organizations. And what we talk about in terms of transformation myth, one, transformation is not like a one-and-done event. It's really this ongoing cycle. So the concept that, hey, I'm digitally transformed doesn't really exist. So that's kind of the myth behind it is that Oh, once I'm here, then I'm where I need to be. And really, it's this idea of instead of thinking of it that way, you embrace it as an ongoing evolution. So you're never actually there, you're always going to reinvent yourself as an organization.
Mike: Transformation. It's an ongoing process. People feel like probably when they talk about it, that it's a destination. We got there, okay, now we move on to the next big topic here. But as you're saying, it's an ongoing thing.
Anh: Right. And it's more than technology. It's about how do you rethink your organization and your approach to strategy, your approach to leadership, your approach and talent, all of that.
Siobhan: So when we talk about companies sometimes, it's become quite popular to say that every company is a technology company. Is that a helpful way to look at this or is that really kind of holding us back in how we're thinking about it?
Anh: I actually stand on the side that I feel that it is helpful. First of all, it's a reality, right. And the reality is that we have all these new technologies that are changing the way things can be done. And I think if you can't embrace that concept, it's going to be a struggle to succeed as an organization going into the future. And even if you are consciously aware of all these technologies, and decide to go in a way that is more high-touch and more analog, that's OK. But the point is, you need to be aware of that shifting landscape, and the disruptions and the technology disruptions that that are occurring.
So I think it's actually helpful because it is sort of the reality. But second, I think if you think about this, what we've seen in our study is that the most successful and innovative technology companies tend to, though they don't always, have a different approach to their culture and their talent. They understand that they have to do business differently. So kind of embracing that concept of being a technology company, I think could be the gateway to rethinking the way you define your organization overall. Because, as we've seen in our research, the technology industry is actually tends to be ahead in terms of digital transformation and digital maturity.
Mike: Isn't there a danger though, Anh, in technology companies leading the way in this enterprise transformation, to use that term? I ask that question because, you know, this idea that software engineers have of lock in, right. When you start using a technology system, you're kind of locked into the way that the software forces you to think you operate within a system, that kind of pushes you in these different directions and you've got to kind of operate by that. And that, to me feels like it could be rigid. And so technology, in fact can hold us a little bit back from our ability as humans, as people, to kind of work together. How do you address that?
Anh: Yeah, I think, Mike, that's an interesting perspective. And I think that there can be a trap in that way. Right? And I think that some of that has to do with ... so not all technology companies are created equally, right. But the ones that are more innovative, don't necessarily think that way, then they're constantly trying to put people and solutions and trying to solve problems at the center of what they do. They actually tend to have a higher purpose, as opposed to just cranking out technology for technology's sake.
So I think that whether or not you see yourself as a technology company, there has to be a component of it where you recognize that there is technology disruption, and that technology is continuing to evolve and you've got to be aware of all of that. I think that one of the skills that we found in our research in terms of leadership is, a necessary skill for future leaders, is having this knowledge, this understanding, this deep understanding of the potential of technology. And I think that that kind of embrace of technology is more important.
I think, to your point, what you're describing about being locked in, like I said, I don't think that that aspect of it is what we're looking for. I think that what we're looking for is more of an awareness of the emerging technologies, and the future and the potential that it can bring.
Siobhan: Anh, I want to pick up on something that you said a little bit earlier about how the companies who are leading the way in these transformations actually are focusing more, they have a different approach to talent and culture. Can you go into that a little bit about how specifically their culture and their talent approach is different?
Anh: Yeah, it's interesting. So when we studied organizations, and this is not just technology organizations, right? These are organizations that are more digitally mature, that say that they are able to get the benefits and the value out of the technology. And what we're seeing is a very distinct kind of culture that they have. So organizational culture is a bit like snowflakes, right? No two are exactly the same in any organization. But they do share common traits, right, just like snowflakes all have like a six sided radial symmetry, we have the same kind of concept with digitally maturing organizations.
We saw repeatedly over and over again that they're better at taking risk, they tend to collaborate more, they tend to work more cross functionally, they tend to be better at experimenting, and having sort of a continuous learning mindset. So seeing experiments as a way to learn.
So those are kind of traits that these organizations have. And of course, they're a lot more agile. You hear that word thrown around a lot, but they tend to be able to move more nimbly than other organizations. And those are five traits that we found consistently over and over again, across organizations that that are more mature.
Siobhan: It's almost as if you're saying that the technology is just a tool to help us along the way as opposed to the ends in itself.
Mike: Sounds like a myth there, Siobhan. I guess a question I have, does the company size make a difference? Because you know, you just described a company that's pretty agile and responsive. And you know, there are some very large companies out there that are agile and responsive. How does size play a factor in what you're seeing with those mature organizations?
Anh: Size, I think is a factor. And you know, what's interesting, what we've seen is small companies can use technology to actually create a bigger presence for them. And then larger companies have the resources, I think, to really use technology in a way that's very impactful. When we see organizations shift in terms of size. I mean, you've seen a lot of startups, you know, companies that you might have thought of as startups 10 years ago are now mature, and a lot bigger, and they're going through growing pains.
So you do have to sort of shift your culture or not shift it, but figure out how to adopt it from a smaller organization into a large organization, and sometimes that's not easy. There are tons of growing pains that come with that. So I think that lots of companies can struggle as they shift in size, especially ones that started off very small and nimble, and are growing. And there is a way to do that. To your point, there are larger companies who have figured out how to do that. But it really is about testing and learning and figuring out what works for your organization, and constantly be focused on that culture, because that's really the foundation of where all of this happens.
And we found that the more successful companies are very intentional about their culture. So they really pay attention to it. They really measure it, they really tried to get themselves to be even more agile, to get themselves to be even more collaborative, even more of kind of continuous learning kind of organization, more experimental, you know. I think that those companies never let up. They never take the foot off of the accelerator when it comes to really focusing on their culture and trying to build it out.
Siobhan: Anh, I'm really happy that you brought up measurement there because I know that you are quite bullish if I could say it on on metrics and using analytics in the workplace to improve things for both the business and the employees, and I was hoping that you could point some ways that these businesses are measuring the culture. What are they looking for specifically? What signs are there that the culture is succeeding? And then hopefully, I'll follow up with some further questions about the analytics question.
Anh: Yeah, I don't know that there's a perfect answer to this, Siobhan. I mean, I think that probably the most obvious ways of measuring it are by surveys, you know, getting pulse surveys across the organization. We actually have a tool within Deloitte called Digital DNA, where we will go in and administer a survey and really get a pulse check, either in one part of the organization or the entire organization to really measure them on certain traits of what we call digital maturity — their agility, their willingness to collaborate, their willingness to take risk, things like that.
So that is probably an obvious way. But I think that analytics and AI are really promising and we're kind of touching the tip of the iceberg in terms of ways that we can measure that even more. So if you look at an older kind of practice of organizational network analysis, right, how do we revive something like that, understand the networks in organization to understand the communications in our organization, understand where there's communication across functional boundaries, and across teams, and how that information is flowing within the organization.
So I think there is definitely a way to take technology and embrace it even more to figure out how to measure in a way that's above and beyond just using survey data and self reporting.
Mike: I'm glad you brought up the organizational network analysis. And it's kind of interesting that you talked about it as sort of an older concept or one that you know, you can refresh for this. Because I think a lot of organizations still don't get it or haven't been using it.
Anh: You're right. It's been around for a number of decades, actually. But I think that it's time to revive it.
Mike: So when they're looking at an organizational network analysis (ONA), what specifically are the data points that you would recommend people kind of look at when they do that? You know, and how do they measure it? How do they collect it?
Anh: So there are definitely different ways to collect it, right? One is all the kinds of ways that we exchange information digitally, whether that's in calls, whether that is an email, video calls, conference calls, but then also, you know, there there are organizations that do badging, right, where you can have a badge on you.
And they might measure, not necessarily record everything you're saying, but kind of track your tone of voice track, how often you're talking compared to other people, things like that. And I think that all of that information can feed into better understanding. Who are the strong connectors within your organization, who are the people who are connected to a lot of other people?
But then you can also use that to measure things, such as equality and inclusion, right? So let's say the three of us are in a conversation, right? And we're tracking this and maybe I'm talking a little bit too much. So I could get information about that it could feed back to me and say, "Hey, Anh, maybe you're talking and hogging the conversation a little bit too much, maybe you should let Mike and Siobhan talk a little bit more." So we can use ONA in so many different ways to not just bolster and understand where the connections are, and who are the strong connections but also understand things like DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Siobhan: I think that one of the fears, and it's come up after the great experiment of the last 15 months, is that this kind of analysis can be used for malicious purposes or surveillance for...
Mike: Evil, not for good.
Siobhan: Evil, exactly. Yeah. You know, Big Brother is watching. So how do you answer that? Do you see that happening? And how can organizations move away from that kind of surveillance mindset?
Anh: Unfortunately, I do think that some organizations are thinking about it this way, like, now we can be Big Brother and now we can do all this stuff. So I think that there's absolutely an ineffective way to use this technology. But I also think that there's an effective way to use this technology. And this is going to bring us back to culture again. So the idea is, have you developed a culture within your organization where there's a strong sense of trust among staff and leadership? So is there transparency in this process? So I think it's less about what is being tracked, and more about how much transparency is being offered in tracking all this data, and how that data is being used.
So if an organization says, hey, you know, we're going to be very clear with people about what kind of data we're tracking about them, and how it's going to be used and who's going to be able to see it, right. And if it's used in a way to punish people, that's terrible, and that's not going to work. It's going to lead to a culture of fear and resentment.
But if it's used in a way to say you know what, we are tracking this data and only you can see it and you can use it for your own purpose, personal development, I think people then have a different approach to it. If you say, look, this is not going to feed into your performance evaluation, instead, it's just going to help you become a better, more productive, more effective employee.
So if instead of tracking this ONA data and me fearing that it's going to factor into my performance evaluation, if my organization then says, Anh, only you have access to this, and we're going to give you information so that you know, as a leader, or as a manager, or as a team member, how you're performing. And some of that might be, you know, we can share with you aggregate information about people at your level, and how they're doing and how you compare to that, and what they may be doing that you're doing differently. We can also share with you, to my point earlier, whether or not you're talking a little bit too much, whether or not you should create space for other people to talk. So it could help me as an employee become better.
And I think that the way the organization decides to use this information, and how they share it with their employees, I think is the key. So it is kind of a tricky spot to be in. But I think the more transparency, and the more it's used as a way to develop people, as opposed to a way to punish people or sort of track people's performance, I think is a better way to do it.
Mike: Maybe I'm oversimplifying it but would it be accurate to say in the way that you're thinking about technology and transformation, that the technology should be making us more human than less human, that it really should be about, like you said, allowing us to practice more empathy, look at each other a little bit differently, automate some of the things. Like hey, you know, let me look back at that meeting. And let me listen to the whole recording of the meeting and see how I did, versus at the end of it, there's a quick report that says, hey, you talked for 20 minutes, you know, your colleague talked for 10, that seems like an imbalance. Is that an oversimplification of it to talk about that, that it's really becoming more human.
Anh: I actually love that you said that, Mike, and I believe, you know, at the core, that that's what we need to shift back to. We need to look at technology as something that's supposed to enable us and make our lives better. Because to your point, technology will do a lot of the things that are rote, repetitive, dangerous, dull, and enable us to actually tap into our more human aspects, and as human beings in the workforce, we're going to need that even more and more into the future.
Mike: We've been talking quite a bit about, the state of things as it has been, I want to shift a little bit to thinking about the future, and where do you see some opportunities lying and some of the things that companies can do. But the last question I have for you, before we do that is to really ask you what has gone right in the last 15 months or so, and what has gone wrong?
Because, we've seen a massive investment, particularly in the space that we're really concerned about, which is the digital workplace when we're at Reworked. And we've seen in our own research that there's been a step change, not just incremental changes, or dramatic change in how companies the maturity that they have in their digital workplace tools, but a step change in many cases, so kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What's going right, what's going wrong in that transformation from your point of view?
Anh: So I think the biggest I guess, advancement that we've made over the past 15 months is really this shift, this massive shift, to remote work as a way to prove to organizations that yes, you can do this, yes, this can happen. Because lots of organizations, I think, and leaders and managers were hesitant to do this, right? They were afraid that they wouldn't have visibility, they were afraid that they would lose productivity. But what we saw was that productivity did not decrease by shifting to remote work or work from home. And, you know, I think that that's a great thing that has come out of this.
But the the real test is to see what organizations are going to do as we come out of the pandemic, right? Are they just going to go back to the way things were, and force everyone to go back to work in the office? Or are they going to use this as an opportunity to rethink the way they are operating as an organization, because studies show that, you know, after this whole thing, people have found that they want some more flexibility.
So most studies are showing that most people don't want to work from home five days a week, but they do want to work from home sometime. Or they do want at least the option to work remotely sometimes. Because the reality is it's very tough to get in your car and drive and commute 30 minutes and get into an office where you're spending most of your day actually doing work that's not necessarily even interacting with some of the folks that that are actually there in the office. And if that's going to be your typical day, then maybe working from home is really what's best for you.
Siobhan: So I think that we're coming back to the question of culture again, because we're looking at these organizations. It's been proven they can work from home, but we're seeing company after company calling people back into the office with not actually a very clear reason why. And I'm just wondering, this is clearly an area where it's going to take a combination of both culture and technology to create what everyone's calling a hybrid workplace that is making working remotely while some people are in the office, more than just like a poor stepchild of the traditional office. So, you know, how do organizations start building that?
Anh: So I think one is, you know, to your point, get in touch with your employees, and figure out what their needs are, and figure out what you've learned from the past 15 months, right? So what did we learn, we've learned as a whole, that working remotely is possible that productivity doesn't decrease, that being on video calls, one after the other for eight hours, nine hours straight, is not effective. We've learned that sometimes the boundary between work life and home life, especially working remotely, is challenging and has created stress on people. So given all of that, I think that organizations should start by getting in touch with their people, and really understanding how their people feel about all of this, how many of their people feel that they could be more effective remotely? How many people want to come back to work?
So for example, some organizations have sent out surveys to their employees to say, okay, so given a choice, you know, how often do you want to come into the office? And how would you like to use your time in the office, and that will help organizations figure out how to redesign the workplace, or in-person events, right, because you might only have a small number of people who say, you know, what, I don't really have a great place to work at home, and so I really would like to come into the office most days, and have a quiet place where I can get focused work done.
And then you might get 70% of your people who say, you know what, when I have a day like that, when I just need to focus on work, I'm going to stay at home. But when I come into the office, I want to use it as a time to collaborate with people, I want to use it as a time to network, I want to use it as a time to connect with my fellow co-workers. And so how do you then redesign and create space, both physically in the office, as well as digital tools that will enable this kind of hybrid work that we're talking about?
So it starts with really understanding your people? and trying to figure out what's going to enable them to bring their best selves to work?
Mike: Are there particular technologies that you're excited about that can help with that process you just described?
Anh: So definitely some big families of technologies, right. But I think the real promise is in all the technologies that have yet to be rolled out. But I think that a lot of it is around automation, right, so how do we use automation, to get rid of the rote, dull, dangerous, repetitive kind of work that people have traditionally been doing? And how do we use technology to rethink what humans should be doing, right, so I think automation is one thing that's gonna make our lives a ton easier. And I'm super excited about that.
The other sort of families of technologies are really around like AI and analytics, and as we talked about earlier, you know, it's a bit of a double-edged sword, you know, you can hear about how algorithms can go wrong and reinforce biases and, and create siloed kind of thinking, but if used appropriately, it could actually help us make better decisions, it can help catch us when we're being biased, and nudge us in the right direction of where we want to go.
Mike: One of the things we've been talking about, I think, quite a bit is a lot of this 'in theory on.' Can you give us examples of companies or places that have done a pretty good job with this or are on the right track and what they did to get that way?
Anh: Yeah, you know, what, I actually can't give you any examples right now, I think that they're little pockets here and there. But I think really the promise is in the future, and how companies are going to be creative in coming out of all of this, and learning from the past 15 months. So I'm super excited about seeing what happens. But I haven't really seen a lot of companies that have figured it out. in other words.
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Mike: That's interesting. I mean, because I think I'd probably agree with that, I think just the last 15 months or so have been a pretty dramatic up ending of a lot of the way that we do work. And it's gonna take some time for for things to settle a little bit. But at the same time, there's a lot of experimentation that's going on, and I think the stories that are gonna be coming out over this next year, should be pretty dramatic, and some are making good decisions. Perhaps some are making bad decisions. The return to the office conversation is one that is companies have to make a statement they have to do something about what they're doing and and we're seeing that variety there.
What are the areas that you think that companies should be paying attention to, in order to figure out hey, let's overinvest here because we see some outsized results there, how do they help determine what those areas are?
Anh: Well, I think it all goes back to this concept of testing and learning, right, and experimenting, and I think that if you go with the intent of, we're going to use this as an opportunity to figure out how to continue to evolve the way we work. And that's looking at not just the physical aspects of work, like where you work and how you work in the tools, but really also looking at the way you manage your talent. And the way work is actually done, right, and the kind of work that's being done and by whom.
So I think if organizations use this as an opportunity to reset and to rethink, then they're going to approach it in a way that says, you know, what, we're not sure, right? We're not 100% sure, we don't think we have the answers. But we are about to venture in on this whole process of experimenting and seeing what works. But we're committed to working in a way that's not only better for our people, but also better in terms of increasing innovation and creativity and productivity, and rethinking the way that we work overall as an organization.
So I think if organizations can commit to that as their broader goal, then I think that it'll help them get on the right path.
Mike: I'm really kind of curious about that idea of the Digital DNA that you brought up a little while ago. And I'm wonder if you can explain a little bit about that, and how that might play a role in figuring out what's next.
Anh: You know, Digital DNA is if we go back to what I mentioned before about kind of the five traits of digitally maturing organizations, it's kind of a way of tracking some of those traits and characteristics. And so we came up with this model, it's called Digital DNA, because they're actually 23 traits that we track based on what we believe digital organizations show or have as traits. And I think if you take a look at that and measure yourself as an organization, it will help you kind of keep your North Star on thinking about how are we behaving as an organization, right? And where do we actually want to make the biggest shift as an organization.
So for example, it could be for some organizations, actually, for many organizations, it was about risk taking, that was a big challenge that we saw lots of organizations face. They struggled to actually take a chance, right, and what we saw during the pandemic was a lot of that risk taking went down. And a lot of companies actually went in and started taking more risk. And they did that because the reality was that doing nothing was actually worse than trying to do something that you've never tried before. So my hope is that organizations will actually begin to learn from that, and begin to measure kind of their 23 traits of their organization, and figure out, hey, we've learned that we can move quickly, right, how many organizations actually shifted over to remote work in a very short period of time, we've seen that organizations are able to take risks, which they'd never done before.
So as an organization, if I've seen that I've done things that I had never done before, then how do I build that into who I am as an organization? How do I build that into my DNA, so to speak, and how do I make this something that I continue to practice going forward?
Mike: Is there a spot where folks can go to find that list of Digital DNA?
Mike: This has been great, what we like to do with the show is do a little segment we called underrated, overrated. Well, we're throw a couple topics at you. And you can tell us if you think that that topic is underrated or overrated. You can skip if you'd like there's one that you'd prefer not to talk about. But are you willing to play along with us for a few minutes here?
Anh: Yeah, sure.
Mike: All right, Siobhan, why don't you kick us off.
Siobhan: So underrated or overrated on, co-writing two books during a pandemic.
Anh: Oh my goodness, overrated. I will say that in a pandemic, that's the only time that can happen, for me anyway, that's the only time it would have happened.
Siobhan: I will say that I saw that and I'm like, wow, I'm an underachiever.
Mike: Me too.
Anh: I had no place to go.
Siobhan: Oh, no, it's true.
Mike: Related to that question. So the one of the books is The Transformation Myth, and we've been talking a little bit about, but you also has a book called Work Better Together, and that one, you co-wrote with one of your Deloitte colleagues, and she's the chief well-being officer at Deloitte, Jen Fisher. So my question for you, and I'm sure Jen will be listening is are chief well-being officers, overrated or underrated?
Anh: Definitely underrated.
Mike: Don't you think that there's a little bit of a bloat in C-level titles? Or is it really worth it in this case?
Anh: You know, I'm not saying that every organization needs to have a chief well-being officer. But I think it's definitely something that organizations need to consider not necessarily the title itself, but really how much they're prioritizing that concept of putting well-being first. So I think it's really more about how you prioritize that versus necessarily going out there and saying, everyone needs to have a chief well-being officer.
Mike: Yeah, in part it's, it's symbolic like to say that organization values this, and that that person's job is to make sure that it's part of the culture versus just their job and nobody else's job.
Anh: Right. And you're right, there's this sort of proliferation of C[-Suite] titles. But I think to the comment that you made earlier, I think it's really about signaling what your priorities are, and how you actually choose to use that role. So if it's just there as a figurehead, then it's not effective.
Siobhan: So on, I think this is sort of a follow up to our previous two questions. Um, and the question is underrated or overrated, having friends at work? I know, this is the topic of the book that's coming out. So...
Anh: Definitely underrated. In my many years. I mean, I, I've made friends that I consider close friends today that I met through work, and many years later, we still consider ourselves good friends. So definitely underrated.
Siobhan: How specifically though, does it help in the work situation? I mean, obviously...
Anh: Yeah, you have to read the book. But I will say that it helps for so many reasons. If you just think about the simple concept of, first of all, studies show that you are more engaged when you have friends at work, and when you have a significant relationship at work. And that's not to say like a spouse or anything like that. But it's to say, you know, if you have a good friend at work, you're going to be more engaged, you're going to be more excited to get up every day. And you're going to be looking forward to, you know, attending meetings and doing your work, because you've got someone that you can connect with.
The other aspect of this too, if you think about it is if you're working with a bunch of strangers, people that you don't know, people that you don't trust, it's gonna be hard being collaborative, it's going to be hard sharing information, especially in a knowledge economy, where it's important to share that information across your organization. how willing are you to share information with a group of people that you might not feel like you know, very well, and you're not sure what their motives are, and you're not sure what they're going to do with that information.
So if you think about it, just based on that alone, and so what what we're saying is not everybody in your work environment, not everybody in your organization, not everyone in your team needs to be your best friend, but we can create meaningful relationships with almost everyone that we work with.
Mike: All right, last question for our underrated / overrated segment. And I speak for the legions of my fellow English majors on this question, you're a researcher management consultant now but you actually studied humanities and literature. How do you do you feel like the humanities as a field of study is underrated or overrated in university education,
Anh: Vastly underrated.
Anh: And, you know, I will say it's interesting, I feel like a lot of those liberal arts kind of degrees. So maybe it's tough to make a living just by having one of those degrees. But I think that there's some baseline level of liberal arts education that I think the whole world would benefit from. And, you know, what it's taught me is how to think critically how to think independently, and how to make connections across things that might not seem so obviously connected.
If you think about the future of work, and where work is shifting and where human work is shifting, not work that robots and technology do, but the way people are having to shift. They're having to think more creatively. They're having to think more critically. And I think having a liberal arts kind of foundational education is a great way to build that level of foundation.
Mike: Yeah, I'd agree with that one. I think it's that creativity, the analysis, and also to your last point about relationship building, that's how you sort of build those relationships is the give and take that you kind of develop as you listen to ideas, argue them back and forth and argue perspectives.
Anh: Yeah, definitely.
Mike: All right. With that in mind, let's wrap things up. And just kind of bring that back into the original point of this podcast, which is to talk about the idea of The Technology Myth at work. How do you feel like that liberal arts education has informed your idea about the role that people and process play versus just the technology?
Anh: You know, it's funny, because I kind of wavered back and forth. And I'm kind of this weird left brain, right brain kind of person. I actually started off my first year in college as a physics major, math minor, and then switched and got my degree in humanities, and went to graduate school for literature. So I always felt like there was a bit of this tension between that. And then as I went into my professional world after university, I started off implementing technology in organizations.
But what I found over and over again, was that it was the human elements that people struggled with, and it was the human elements that made the difference. So in any role, any project that I had, whether it was implementing technology, or doing research or collaborating on research, it actually wasn't the work itself that was the biggest challenge or nut to crack wasn't necessarily the biggest barrier. It always came back to people, but the people made or broke things, right. So it's a make or break kind of situation where if you have strong relationships, if you have strong connections with people, you can create the most amazing things. I mean, I would say that all three books that I worked on, I absolutely loved the experience. And even doing two books at once was easy because I worked with people I really respected. And I worked with people I had strong relationships with.
Siobhan: Anh, thank you so much for joining us today, I know that our listeners are going to want to find out more about your work and your research. So where are the best places that they can find more about you online,
Siobhan: Excellent. And we will have links to both of your forthcoming books on the podcast. So I know I have my reading ahead of me, you've given me my assignment. Thanks again for joining us today Anh, I really enjoyed this conversation.
Anh: Siobhan and Mike, it was a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Mike: We're having this conversation at an interesting point. So as we are recording this, Apple just announced a couple days ago that they're going to be requiring their employees or office workers to come back into the office three days a week. And then a couple days later, a group of employees came back with this response and said, You didn't ask us what we thought about this. And we don't feel like this is what we want to do. And we want the increased flexibility and ability to work where we want and how we want that came with the pandemic.
So this is I think, an important conversation to have right now that this this transformative moment is happening still, it's not done, but it's going to be continuing. Siobhan, are you getting the sort of the same feeling I am that this is really just the beginning stages of this conversation?
Siobhan: I think we've already seen the signs of it Mike, we've seen companies before Apple saying, hey, get back in the office and the employees being like, nope, it's unavoidable at this point. And we're starting to see people just leaving jobs full on because they've gotten used to this flexibility.
I think the points that on brings up about focusing the technology, focusing the workplace on what the employees need to do their work, I mean, I think people like working where they are, but there has to be some kind of acknowledgement of the way that they prefer to work if they're still getting the work accomplished.
Mike: Yeah, it's about the culture of work, it's about paying attention to the people at work. And do you remember the Goldman Sachs story about the young employees who rebelled against what they felt was the ridiculous expectations that were held upon workers and in that compromise that Goldman came back was okay, you don't have to work on Saturdays and Sundays as much, you don't have to do 80 hours a week, but you just don't work on Saturdays or Sundays. I mean, that sort of is kind of emblematic of where we're at with this.
Siobhan: I think what fascinated me most about that story were the amount of responses to the employees who are complaining about their 90-hour work weeks basically saying suck it up. Yeah, that was the worst. So it just it brings it back to what on said at the beginning of the podcast, where she said that, you know, these companies are understanding that digital transformation is more about the people than the technology intellectually, but they're not really feeling it in their bones.
Mike: Yeah, and nothing like a whole important segment of your workforce saying we're not happy is a way to make you feel it in your bones pretty quickly. So as Anh said, we're in early stages this we really don't quite know where it's gonna head. But I guess Guess what? We're all in it together. We're gonna figure it out. Right, Siobhan?
Siobhan: We are we'll probably be talking about it some more on this podcast and writing about it on Reworked, Mike.
Mike: Well said, All right, talk to you later.
Siobhan: Bye, Mike.
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