Embarking on a digital transformation journey is like strapping into an emotional rollercoaster. The excitement of new possibilities is often accompanied by resistance to change, especially when long-standing processes are disrupted.

At Via Technology this is a tension we’re all too aware of, having seen it firsthand with clients to differing degrees but remarkably regularly.

Generally speaking, digital transformation is as much a cultural play as it is a business one, which means spending time with your team before execution to discuss the stages of change and plan for them is crucial. Understanding and taking a proactive approach to the emotional stages individuals and groups will pass through on the transformation journey will help mitigate the impact on both the team and the business. Ignoring them, on the other hand, can end up costing you more than the efficiencies gained!

Unpacking The Five Stages

of Emotional Response

Digital transformation can mirror the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Being able to recognise these when and where they show can help you navigate the emotional terrain more effectively.

1. Denial

Initially, team members may refuse to believe that change is necessary or beneficial. They may cling to familiar processes, questioning the need for new systems.

2. Anger

As the reality of change sets in, frustration and anger can surface. This can be directed at the technology, the process, or those driving the change.

3. Bargaining

In this stage, employees might attempt to negotiate, hoping to maintain some aspects of the old way of working. They might suggest compromises or partial implementations.

4. Depression

The complexity and workload of adopting new systems can lead to a period of low morale. The team might feel overwhelmed, doubting the benefits of the transformation.

5. Acceptance

Finally, with proper support and training, employees begin to embrace the new systems, recognising the improvements they bring.

To navigate these stages effectively, hold initial meetings to communicate the reasons for change, implement an open-door policy for voicing concerns, involve team members in decision-making, establish a support system, and celebrate milestones to acknowledge hard work and success.

It’s worth keeping top of mind that resistance to change is a natural reaction, especially when long-standing processes are disrupted. One of the hidden costs of digital transformation is the potential impact on projected sales. If not managed properly, this can affect team motivation and overall appetite for progress. What’s more, the go-live phase of new systems is often the most challenging, so getting across the nuance of what may be happening emotionally at this time can make all the difference to the outcomes you can expect.

Creating a supportive culture that acknowledges all emotional stages

How To Create the Kind of Supportive

Culture That Will Scaffold Success

We believe in the power of creating a supportive culture that acknowledges these emotional stages and addresses them head-on. So, here’s some practical suggestions on how to prepare your team for the ride that we’ve seen pay dividends for our clients:

1. Pre-Empt Problem Areas

Before executing your digital transformation, hold a series of workshops with your team to explore the emotional stages they might experience. Discuss potential reactions and develop strategies to support each other through these stages.

2. Keep Communication Open

Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their concerns and frustrations. Regular check-ins and open forums can help surface issues early and address them effectively.

3. Offer Training and Support

Provide comprehensive training to ensure everyone is comfortable with the new systems. This includes not just the technical aspects but also how these changes align with the overall business goals.

4. Recognise and Reward

Acknowledge the efforts and achievements of your team as they navigate through the transformation. Celebrate milestones and small wins to keep morale high.

5. Actively Build Resilience

Encourage cross-departmental collaboration with mixed-team projects and regular inter-departmental meetings. Set up a support task force for assistance during major changes or challenges.

Digital transformation is not just about implementing new technology; it's about transforming the way your team works together. By understanding and preparing for the crucial emotional component, you can foster a more resilient and motivated team, ensuring a smoother transition and a more successful transformation.

Ready to ride the digital transformation rollercoaster? Let’s start a conversation about how Via Technology can support you in making the experience less stressful and more successful.

About the Author

Dorian is an expert software advisor with a development background that provides a detailed and comprehensive understanding of systems and processes.
Dorian Trevisan
Dorian is an expert software advisor with a development background that provides a detailed and comprehensive understanding of systems and processes.
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