Oct 2020

Last week, we hosted the 2nd part of Happy Marketer and The Boston Consulting Group’s 3 part digital transformation webinar series titled “What are we Transforming into?”.


The experts on our panel were:

  • Marcus Chew, CMO of NTUC Income, Singapore’s leading insurance provider.
  • Margot Torres, Managing Director of McDonald’s Philippines.
  • Anthony Oundjian, Managing Director & Senior Partner, Philippines country head at BCG 
  • Srotoswini Roy, Director of Digital Transformation, Happy Marketer


We started our webinar series by addressing the elephant in the room – the fact that we’ve been talking about Digital Transformation for almost a decade now but only 30% organizations feel that they have been successful. That’s an alarmingly small number for an industry that has been around for more than 10 years.


Having said that we also discussed a winning formula (Exhibit 1). What do these 30% do differently and consistently that increases their chances of success by as much as 80%? According to an in-depth study by BCG winning behaviour is characterized by three key elements working together – the Head which is about the vision, the Heart which is about our people and the Hands which is about the job to be done.


Exhibit 1 

In the  first webinar we spoke about the role of the head in determining the North Star and helping us prioritize mindfully.


Organizations don’t change. People do. Lead with your heart.


In the second webinar, we delved into the often neglected yet probably the most important aspect of this trifecta – The Heart. 

The relentless pace of always-on transformation can demoralize even the most engaged employees. Sustaining it while offering employees meaningful opportunity and fulfillment is what the core of the Heart is about. 


Successful transformation today depends on people who are engaged and motivated to go above and beyond. Organizations can create this condition through a set of heart practices (Exhibit 2).


  1. Connection – Fueling transformation by fostering an emotional connection which will inspire greater commitment and the willingness to go the extra mile.
  2. Culture – Creating an empowering culture, shaped by leaders, that allows people to do their best work. 
  3. Empathy – Demonstrating care for those whose lives are disrupted by the change. 
  4. Leadership – A more holistic form of leadership. Leaders who clarify and navigate, who include and empower, and who enable their people and teams.


Exhibit 2

Change is hard. Fatigue is real. Overcoming fatigue is one of the hardest challenges in Transformation

One of the biggest challenges in the Heart imperative is to tackle Change Fatigue. It is one of the toughest challenges to solve and has the ability to bring progress to grinding halt or even reverse it. It has no magic solution, no silver bullet framework or one-size-fits-all answer.


Anthony attributes this to the problematic analogy of the caterpillar to butterfly imagery, “It’s not about going from one place to second place. It’s about the continuous process. This misalignment of expectations leads to fatigue within the people of the organization.”


Marcus reiterates that the finality of one becoming a butterfly is unreal as it does not leave room for future growth and sets unrealistic expectations, the solution in his opinion is to build a roadmap with milestones and create a culture of celebrating small wins.


Margot draws a fantastic parallel with human nature citing how every new thing becomes boring after the initial excitement thus leading more to boredom than fatigue.


“Too many projects” – is a common narrative and often the main cause for fatigue 


Decluttering projects is a must for organizations. 

Anthony shares – “One of our clients had about 127 projects under the umbrella of Digital Transformation. The first exercise we did was to connect the 127 projects to the 5 key objectives of the company. Projects were eliminated if it did not align with the 5 key objectives. Post this exercise, the client was down to below 30 projects.”


While Marcus talks about the value of centralizing transformation, Margot beautifully complements that thought with the ultimate goal of integration – both continue to reiterate the value of staying true to the North Star to control project volumes and ensure there are no conflicting projects.


Beware the trap of Fail-fast culture


Fail-fast arouses the most cynicism from people during change management. As much as failing needs to be normalized, it also needs to be defined in some way. Else we find people wondering what it is they are supposed to do. Am I supposed to design an activity knowing it will fail? How much am I allowed to fail? What does failure look like?


Margot gives us a new perspective to understand the cultural change that this word symbolises “I think failing fast is more about acceptance. When it’s a new idea, you fall in love with the idea. You want it so much to work, but it fails. So failing fast is about acceptance that it was a great idea, but it didn’t work and move on. And another part is on learning from failures.”


As Marcus put it, “One must design an experiment with a clear objective. Failure or success is only an outcome of that experiment, not it’s objective.”


Value progress over perfection and exercise your muscles to prepare for the triathlon of Transformation!


Digital Transformation is neither a sprint nor a marathon – it is a triathlon. Just like one trains different muscles for different events of a triathlon, so must be done for different aspects of business transformation.


As Marcus puts it, “As leaders it our job to show the big picture to people, to educate them on how their efforts today, however taxing, actually builds up to that big picture. Whatever we are doing today is effectively exercising our muscles so that we are prepared for the big change. Change management is like core yoga, when you start at first you discover that there are muscles you didn’t even know existed which have now started hurting. That pain is part of the change you are aiming for.”


Margot introduced to us the value of progress of perfection. In an organization like Mc Donald’s which is built on the foundation of precision and perfection – just like those perfectly golden fires you get everytime – the concepts of unlearning, relearning and experimenting were hard to propagate. Ultimately it is about “building incrementally and not waiting for perfection. Much like one would do for while building an MVP.”


Culture change is the hardest of them all. But it can be hacked!


Culture is arguably the hardest to change, yet it is the first place we must start from. It is daunting but we heard from our panelist how small changes go a long way in hacking into legacy process and culture.


Simple things like changing the size of meetings rooms and allowing no more than 4 chairs in every meeting room, reduced wasteful time spent on sometimes unnecessary and large meetings as well as forced people to be specific about their meetings agendas and attendees – as was shared by Anthony from one of his client experiences.


Margot spoke about how they implemented a fun role play during meetings where in every meeting they would assign one person to be the “rabbit hole” – they would have the authority to take any tangential topic and remove it from the meeting, and another person to be the “challenger” – who would have the role of playing devil’s advocate. It energised meetings and engaged everybody in the discussion.


Ultimately, it’s all about the heart


👫 If you don’t take a people based approach to transformation, you are almost guaranteed to to fail in the long term.


🤗 If you take refuge in buzzwords and jargons, instead of taking the hard road of building Connection-Culture-Empathy, then again you will not build enduring success.


💪 If you don’t exercise your muscles consistently then that downward dog will always remain painful and you will never be prepared for the triathlon.


🎯 If you seek perfection in everything you do then you may not be able to make incremental progress. Progress over perfection – take baby steps to success, littered with small wins and big learnings.


Watch out for the next webinar, on 6th Oct, about the Hands of Digital Transformation. Till then keep that blood pumping and bid adieu to fatigue!

Srotoswini Roy
Srotoswini Roy

Director Digital Transformation, quick-witted 🧠 with a silver tongue and a knack for getting things done ✅

At work, she channels her empathetic listening and articulate solutioning skills to cultivate strong, symbiotic relationships with clients 🤝, keeping a sharp eye on business growth both for her clients and her firm 📈

Off work, you’ll find her whipping up new dishes 🍲 inspired from her travels and her mother’s cookbook, planning her next vacation 🏖️, lost for hours in a book 📚, or dancing away to her heart’s content 💃🏻