#i2s17 Interview with Jane McConnell: The Organization in the Digital Age

This may sound a little blatant, but it only reflects my own personal perceptions: whenever I had the opportunity to hear and experience Jane McConnell at events, I went home with a bundle of thoughts, because Jane’s contributions made me think as much as she opened the door for creative and quite innovative considerations. I am convinced that the i2 Summit participants will have similar experiences.

I am all the more pleased that Jane found time for an interview.

Jane, which three keywords identify your keynote?

#Inclusive
#Decision-making
#Movements

We don’t want to anticipate the keynote, but your report is one of the most comprehensive up-to-date analyses. Was there a factor in the evaluation that surprised you? Why was this surprising or why was there nothing surprising?

First a little background. As you may know, three years ago I defined a Foundational Framework for organizations in the digital age. The Framework has three parts:(Link: ) Capabilities (Individual, Customer and Enterprise), Enablers (Process, Structure and Reach) and finally Mindset (Leadership, Culture, and Strategic Asset).
I have defined three levels of maturity: Starting, Developing and Maturing. Research participants answer over 100 questions online. I correlate their responses to the three maturity levels within Capabilities, Enablers and Mindset. This lets me evaluate the overall movement in maturity. I now have 10 years of data as the first edition of my annual research was in 2007.
Several things surprised me this year.
  • The goals for transformation programs are primarily about improving today, and not about inventing tomorrow. For example, the top goal was “increase efficiency through automation and digitalization of internal processes“. In contrast, „accelerating and facilitating innovation“ was 5th on the list, followed by “build/strengthen our digital mindset and culture”.
  • A second surprise, and a very pleasant one, was to see that “learning in the flow of work” is getting easier. Three years ago, only 23% said it was “easy” and in the most recent research it rose to 56%. That’s a big step.
  • Thirdly, it is interesting to look at what factors enable l“earning in the flow of work“. There is a strong current interest in working out loud today, with John Stepper’s method driving much of this movement.
    There are other factors in play as well. Transformation initiatives are focussing more on people these days than previously. Going back to my Foundational Framework, the dimension that increased the most over the past three years is Individual Capabilities. What we hope to see in the near future is a corresponding increase of maturity in Enterprise and in Culture. They are both considerably lower than Individual Capabilities.

What is the biggest challenge for the organization in the digital age?

One of the biggest challenges is how to turn intentions into reality. By intentions, I mean the strategic vision and plan defined at the highest level in an organization. By reality, I mean the impact it has on front line and operational people.

So many great intentions get diluted because of the way they have been defined and the lack of involvement by the right people.

What is the biggest obstacle to change the organization?

One of the biggest obstacles to day for the digitally maturing organizations is „internal politics“. Why? Because these organizations have reached a point of maturity where things are getting real. Change is happening. Silos are weakening. People are becoming liberated.

Leadership is emerging and triggering change from networks and communities more than from the hierarchical structure. I wrote about this in a recent article published on MITSloan Management Review: Neutralize Internal Politics in Digital Initiatives.

What are your expectations for the i2 Summit?

My expectations are to exchange ideas with conference participants, in order to learn more about how digital initiatives are taking place and, above all, their impact on people and on their organizations.

Thank you very much, Jane.

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Ellen Trude
Ellen Trude, nach 28 Jahren Tätigkeit in Aus- und betrieblicher Weiterbildung der Bayer AG mit stets neuen und meist innovativen Projekten und Aufgaben nunmehr in einer gesunden Mischung aus Vorruhestand und Aktivitäten rund um Workplace (Arbeiten 4.0 / Digitalisierung) und Lernen (Lernen 4.0 / Social Learning) unterwegs - meist digital.