How Effective Leaders Drive Digital Change

No leader wants his or her team to fail. But, in many digital transformation efforts, creating the conditions in which failure is an acceptable outcome might be key to success. As with Pixar Animation Studios, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co., which credits its blockbuster successes to all the storyboards that don’t actually make it onto film, effective digital initiatives often depend on a mix of experimentation, prototyping, and failure.

Creating a culture in which risk-taking is acceptable and giving employees a wide berth to learn from failure (and success) can be difficult challenges for leaders managing change. If the following behaviors aren’t part of your leadership repertoire, you may not be ready to lead a digital transformation.

The importance of these leadership behaviors appeared in a year-long study of a 450-person financial services function within Deloitte Services LP that was implementing a large-scale technology project to streamline reporting, budgeting, and analysis for the entire organization. If successful, many employees in the function would have more time to become trusted advisers to the business, rather than simply focusing on compiling and reporting numbers. The financial services function, however, was risk averse: The entire group was accustomed to complying with fairly stringent regulations and policies but was unaccustomed to voicing their opinions. Becoming advisers by effectively communicating a new way to do business would be a hurdle for much of the staff.

At the end of one year, the research had identified several distinctive characteristics of executives who were most effective at implementing the project: They fostered a culture tolerant of failure and embraced the following four behaviors.

1. Be clear about priorities. Leaders who were clear on shifting priorities and how success would be measured seemed to have much more engaged employees throughout the transition. Goal-setting was an important factor that enabled employees to track their progress and growth. Leaders also frequently reassessed goals and ensured that employees were well aware when priorities and needs shifted. Balancing clear communication of priorities with a willingness to adapt goals when circumstances dictated was important to engaging the workforce during a time of digital transformation.

Before launching the project, executives traveled to local offices to express their vision for the future and set the overarching mission for the finance function. They offered compelling reasons for the technology transformation and gave permission to local site leaders to shift priorities as needed throughout the change. This in-person executive visit was intended to empower local office leaders to tailor the implementation, while also connecting them back to a broader vision of the future.

2. Provide effective two-way feedback. The research findings appear to support the importance of creating psychological safety during check-ins with employees. It may not be enough simply to engage in project report-outs — leaders must also create a culture of psychological safety, giving employees freedom to express concern when things aren’t going right and feel they have the ability to take risks. Doing so allows employees to share new ideas and to believe they are being heard. Leaders in the study who engaged in these types of feedback sessions seemed to be able to get ahead of employee issues before they became a roadblock to the project’s ultimate success.

During the project, frequent pulse surveys were conducted to identify emerging employee pain points. Rather than keep information confidential, pulse survey results were shared broadly across local offices during monthly leadership feedback forums. Leadership teams would also invite team members to participate and provide further feedback on how the project was going. These transparent feedback forums allowed managers and employees to begin collaborating in newfound ways as they focused on overcoming shared challenges, while also identifying shared opportunities for success.

3. Recognize staff and support risk-taking. While extrinsic motivators have their place, we know from behavioral science that intrinsic motivators drive longer-term behavior change. Simply recognizing and acknowledging people for their hard work during times of change can go a long way. However, recognition also typically means sharing the success of a project. Our research found that one way to kill the momentum of a project was for leaders to take all the credit for its success. Leaders who shared responsibility for a project’s success with all levels of staff seemed to achieve much higher levels of employee engagement throughout the project.

One leader brought team members to a high-profile client meeting, allowing employees to see firsthand the impact they were making. Another leader brought their staff to a baseball game and invited the partner of the project to attend as well. As one manager remarked, “I have not only seen changes in my employees’ ability to interact and engage with senior leaders more comfortably, but also in identifying opportunities where they can gain more exposure. And, when they need my help with that exposure, they now ask me for that help.”

4. Engage in frank development conversations. The more effective leaders communicated how change would benefit staff, including how continuous education and training opportunities would help strengthen an employee’s skill set. In addition, these managers did not shy away from transparent conversations on where employees’ efforts were needed in order to move forward. An effective conversation card was developed to help leaders engage in these conversations on a monthly basis with their teams.

Additionally, the more successful project leaders worked with staff to identify development opportunities and engage in conversations beyond the project itself. One manager said, “I used to think if someone made a mistake, it was because they weren’t very strong. I now realize that is part of the learning process and people can change if I am willing to devote the time and attention needed to help their development.” In this manager’s region, employee engagement nearly doubled after leadership instituted monthly development conversations with staff.

Leaders who displayed these four behaviors reaped not only better performance, but greater engagement from their employees throughout the change. Employees were much more likely to report back higher levels of learning and growth, and greater meaning from their work. These four behaviors, which allowed employees to share ideas more freely and embrace taking risks, appeared to lead to higher-performing teams during this digital transformation. This was further evidenced by year-over-year manager effectiveness increases of over 10% once these behaviors became commonplace throughout the regions. Regions that once lagged the organizational average in managerial effectiveness, now led in many of the managerial effectiveness metrics.

Digital transformation may not be easy, but effective leadership can help bolster the chance of success. There is typically so much emphasis on the technology itself, establishing implementation road maps marked with important milestones, that the people part can easily be overlooked. Yet, we know from research that people are the lynchpin to a digital transformation’s success. Leaders who are able to actively engage their people are much more likely to experience not just success — but greater satisfaction throughout the change.

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Change is coming to ‘stagnant’ wearables market as heart rate sensors claim accurate monitoring

Today’s continuous monitoring tech is shifting the consumer mindset away from a reactive monitoring approach to a proactive one. And this is having a dramatic effect on the market for wearable technologies, as Jeremy Cowan reports. 

Instead of waiting for annual visits to the  doctor to get results for blood pressure and other vital signs, consumers want real-time information about their health status. So says Sui Shieh who is vice president, Industrial and Healthcare Business Unit at one wearables manufacturer, Maxim Integrated.

This shift is causing an increased demand for accurate, small, and low-power wearable devices, said to be an important enabler for this new way of thinking. As continuous monitoring and preventive healthcare become more common, both technology providers and health practitioners must embrace and accommodate these new demands to be successful, he believes.

“Global healthcare costs are high and growing,” says Sui, “with spend now running at 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) – in the US it’s $ 9 trillion. The consumer mindset is moving from reeactive to proactive, with prevention and early detection (of illness) by fitness apps, and chronic disease monitoring” with healthcare devices. But, as he goes on to say, fitness apps generally give little information; that’s why the market has been stagnant for two years.

“The market is there,” he says, “with six million users in 2016 rising to 50 million in 2021, according to analysts, Berg Insight. Our customers are now looking for clinical-grade performance (with US Food & Drug Administration certification), the longest battery life, a small size, and high accuracy.”

Sui Shieh: Wearables market is shifting towards prevention and early detection of illness

Maxim believes that it’s now able to meet these requirements. Through compact, low power solutions, it has a new range of devices that enable accurate monitoring of vital signs to monitor wellness/fitness and prevent health problems before they even begin.

Maxim’s portfolio of sensors for wearable health and fitness applications allows consumers to accurately monitor a variety of key vital signs while being mindful of low power (for longer battery life) and small size (for convenience and comfort). The MAX86140 and MAX86141 can be used to measure PPG signals on the wrist, finger, and ear to detect heart rate, heart rate variability, and pulse oximetry.

The MAX30001 measures ECG and BioZ on the chest and wrist to detect heart rate, respiration, and arrhythmias. Compared to competitive solutions, the MAX86140 and MAX86141 is claimed to require less than half the power and is approximately one third smaller, while the MAX30001 requires approximately half the power in almost half the size. By collecting beat to beat data about the heart, these solutions collect accurate data so users can recognize important symptoms when they first begin. In addition, the MAX30001 meets IEC60601-2-47, clinical ECG standards.

“The convergence of clinical grade diagnostics in form factors small enough to integrate into all sorts of smart, everyday clothing is impressive,” said Adrian Straka, director of Hardware and Manufacturing, SKIIN. “The ultra-small MAX30001 enables SKIIN’s bio-sensing underwear to monitor and track health […]

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How the Internet of Things Will Change War

The future of war with IoT

This week on The Internet of Things Podcast, Stacey Higginbotham talks with Tarek Abdelzaher, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana Champagne. He’s part of a team that won a research grant from the U.S. Army Research Lab to figure out how to bring the internet of things to the battlefield. The discussion ranges from technical elements to the ethics of having machines kill people.

In the first part of the show, Stacey and co-host Kevin Tofel talk about Google getting better at understanding your commands, the ability to talk to Waze and notifications coming to the Amazon Echo. They also discuss China’s plans to create standards for the smart home, including a preference for NB-IoT over Wi-Fi. Weather reporting gets more accurate without sensors and Stacey and Kevin discuss the end of two smart light bulb startups. Finally, a pro tip for the holidays and we answer a listener question about WeMo and HomeKit.

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Developing IoT-enabled vehicles: a tsunami of change (part 1)

A far-reaching transition is underway in the world of complex product engineering. Entirely new development systems, agile methods and the introduction of cognitive, AI-driven analytics are dramatically improving how IoT-enabled vehicles are brought to market and updated through their lifecycle. Consumers want the connected products they interact with to not only work flawlessly, but to be updated with new capabilities for as long as they’re using them.

automotive tsunami image

Automakers and their partners are using IoT to improve performance, safety, and development processes.

Automotive companies in particular are striving for leadership in several interdependent areas, where requirements are evolving rapidly even as capabilities are being perfected. These include:

  • Development of new cloud-based information services
  • Cybersecurity in connected and autonomous vehicles
  • Alternative propulsion systems
  • Improved activity safety
  • Racing toward autonomous driving
  • Differentiating the in-vehicle experience

So, is that enough on their plates? Only a fraction of this was in play a decade ago. And it requires dramatic changes in how cars are being developed. In the premium segment, vehicles will have 10s of millions of lines of code that must be verified, tested and maintained in order to produce the most exciting products on the planet. Soon, the days where your 10-year-old vehicle that is frozen in time from the days before smartphones will be behind us. And cars will be updated with new capabilities just like smart computing devices.

To help you understand all these changes, we’ve written a series of articles about the various ways that product engineering in general, and the automotive industry in particular, must adapt to the new methodologies.

Part 1: Transitioning to Model-based Systems Engineering

The overall approach to the discipline of engineering is experiencing a long transition to model-based systems. These require deployment of new software systems and processes, particularly in the area of systems engineering. Though they have used CAD models for many years to document designs, even the most sophisticated auto manufacturers have relied on text- and document-based systems when developing functional systems and product architectures.

Text-based systems are exactly what you probably are envisioning. They include information that is input in text by engineers during development. Engineers have long utilized many of the same basic tools that are a staple throughout the corporate world: MS Office, Visio, Wikis and other text-based documentation systems to build incredibly complex products.

Process diagrams may be drawn with flow figures, lines and arrows that remain static until manually re-drawn. Other schematics, photos and development collateral may be available as well. Even companies that have done a good job with repositories and tagging still have issues with the efficiency of product development. Cars and planes will have lifecycles that are decades long. As engineering teams work on the various systems described above, how will they make sure that functional interdependencies aren’t affected by changes in one sub-system that may affect others?

This is where model-based systems engineering (MBSE) comes in. (MBSE was originally developed by the International Council of System Engineering (INCOSE), which provides a nice primer on why it makes sense.) In mid-November, IBM Watson IoT’s third Continuous Engineering Summit brought together engineers from several industries, including Automotive, to share innovation on excellence in product development and lifecycle management. Among the presentations was a discussion led by Combitech AB/Saab’s Johan Gunnarsson. He suggested that the change to MBSE will be so dramatic that automobiles are fast becoming as complex as fighter jets.

Gunnarsson at the 2017 CE Summit

Johan Gunnarsson of Combitech AB/Saab at the 2017 CE Summit















MBSE-focused engineering software such as IBM’s Rhapsody provides the basis for developing domain models that become common communication tools among engineers. It allows the entire system to be simulated to understand interdependencies between sub-systems and components. This is particularly helpful when developing complex products like vehicles built by OEMs through a multi-tiered network of suppliers.

The transformation in systems engineering addresses the need to efficiently deal with product variants as consumers want vehicles that can be personalized both physically and digitally. MBSE also helps address managing changes to both vehicle hardware and software throughout its long life.

To find more information about all these trends and about IBM’s suite of Continuous Engineering solutions, please visit our landing page. And we invite you to join us at Think 2018, March 19-22 in Las Vegas.

Next week: part 2 – speeding product development with the Scaled Agile Framework

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SolarNow and Eseye, Enabling IoT to Change Lives Across Africa

SolarNow and Eseye, Enabling IoT to Change Lives Across Africa

SolarNow and Eseye, Enabling IoT to Change Lives Across Africa
The Internet of Things (IoT) is impacting positively on the lives of millions around the world – potentially none more so than those in Africa.

SolarNow and Eseye are today announcing an IoT partnership, powered by AWS, to provide connected solar energy to communities in East Africa.

Social business SolarNow provides solar powered equipment, appliances and financing solutions to remote or off-grid locations in the region. The system uses Eseye’s global AnyNet Secure SIM to provide secure cellular connectivity and delivers data onto the AWS Cloud. The partnership has enabled SolarNow to move from a non-connected to a connected product offering and to take full advantage of the benefits of IoT, with better system oversight, enhanced security, remote divice management options and improved client communication.

Willem Nolens, CEO at SolarNow, says:
“This new level of capability is another key step in our continued mission to build the best relationships with our customers. Meanwhile, global roaming capabilities alleviate any concerns over connectivity, so we can continue to drive the growth of solar as a central energy source across East Africa.”

Paul Marshall, Chief Customer Office at Eseye, says:

“SolarNow has fully exploited the tools to make IoT easy – a move which is not only pivotal for the company’s future growth, but also for the future of customers it serves. The power of connected technology to solve issues and truly change lives across Africa, by enabling service provision for even the most remote or disempowered members of its communities cannot be underestimated.”

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