The word transformation is being more frequently used than ever before, yet we rarely stop to think about what transformation really means.

The short definition, as commonly understood, is a change in form, nature or appearance. Just like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, or the sand dunes formed by the desert wind Shamal blowing across the Sahara Desert, our focus is drawn to the magic and magnificence of these natural phenomena, rather than the process that has brought about this transformation.

In human affairs, transformation occurs by amending and changing patterns, behaviours, habits and thinking. When transformation starts, we strive for positive changes and outcomes. Positive change is merely the ability to modify your behaviours and decision-making capabilities in order to make improvements. Each change process goes through a familiar cycle:

  • Awareness
  • Desire
  • Knowledge
  • Action
  • Internalisation

These stages flow in sequence, yet at each step the person making the change will encounter some form of resistance. Resistance and positive change are, however, two sides of the same coin – in order to achieve lasting change in anything that’s important to us, we must push through that resistance and change the status quo for the better.

Resistance is a natural force we encounter in all areas of our lives. Whether seeking to make improvements in important aspects, such as our health, finances, careers or relationships, what appears easy on the surface is destined to meet with unanticipated challenges and hard choices that make us question our own resolve.

Just as we can tackle the resistance we meet in our personal lives with tools such as focus, determination and accountability, so too can we use these same tools at an organisational level to address the resistance our businesses encounter in transforming for the digital age.

Making positive individual change

Let me give an example of this resistance-change dynamic that many of us have likely encountered: personal health, well-being & fitness. Regardless of factors such as our age and current fitness levels, most of us have some desire to make improvements in this area. Maybe it’s to train for a marathon, fit into our old clothes or just feel better about ourselves. We normally start with a vague objective such as ‘I want to get fit’ or ‘I need to improve my general health’, yet many falter when they encounter initial resistance and quickly fall back into our old habits.

Getting healthy starts with self-awareness and vision – having a clear idea of what specific health goals we’re working towards and a timeline for the results. As desire is present, It then requires a set of habits and steps to get there, such as exercising twice a week, cutting out snacks and junk food after dinner, or walking to work rather than getting public transport. Gaining knowledge, exploring along the way and incorporating the same in your daily routines helps a lot as well. Act, drive the whole process, accept the cycle, reflect, modify, and repeat. Be determined and embrace the change.

Most of all, it requires mindset change: you have to really want it and be willing to push through the resistance you will encounter. There will always be a million reasons not to do something. You should always find only one good reason TO DO IT – and NEVER GIVE UP naturally follows!

Encountering resistance in business

These same principles for making positive change apply at an organisational level. Across industries, companies want to ‘become digital’ and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities presented by emerging technologies. Yet, 70% of digital transformation programmes fail – why is that?

The answer is similar to the reasons the individual fails with their fitness objectives; a lack of clear goals, a lack of accountability, organisational inertia, and an inability to form the habits or processes that guide the business towards its digital goals. Just as the individual may go through a vicious cycle of paying gym membership, buying expensive running shoes or shopping at expensive health stores without any results to show, the organisation can find itself wasting budgets on new software and tooling without having the supporting culture in place to become digitally-oriented manufacturing business.

Digital transformation, therefore, isn’t just about technology – culture and mindset deserve equal prioritisation. It’s your people that will really drive the digital mindset by sharing skills and learnings and breaking through any resistances they encounter in their own development.

What are the steps for overcoming resistance?

If you are seeking to lead your organisation towards a new digital era, there are five common steps that can help you to break through the inevitable resistance and make sustainable change.

  1. Establish your motive. Why is transformation important to your business? There will always be reasons to delay transformation programmes, but understanding the reasons why it’s so essential will help to create the urgency needed to follow through.
  2. Set realistic goals. Where do you want your business to be in one year? Five years? Change never comes overnight; it’s a gradual process that produces results over a longer time-frame. Don’t let unrealistic expectations become part of your resistance.
  3. Choose the right resources. A transformation programme needs to be well resourced in order to produce the required results. This covers everything from finding the right digital platform to support your business’ applications and devices, through to making sure you have the skills and systems in place to optimise those resources.
  4. Make a positive mindset your default. Change is hard and invariably brings great uncertainty. Your team needs to be aware of what’s involved and share your vision for why change is desirable. Only then will they be motivated to push through the resistance with you.
  5. Be disciplined with your habits. Importantly, you need to make provision to fight inertia as it’s too easy to fall back into the ‘old way’ of doing things. Support and training can help your staff to overcome the challenges they will face, and help to embed the positive habits that support the broader transformation process.

Training up for transformation

Leading change in your organisation involves a broad scope, covering people, processes, and technology. Making positive changes in each of these areas cannot be rushed – they need a vision and set of positive reinforcements to make them a deep-rooted part of how your organisation operates.

Your ability to digitally transform will be greatly enhanced with the right support and accountability in place. Rockwell Automation can support your efforts by offering the frameworks, tooling and expertise that will help optimise your organisation’s time, resource and investment. We understand the journey you face, and support you to start with the small steps and build your strength and stamina over time to tackle the bigger challenges.

Together we can identify, plan for and push through the areas of resistance that will hold back your transformation efforts and create healthy and lasting positive change for your business. After all, digital transformation is a marathon, not a sprint.

To take the next steps on your digital transformation journey, take a look at Rockwell Automation’s consulting and integration service, where you’ll find industry- and technology-specific expertise to address your unique challenges.