Digital transformation is on the minds of many business leaders, and one common question that comes up is, “How do we ensure that the investment in transformation pays off?” This concern isn’t undeserved; a recent survey of 450 leaders suggests that nine out of 10 digital transformations fail to meet business needs, most often due to their organization's inability to nimbly respond to new conditions.

This survey shines a light on a common challenge leaders must be aware of as they begin new digital transformation initiatives. Focusing on the people-side of the equation is equally important to the technical side, and developing a complete change strategy is key to success.

A complete change management strategy takes more into account than just employee awareness and training. It must also take into account the myriad of forces that shape people's actions beyond just awareness.

Looking at change through the lens of the LEVERS model that we developed and use at Salesforce (outlined below) ensures that all the forces that shape behavior are considered and actively managed.

To combat these typical pitfalls, here are the six best practices any leader can use to ensure a digital transformation is successful:


The Six Levers of Successful Change:

1. Leadership

In order to effectively implement change, leaders need to reset priorities, approve budgets, remove barriers, and model desired behaviors. Actions they take, or lack thereof, send a strong message about whether or not the new initiative is a priority and should be taken seriously by all.


2. Ecosystem

We are social creatures, and what others are doing around us matters. Smart leaders avoid the mistake of pushing forward without all stakeholders identified and on board. Instead, they identify and focus their efforts on getting opinion leaders aligned, and in doing so they get quick and powerful traction across the entire organization. Stakeholder management, change networks, and other social tactics ensure adoption occurs across the social setting.


3. Values

Connecting the changes to what people already value is the most effective way to motivate others. Leaders can demonstrate how the change fits with people's sense of mission and purpose through storytelling and creating direct and meaningful experiences with the new conditions.


4. Enablement

People can't do what they don't know how to do. Ensure that people have the knowledge and skills they need to get in line. This is where clear communication strategies and practice-focused training come in.


5. Rewards

Everyone knows rewards have an enormous influence on people's behavior. Some changes are impossible to execute because of legacy incentives systems that entice people to behave in exactly the wrong way. Leaders should look at the landscape for unintentional incentives that cement the status quo.


6. Structure

Environmental factors can have a huge impact on the way people behave. Consider ways to create tools, technology, resources, reminders, and spaces to make new ways of working easier and old behaviors more difficult. Avoid temporary fixes to systems that cause problems in the future.


When leaders pull these LEVERS in a coordinated effort, meaning they co-create strategies in each one of these domains and deploy them in unison, they reorganize the organizational landscape in a way where change becomes inevitable. Align new ways of working with your digital strategy, and you've got change that sticks.