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We Think of Digital Transformation of the Organization in Three Primary Dimensions

May 28th, 2018

LDS has identified a number of critical gaps in industry and management sciences concerning methodology for digital transformation, including translation of digital goals and capabilities into the specifics of work. We have been tackling this gap through deep research and original thinking, including graduate coursework in business management and economic sociology, to develop new protocols around work design and behavioral analysis.

What do Systems and Platforms Mean to the Employee Experience?

May 3rd, 2017

Recently the WEF Global Future Council for Platforms and Systems published an article explaining the concepts of Systems and Platforms and why they are important to creating the necessary environment that maximizes the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s benefits to society and minimizes the risks that come with it.

It posits that all human interactions are participation in systems of others; people, institutions that interact with each other. To really have impact, one needs to understand the dynamics that drive system behavior and outcomes.

Additionally, it defines Platforms as a set of standards and protocols that facilitate interactions between participants in a system. When appropriately designed and deployed, platforms can significantly amplify the impact of systems.

At LDS, these concepts are highly relevant to the work we do for our clients, designing experiences that maximize the participation and engagement of employees inside organizations.

Observing and analyzing organizations as systems is a useful construct for us in the Business Strategy & Design discipline. A digital transformation warrants a broader and deeper understanding of an organization. A “systems” view of an organization lends itself to a structured approach of assessing how people, especially employees, relate and interact within the organizational system to create value. This approach includes clarifying:

  • What are the core and desired capabilities of the business – its key differentiator?
  • How do members of the organization create value – the value chain?
  • What decisions are made in different parts of the organization – the decision flow?
  • How do people and the organization at large learn and evolve – the organizational learning?
  • What norms and beliefs are implicit in people’s actions and behaviors and what shifts are needed in those mindsets and behaviors – the organizational culture?

When designing an “Employee Experience” for large global enterprises, we work to ensure we have the entire business ecosystem in our frame of reference. Our experiences have the most impact when we can guide and influence cohesive relationships across the ecosystem – from the physical and virtual aspects of the workplace to people programs driving engagement.

Employee Experience platforms can amplify the performance and value creation of an organization, when they:

  • Align, engage and motivate employees under a common purpose,
  • Facilitate interactions among and across participants in the organization: the employees, business leaders and technology enablers that support work;
  • Accelerate organizational learning through real-time feedback loops,
  • Capture and express data as insights, and democratize enterprise data by making it more broadly available.

Finally, the most profound idea of a platform is what the article describes as an “increasing returns dynamic”: the more participants you get in a properly functioning system, the more rapidly the value and the impact of that system increases.

Said another way, when a cohesive, well-designed employee experience creates a Network Effect within an organization, there is an exponential increase in the outcomes desired by business leaders spearheading disruptive organizational and cultural transformations of large global enterprises.

Digital Future of Work Summit

May 2nd, 2017

LDS recently participated in the Digital Future of Work Summit organized by the McKinsey Global Institute and NYU | Stern School of Business in New York. An outstanding slate of speakers from business, consulting, not-for-profit, academia, and government addressed pressing economic, work-related and social impacts of digital disruption.

The afternoon also included an interactive design session exercise led by NYU’s Luke Williams, Executive Director of the W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs.

The Vanguard of Innovative Thinking in Talent Management

April 11th, 2017

We are seeing something new and exciting in recent conferences, client meetings and industry research regarding talent-related innovations for organizations. In the past, there has been a long shadow of established human capital gurus and big-name consultancies with “common wisdom” on best practices and tried-and-true methodologies (some going back 40 or more years). Those days are gone.

For example, with the death of traditional performance management processes (e.g., “9 Box” forced ranking) and with the emergence of innovative, digitally-driven ideas about organizational design, career development, and the “employee experience,” much of the thinking (and the demand for new ideas) is coming from the client organizations themselves (i.e., in-house experts) and from emerging new-generation thought leaders.

In both cases, there is a heavy component of rigorous, leading-edge management and behavioral science combined with fresh business design approaches influenced by digital behavior and work practices. This often manifests itself in teams of PhDs, tools for scientifically sound methodology and measurement, application of analytics for end-users, and the like.

This development also runs alongside the opening of organizational silos – companies realize that the critical business issues and objectives that management science could address cannot be constrained within functional units. Big ambitions for building new organizational capability require new models of business design and new ways to assess, design, and implement employee-facing programs and associated experiences.

The traditional players have a lot invested in established methodologies, but the innovators are not tied to this history and are disposing of old ideas wholesale and innovating in very refreshing ways. For the energized, creative thinker, the talent space today is an amazingly open field of opportunity.

Our Work Realizing Business Strategy

March 29th, 2017

Science tells us that personal reflection adds neural circuitry to your brain by anchoring and deepening your experiences – essentially, a higher form of learning.  With that carrot, I thought I’d look back at a recent experience working at LDS.

The client engagement was a big opportunity for LDS talent solutions.  A global Fortune 50 company had recently formed a new strategic function (Mobility) and needed a digital experience to support employee awareness of and participation in programs.  This project was also a big opportunity for me. As lead Business Strategist, I was responsible for discovery of experience needs and managing the stakeholder relationship with the new global head.

I dove headfirst into research, learning everything I could about the Mobility function in HR. It’s no wonder we’re hearing more about talent or “career” mobility.  The mobility function is undergoing a significant transformation from back-office relocation support to a leading element of people strategy.   Global learning and development opportunities support business strategies of diversity and sustainability, as well as answer a growing interest in the workforce for new and different career experiences. Fascinating!

This opportunistic vision was soon juxtaposed with the realities of what it means to align a corporate function to new business mandates. Our client was reengineering top to bottom, including mobility policies, processes, service delivery, vendor relationships, and technology.  Even its scope was in question (the depth of nuanced employee movement scenarios and their associated cross-functional support needs is staggering)!

I find that consulting is like cooking: the ingredients are there, but there’s an art to creating a meal that your customer will enjoy.  The digital strategy and design work we do at LDS is tailored to each unique client context.  With Mobility, this meant asking ourselves, “How do they think and reason about their space?  What discussion ‘view’ creates a foundation upon which we can logically build our thinking?”  My resulting framework served as a protocol to discover people contexts and needs within their (more familiar) operational model.  A win-win.

Another valuable practice worth noting from this experience was the value of the project team’s collective participation.  Frequent conversations with talented teammates in Architecture and User Experience generated a more rational and targeted requirements effort, and ultimately, a more considered and mature output for detailed design.

Noteworthy takeaways from another great experience at LDS.  On to my next venture exploring a data visualization and decision-making solution leveraging big data and A.I.!

An End to the Digital Productivity Paradox

March 14th, 2017

Realizing new digital value through organizational strategy and business design

There has been much discussion over the past few years regarding illusive productivity gains in the face of the widely touted transformative benefits springing from the current generation of digital technology (often labeled under the moniker of “SMACIT” – for social, mobile, analytics, cloud, and internet of things).  Economists have repeatedly observed that economic growth has been much weaker than expected given the impact that digital technology is  having on the economy, both in regards to enabling new business models and driving changes in social behavior.

Historically, we’ve seen this before – in the 1970s and 1980s economists coined the term “productivity paradox” to describe the condition where economic growth slowed at the same time that information technology was being rapidly integrated into business operations.  Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow  quipped in 1987 that “you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

However, there was a subsequent acceleration in productivity and business growth in the late 1980s and an even more lively burst in the early 2000s.  While there is debate about the drivers, nature, and degree of this growth, there is no doubt about the dramatic degree of organizational restructuring and downsizing undertaken during these periods.

We’re not going to wade into the academic debate regarding fundamental economic forces.  However, we will posit that much of the restructuring and downsizing was enabled by technology – tremendous cost was removed in organizations as middle management was replaced with tools for analysis, processing, and communication, among many other capabilities.  This in turn drove productivity gains.

Therefore, when economists observe today that the SMACIT-driven digital revolution has failed to impact productivity significantly, we wonder if a new perspective on organizational dynamics is needed.

Perhaps legacy businesses are, for the large part, still adapting organizationally by way of the old models of efficiency and operational excellence, mostly in an incremental manner – this means redesigning processes, structures, jobs, and skills.  Some businesses are also grafting digital businesses onto established business operations or creating “digital native” organizations as skunkworks – placed at arms-length in the business units and not upsetting the traditional order.

What most legacy companies have not yet done is undertake a deep exploration of how they must fundamentally change across the enterprise in response to the new forces of internet era-based digital technology.  Technology no longer simply replaces work or provides better tools – technology becomes inextricably comingled with human activity, therefore shaping new behaviors.  This must be understood in the larger context of business and work design – not as a bolt-on but as a new way of thinking about work.

This technology offers much more than the prior era’s propositions of faster, cheaper, and more convenient.  For example, Uber has developed innovations in business models and social and mobile technologies that are profoundly different from the more focused operational innovations of web retailers at the beginning of the century.

Recent industry surveys, such as the 2017 CEO Challenge study from the Conference Board, demonstrate that CEOs and other executives recognize the economic imperative for such profound change.  However, businesses are not prioritizing “digital transformation” for the near-term (i.e., next two years).

Why is this the case, and what would change these conditions?  We feel the priority is not yet high for two reasons:

  • Timing: Lack of consensus to act – Given a global environment of economic uncertainty and internal differences of opinion on the situation and best course of action, companies are hesitant to act, even under the pressure of digital native companies rapidly gaining market share.  Related to this is a lack of a demonstrated return on investment or business case for these initiatives.  It’s not that executives are denying the forthcoming impact of digital market forces; they are uncertain and not aligned as a team on the “what” and “why.”
  • Approach: Lack of clarity on the path forward – Companies don’t have the logical models, analytic tools, or best practices needed to address comfortably the questions of what organizational changes they should make and how aggressively they should act.  What should they focus on?  What changes should be made? How do these changes ultimately affect performance?  No executive would take on such a risk, particularly without full consensus of the team.

Regarding consensus, barriers can be addressed by building shared perspectives on relevant technology and market forces and identifying high-impact, lower-risk actions; for example, in developing a focused set of organizational capabilities at the enterprise level tied directly to digital business strategy.  Examples of this include capabilities for creating and sharing knowledge and expertise and for defining and making actionable culture aligned with strategy.  Both would be defined explicitly in regards to enabling technologies designed with constituent users (e.g., employees) in mind.

Regarding the path forward, clarity on approach – the “how” – could help build consensus to act.  The primary difference between organizational change of the past and of today is in the change “levers.”  Traditional change addressed structure, process, job design, and skills.  Digital has affected this in several ways.  First, structure is less critical generally.  Staff managers and structured processes are less central to work planning because the team concept has emerged as a new focus of work design.  Skills are still critical – however, the philosophy of who owns an employee’s development and learning is shifting as companies expect employees to own their careers and  adapt quickly to changing business conditions.

So, what enables organizational capability in the digital age?  We believe that work practices and culture are the primary levers today.  Work practices represent the tangible, observable work at the intersection of formal work design and actual employee behaviors.  Work practices can be evaluated, designed, and supported in action.  This is where, for example, effective customer interactions occur – not through a static process flow chart or call script but through thoughtful human behaviors occurring within the context of good work design.  This is where work analysis should be applied in order to identify change opportunities and to design new “ways of work.”

Or course, organizational culture sits behind this dynamic as a critical “glue,” providing an implicit reservoir of guidance for all sorts of situations and driving alignment in employee behaviors as the company deals with continuous, disruptive change.

Together these factors, when intentionally designed, serve as the drivers of the new digital organization.  This is what is truly meant by “digital-first organizations” – where digital technology and digital behaviors are front and center in creating and executing the new work design.

Digital Assistants inside the Organization

March 13th, 2017

Mary, an HR executive, sits in her office, trying to plan her day. She asks her assistant, Harold, “Did I receive a response from Marty Burns on the new leave policies?”

“Yes,” he replies. “Would you like me to read it you?”

“Yes, please,” she answers.

Harold reads the message to her – it’s a thoughtful response that she wants to follow-up on. “Schedule a meeting with Marty for 3pm today, please,” she says.

“Ok,” Harold replies.

Mary then asks Harold a few more questions about her upcoming appointments, and he reminds her that she has a meeting with one of her colleagues in fifteen minutes. She stands to leave, but before she does she asks Harold to request an Uber to take her to the airport that evening.

As Mary exits her office, Harold turns off the light and sits quietly in the dark, dutifully waiting for her return.

Harold is a digital assistant. If this scene seems futuristic, it’s worth noting that many of the tasks Mary asked Harold to carry out for her are actions that are readily handled by consumer devices such as Amazon’s Echo or Apple’s digital assistant, Siri. Bringing consumer, voice-driven interfaces inside the enterprise is part of a broader transformation which will redefine how employees interact with systems and data, and change how they get work done.

People are becoming increasingly comfortable with interacting with devices in a conversational way. As we have seen, consumer trends of today often become the enterprise trends of tomorrow. Voice-activated devices like the Amazon Echo give consumers ready access to all sorts of timely information, such as weather reports, online purchase tracking, and daily news briefings. Many have discovered the efficacy of using their voices to search for information, with a recent study showing that 43% of users reported that they felt as if voice search was quicker than using an app or website. With the adoption of this technology rapidly on the rise, forward-looking executives are beginning to think about how this new way of accessing information has the potential to drive productivity inside the enterprise.

Alexa, do I have any expenses to approve?
As consumers have discovered, many frequent or daily tasks become far simpler when untethered from a keyboard. Inside the enterprise, we envision a not-too-distant future in which managers can ask questions such as “Is anyone on my team on vacation today?” or “Do I have any expenses to approve?” and get immediate access to important, actionable information. Executives will discover the benefits of having a digital assistant with an infallible memory, who can take a memo, schedule meetings, and provide helpful reminders, leaving the mundane tasks to the machines and letting their human assistants focus on high quality interactions that require a more personal touch.

Managers and executives aren’t the only ones who could derive benefits from voice interfaces, though. One can imagine that all employees would benefit from being able to simply ask, “How much vacation time do I have left?” or “When is my next meeting?” Yesterday’s dashboards become tomorrow’s daily briefings, with key data just a question away.

The voice-driven interface is just one of the ways the digital employee experience will evolve in the near term. Innovative business solutions will soon begin to transcend the limitations of the traditional desktop by embracing enabling technologies that will transform the way people work, and ultimately, transform the business itself.

What is the Employee Experience?

September 2nd, 2016


Addressing Top CEO Concerns

August 9th, 2016


Creating an Enterprise Career Business Model

December 17th, 2015

It’s our job as Business Solution Analysts to assess and deeply understand our client’s business fundamentals: goals, priorities and value of our proposed online solutions.

A key “output” of our work is to create a Business Model . The Business Model helps to complete a higher-level picture of the business space and provides context to the solution design and opportunities for business innovation.

What’s the Value?

As we partner with LDS designers, content strategists, and architects to realize the full solution, a Business Model helps drive:

  • Desired Outcomes: Defines the future state
  • Business Relationships: Identifies relationships and interactions among business entities (including those that may not exist)
  • Business Scenarios: Clarifies relevant actors and the context of their activities
  • Major Enablers: States key programs, key systems, and knowledge concepts and associated business processes important to the full solution design.

As we collaborate with our client to define an online solution, it gives us a guide for discussion of:

  • Tradeoffs: Informs discussions about business design, innovation, and the relative value of programs and services anticipated in the new user experience
  • Commitments: Gives stakeholders and subject matter experts an idea of the impact and change efforts needed to align the organization to new ways of working.

From Concept to Reality

Let’s take a look at how these concepts could be illustrated in practice using a fictitious client.

At a global organization, there is a transformation effort underway to create a more efficient and effective HR organization. The client desires to create a comprehensive Career experience that accounts for critical processes such as performance management. In addition, they would like to break down the silo’d employee career experience.

A key challenge is the lack of a global career philosophy. Without a clear concept of Career, we can’t gain insight to inform a future design supporting overall talent management and employee engagement.

To drive clarity and relevancy, we would focus on a few critical items to inform our Business Model: definition of business objectives, understanding the audience / constituents, and defining optimal user experiences. For example, we would conduct several diverse focus groups to better understand employee value proposition and preferred user experiences and capabilities. The synthesized output from our analysis is our model.

The example business model below illustrates key relationships:


  • Desired Outcomes: Create a global Career experience that supports employee and business value propositions that can also flex to different employee segments based on region, business unit, levels, roles, and career stage.
  • Business Relationships: Build logical relationships between the global Career experience to local career sites and assets.
  • Business Scenarios: “Know Myself”, “Grow in My Role”, and “Explore New Roles”.
  • Major Enablers: Support global processes like Performance Management, but also provide unique and broad appeal to employees from different regions, countries, business units, levels, roles, and career stages.
  • Tradeoffs: Global vs Unique processes for different regions, countries and business units
  • Commitments: Create a global Career philosophy to support Talent Management

As the model is being developed, it helps the client crystalize their point of view. As the model is developed further, we will gain insight for our solution design.

At the end of the day, whether you are creating a business model to explain how something is working now or in the future, it should serve as a source for understanding, discussion, discovery, and validation.