Connected & Ready

Leading your team into the 2nd machine age, with M. Nadia Vincent

Episode Summary

For a successful digital transformation, alleviating fears and sharing long-term vision is paramount for getting teams on board. In this episode of Connected & Ready, host Gemma Milne talks with M. Nadia Vincent, a recognized consulting expert and author, about the history of digital transformation, the formula she has developed for understanding the business, technology, and individual aspects of successful transformation, as well as how to reduce and manage employee fears. Dynamics 365 Business Central helps small and medium-sized businesses connect people, processes, and data. Flexible, scalable, and customizable, Dynamics 365 Business Central brings disconnected systems into a comprehensive business management solution that supports remote work scenarios, security, business continuity, and more. Watch a demo today: Thank you for listening to Connected & Ready! Do you have ideas of how we can improve the show? Want to recommend a guest for us to interview? We value your partnership and participation. Please drop us a note at We would love to hear from you.

Episode Notes

Gemma Milne talks with M. Nadia Vincent, author of “Leveraging Digital Transformation,” about key digital transformation concepts, such as the difference between reactive and strategic initiatives, how to encourage the critical element of individual transformation, and how to avoid achieving only a partial transformation.

About M. Nadia Vincent:

M. Nadia Vincent is recognized as one of the top 10 leaders in digital transformation. With over two decades of international work experience, she is an MIT SLOAN Certified Digital Transformation and Artificial Intelligence Executive Advisor. She has led many major transformation initiatives on the European market as the co-founder of the ultimate training and coaching platform for business executives and transformation leaders. She is the author of several training and coaching programs to help businesses transform, and several books. “Leveraging Digital Transformation,” her most recent book is a reference book in digital transformation leadership.

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Episode Transcription

Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready, an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed brought to you by Microsoft. I'm Gemma Milne. I'm a technology journalist and author. And I'm going to be exploring trends around how companies are adapting to a disrupted world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. On today's episode, I'm chatting to M. Nadia Vincent, who goes by Nadia, Digital Transformation and Innovation executive adviser and CEO of Digital Transformation Leader. We explore why digital transformation is such a hot topic and has been for many years. We talk about where businesses often misstep and how they can avoid getting it wrong, and we dive into the critical importance of people and the individual transformations that must take place for digital transformation to be successful. 

Gemma [00:00:58] Before we start, I want to thank all of you listeners out there. If you have a topic or a person you'd love to hear on the show, please send us an email at We're so thankful for you all. Now on with the episode. 

Gemma [00:01:17] Nadia, thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show. Why don't you start by telling us just a little bit about what you do and what you've been currently working on. 

Nadia [00:01:24] Hello, Gemma. Thank you very much for inviting me. I'm Nadia Vincent. And I am a digital transformation executive adviser. I work on helping organizations transform the business for the second machine age of the digital age. What I mean by that is to make sure that the business is able to survive the new digital age. 

Gemma [00:01:50] Incredible. And what sort of different kinds of companies do you work with? 

Nadia [00:01:53] Well, I started working the last 20 plus years with a Fortune organization, but lately the Fortune organization, let's say they were the first one really implementing transformation. So now it's really more a small and medium size organization where, I mean, we started late and now it's urgent for them to really shift in order to avoid disappearing in the new digital age. 

Gemma [00:02:20] Yeah, which is exactly, I guess, what we're going to be focusing on speaking about today. And of course, we've heard and talked about many different digital transformations, as you've alluded to, whether it's to do with the bigger companies versus the smaller ones after, but also whatever number of machine age we are on now. And all of these different digital transformations have accelerated, particularly, of course, this past year. So from your perspective, why does digital transformation continue to be such a hot topic as it has been for, you know, 15 plus years? And tell us a little bit of what you think has changed over time? 

Nadia [00:02:54] Well digital transformation was hot before because the organization will see the changes happening. There were the innovators, the leaders, but most organization, although they were very interested, they were not taking action. So last year we had more organizations transformed, than let’s say five year before simply because it came to make sense to people when they see that with the covid-19 crisis, they had to find other ways to operate than from the industrial age. And many of those organizations, they had type of hybrid business model, one of the foot was in the industrial age and the other foot was in the digital age. And we have to find new ways to operate businesses. We cannot just sit and wait because many organizations were sitting and waiting. So a lot has changed. However, it's not over yet. Businesses who want to survive in the next two to five years. They have to go full digital, not partially digital. 

Gemma [00:03:59] So would you say there's a difference as well between, I guess, taking on digital transformation as a not just a project, but a literal transformation of your entire company, is it about surviving or is there an also an element of growth and keeping up with competition and wanting to sort of achieve more, even if you're already a relatively successful company. Is there a big difference between that kind of transformation or does all sort of happen in one? 

Nadia [00:04:25] There is a big difference that determines the sustainability. The first one, it's more being reactive. And there is a big issue in that is that they are solving problem, problems that already exist or problem they see coming. They are reactive, defensive. But the challenge with that is that the digital age is so fast. Change and transformation happens so fast. So they are not really building a business for the digital age. They are trying to keep up, they're just surviving, as you see. And that's not the way to go. Those businesses now with the covid crisis, they are getting along now while the businesses who see it as an opportunity for growth, the device, a full digital strategy, even though sometime they could not implement it fully. But devising that strategy, they know what to apply, where to apply them on a proactive basis. And they are the organization that are innovating more and they are the business of the future. 

Gemma [00:05:31] So let's talk a little bit about, I guess, how to do it right, shall we say, when it comes to actually getting down to doing digital transformation. We've been talking about this for years and years. We know it isn't easy. It's not simple. And as you put it, a lot of people talk about it but don't necessarily get their hands dirty. So many organizations fail or maybe they don't even realize the full benefits that they were hoping for. Why is this like where do organizations get it sort of wrong? 

Nadia [00:05:57] The main challenge that I've seen over the years, especially with businesses that I get the opportunity to rescue, is that they were doing a partial transformation that led me to publish a formula like six years ago when I published my first book about digital transformation. 

[00:06:14] Digital transformation is equal to individual transformation. Business transformation, I mean, times, business transformation, times, technology transformation and all divided by fear, because what was happening is that many businesses somewhere implementing the business transformation, but they were not high on the technology and some were doing a lot of technology transformation, but they didn't have the business convention that goes with it. And some are doing both business and technology, but they completely neglected the individual transformation part. While the successful transformation they took into account those three parts and this individual transformation. 

Nadia [00:06:55] But people downplayed it a lot until we got covid-19 who showed us that we have to have innovative people. Covid kind of forced them out so that they can forget about the fear and take action. See, and to the organization that succeeded digital transformation, they're an organization that implements transformation, taking into account those four points, the individual transformation, business transformation, technology transformation, and reducing the fear, the fear of innovation, the fear of change everywhere in the organization and in people. 

Gemma [00:07:32] I guess you’re firm in those making the point that it has to be all three, that you cannot pick and choose, like, why is that like what our business is going to miss out if they don't have all three? Kinda make that case for us? 

Nadia [00:07:44] Well, we have the individual and the machine called the technology in every transformation. Both go together. However, it's the individual who create the transformation. We can have the best technologies. But actually today the technology is widely accessible and very affordable. Unlike before it was the big companies and you were able to afford the transformation and the technology is there. What people need is innovative strategy and as well implementing this strategy. That's what makes the difference, because technology is not the competitive advantage anymore. So the individual who can create the best vision, the best strategy, and who is able to lead the team to drive them to transform, to achieve that vision, those are the companies succeeding. And it's not the technology doing it. It's not the business. It's people doing it. 

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Gemma [00:09:18] So can you tell us a little bit more about, I guess, the difference between individual transformation and fear, because I would assume alleviating fear is part of the individual transformation, or how would you sort of define what we actually mean by individual transformation? Is that about educating people or upscaling, or is it something entirely different? 

Nadia [00:09:40] That is a good question. We are not talking about the technology change, the change in the profession. The individual transformation is first get people to be mindful because people are so stressed and they are not focused. I mean, whatever they are doing, it's automated. There is no full investigation into it. And by getting people to be mindful, it's like you say stop listening to the noise outside, align yourself with yourself, because there is one thing, someone who is not aligned with himself or herself cannot not align with a business objective. So it's about managing one's self to know what are the things that make you happy? What are the things that give you drive that gives you energy? What are the painful things that you have that caused you to have this or that reaction that caused you to be fearful of this or that? And what are your purpose? Because one thing is that we are in a time where everything is changing in the world. People studied several years for a profession and by the time they have to work, the profession has changed completely or it doesn't exist anymore. So they have to reinvent themselves. And there are many goals that have to be completely reinvented. There are many lifestyles, many dreams. There are people that have been doing some work for many years. They hate it, but they learn to do it. They keep going. And now it's the opportunity it's the time to evaluate themselves, to see what drives them. Because transformation is difficult. You need drive for transformation. You cannot simply transform overnight because it's a long process. It's a process that's going to challenge you as an individual and as a person. And later on for the fear part, the fear part, then that's where we look at the different part of the organization. It's not just individual. It's, for example, innovating the way you used to work. There are many people who are fearful of changing the way they used to work. Sometimes they think, OK, the machine is going to take their place. So they prefer to hide the thing instead of automate it. And it is really being creative on what you can do better now, what you can - what can you make more effective with the technology that we have? Because the innovation should not happen only at the top level with the leaders. We need people on the job, the process they are doing every day to be creative, to see what are the best ways we can innovate, to make things better. 

Gemma [00:12:20] So you said so many interesting things here, Nadia. So I'm going to jump in and dig into a little bit more of this. So you mentioned about this sort of individual change and the need for drive of individuals and I guess knowing themselves more, as you put it, in order to make a good transformation happen. I guess from an organization perspective, you know, why is it that people at an organization are so critical to the success of digital transformation? What role do they play beyond this drive factor that you mentioned? 

Nadia [00:12:50] Well, people determine the success of a transformation, they determine the success of the customer expense. They determine the success of employee engagement. As I say, people who are not aligned themselves cannot engage and do anything. They won't find a drive, when it get too difficult they will quit. While we need people to be to have endurance to keep going. And we need people to work as a team to support each other. And this is better said than done, because one of the challenge that we have in transformation is that we cannot transform the people. We can help the people transform themselves because it's a personal thing to do. That's why some years ago I work with some neuroscientists. We work both on the conscious level and the subconscious level because we are barely two percent conscious. According to the when scientists, there are habits that were created and we function on autopilot. So, for example, giving training to people that doesn't really help them change. We need not only to give the training for the conscious mind, we also give neural programming for the subconscious mind. And with that, we bring the person into changing his or her habits on a daily basis, and that will give the success of the engagement. For the long process of transformation and success that will create more initiatives for the customer, expands the employee engagement and achieving the goals of the transformation, because this is one thing as well. Many organizations see conservation as something that they have to do as an obligation. While they should see it as an investment, they should see what are the goals we want to achieve, what’s the vision for the company. 

Gemma [00:14:45] So I'd like to hear a little example then of how businesses can manage or encourage this, as you put it, individual transformation, especially when you say, you know, it has to come from the person. It's not something that can just be dictated by a new strategy or a new investment or something like that. How do you balance company objectives and saying we need to be able to transform our workforce because we want to do X, Y and Z in terms of probably financial or profit driven goals versus going we need to look after employees and kind of put people before profit and all these sorts of ideas? So maybe give us an example of what a successful initiative or a strategy looks like for that individual transformation. 

Nadia [00:15:27] It's a two-step process and we do it for businesses because there is the individual transformation. We work on helping the person to transform. So we give the individual tools. They are some audio courses. They are not long courses like you go in your training. That's part of the individual transformation. But the second part must follow, the second part is the business alignment, aligning the individual with the business goal while on the first one we have this person to be aligned with himself or herself to define his or her goals, where you want to go to be focused on, then this person will be researching opportunities that align with his or her personal goal and that person will find it in the company when the company does the work of communicating the business objective, the business opportunity, the purpose division. So the first part is helping the person self transform. And the second part is bringing the person to align with the business objectives. 

Gemma [00:16:32] Amazing. You know, we've talked about success of digital transformation really hinging on the people, right? It's all about people at the end of the day. What would you say then is the biggest challenge there, you know is it about aligning the leadership, is it about getting buy in, is it about you mentioned, engagement there and vision? What would you say is kind of the, with your experience and all the different clients you've worked with, the sort of biggest hurdle the businesses tend to get stuck on when it comes to the stage of people transformation and getting them on board? 

Nadia [00:17:01] It is one thing that defined all the one that you listed. When you talk about leadership, employee engagement, it's all about managing fear for the person, because, for example, when it comes to innovation, someone who is very fearful and who is more defensive than constructive, it's more difficult for this person to create innovative solution, to think strategically, to think innovatively. Once you are able to facilitate this person, to be more proactive, manage the fear, then this person is able to create more strategic innovation. Same thing on the technology, the way we use technology, because sometime we will implement the technology. But that doesn't mean the person will use it or will use it right. So it's helping the person to understand that in the second machine age, there is a new business intelligence. It's not human only, it's not machine only. It's both the human and the machine. So there's no reason to be fearful of the machine. It's finding new ways to collaborate with the machine for more innovative and more breakthrough solution. The next thing about the fear, it's in the leadership, in the vision. Digital transformation needs a vision without the transformative vision, well, we are not going anywhere and we need leaders who can inspire people. We can drive people, not just have the vision, but really driving the transformation, inspire people, but someone who is not self transformed. It's very difficult to inspire the other people because people sense the fear, they don't trust them, and people who are not trustworthy like that, it will be more difficult to have all the organization following. So the top leaders, preferably the whole leadership team, they need to self transform so that they can inspire the rest of the organization to transform. And that way they will inspire them to achieve or to create the new business that they want. 

Gemma [00:19:16] So we spoke a lot about reducing and managing fear and the importance of this, how can organizations understand their employees fear? And crucially, once they understand that fear, how do they manage or at least make employees feel that their fears are being heard and, of course, most importantly, actually addressed? 

Nadia [00:19:36] One thing, Gemma, is that fear has many faces. And in my book, Leveraging Digital Transformation, I have part of a chapter dedicated to that and always [indiscernible] out fear. Fear can come in terms of anger, doubt, lack of confidence, feeling helpless, jealousy, victimization, discrimination, defensiveness. So you see there are many different way people react to fear. And it doesn't appear like someone will, I'm afraid of this and that. So it's different behavior. And the thing is that most of those fears are unspoken fear and they all feel that the person will never openly tell you that he has and sometimes they are not even conscious about it. That's why you cannot transform one person for the person. It's only the person can self transform, because as I said earlier, we are only two percent conscious, and we operate on autopilot. So it's really getting down to the brain to access all that information that put us on autopilot. And then that's where we address all those type of fear, whether it's a fear that is real or it's a fear that's imagined because most of the fear are imagined they are not real or some of them are from some past memory or even from childhood memory that we are not even conscious about. And this program that I created, which is called Disruption Rescue, which is accessible on my website, it's like a 30-minute audio. There is one for the conscious mind, which is like a 20-minute audio book, but there is another one for the subconscious mind. It is using brain waves and putting the person on a state to access all those information that the person is not even conscious, that he has he or she has this information. And that's what we need to change, because the transformation we can you can train people, but that's the difference between learning and adopting it, because we need to change the subconscious mind to create new habits, new pathways in the brain. And this work on Disruption Rescue helps the individual to achieve that because no employer can do that for an employee. 

Gemma [00:22:00] When you talk about transforming, it would be great to get a little bit more about it, because I know it's obviously not just one thing. Right? But when you think about transforming for digital transformation and for this - these big changes that are happening not just in your company, but in the world as a whole, this seems like it would be a mixture of many different things, both a sort of perspective things and thinking about as you see purpose and what you want to achieve and all that sort of thing. But also, there's a skills thing there, too, in learning new things and understanding whether it's new technologies or new processes and so on and so forth. Could you tell us a little bit about the different stages of that transformation or different elements? How do you sort of define or even identify what the areas of transformation are for employees at particular companies? 

Nadia [00:22:46] It depends on where the employee is in the organization, what they have to do. But the transformation there are three main stages. The first stage, it's where everybody is fearful. And generally at that first stage, nobody really wants to speak. They are watching what's going to happen. They are watching who is going to be the leader, what is going to win, because at that point there is no trust. In many organizations people are afraid they are going to lose their job and be replaced by some machine. So at that time, people desperately need a vision, a vision that they can hold on to. 

And they are listening. They are searching for help. And that's the moment where the leader can build trust. But the fact is, in transformation, we manage, we lead, but there is nothing in control. That's why we need to be agile so that we can change and adjust to it. And that's also why we need leaders who can lead by example. We can show the vulnerability because people can trust them better. And the second phase, it's when you either get the trust or you do not get the trust, but people are still waiting. They start following you. But now you need to bring in the drive, bring the energy, you bring the support. Really now you need to really acquire their trust. And at that phase, that's when everything is going fine. You get to drive. People trust you, people trust you, and they are building the future, the new tomorrow and at that time, people are already more agile, they are more involved, they are more engaged. But if it's the opposite, it's like we are going to have a stand still. This organization needs, to still go back to gain people’s trust. Those are the three main phases of the transformation. Remember, the transformation is a process, so it's not like a project. There is a start and an end because the world is changing so fast. Now, by the time you finish there's another change again and you're doing this. So that's the way it is now. 

Gemma [00:24:52] Yeah. I was going to bring that back a little bit to something you said earlier about when I asked you what companies get wrong sort of thing and you were saying some of them go through what you call a partial transformation and they don't sort of take into account your, the equation that you have the individual times business times technology all divided by fear. And I wondered if you could talk a little bit just building on that point you made about this isn't sort of a project that you can have a start, a middle and end. It's a whole sort of I guess it sounds like it's all very integrative and everything sort of happening at once. And you really do need to think about strategy. So what does that look like? Is that about sitting down and having a really good strategy meeting before you begin, or is about a mindset shift or is it both? You know, what does it look like to ensure you don't just end up with a partial transformation and you really kind of go the whole hog? 

Nadia [00:25:40] The first thing to have the full transformation is not yet involving people. It's the top leadership you need. We need the top leaders, to create a leadership team because what we are going to implement the transformation, we want it to happen in every business unit, because what's been happening is that some organizations, they are transforming their marketing, others are transforming the customer services, but their production haven't changed. The procurement hasn't changed. It's like at one point the organization is going to be misaligned because any change any transformation, you are doing on one part, the other part even though you are not touching it, it will be impacted. It moves somehow. So you need to align them so that the whole organization moves together. So one of the first things, it might be the vision, the vision might be clear or it may not be clear. It might be very rough, but we need to define it. What we need is to create a leadership team and in the leadership team is finding the complementarity people. When I say people, I'm not talking just about the skills. I'm talking about the personalities, because there will be many challenging times where the skills won't be enough. We need personality to step in, to change things, to alleviate a lot of burden. So it's about creating the leadership team and then creating a full digital strategy. I mean, by full digital strategy what you are going to implement in each business you need. That's why we need the leader of each of those business units, because they will be responsible for your needs. But as well, together, when we are modifying one thing, we see what other impacts in the other business unit and how to bring everything together. And this is having a full plan long term. OK, there are things we make the details later on. They will come. We may not have them, but we need to have a framework. And that's what creating a framework of all people so that they already plan out the transformation so that they can take action to implement the full transformation and not waiting only when the problem comes and then we need to find a solution. There will be other problems coming that we won't know. That's why we need to be agile. But we need to really plan out a strategy for the whole organization and see how in a matter of weeks when we move one part of the organization, how the other part is impacted. So that is what I call a full 360-degree digital transformation strategy. And that's what I'm really helping organizations now to achieve, because many had a partial transformation and with that there is no long-term vision in it. It's not sustainable. 

Gemma [00:28:37] So I can kind of understand why a company might initially think, let's do this in a modular way, because it could be quite overwhelming, this idea of going, OK, we have to try and change marketing and procurement and sales and customer service all in a one-er in order for this to make sense. Right. And of course, you spoke about fear being a big factor, which, of course I mean, feeling overwhelmed can obviously be linked to that. But there's a sort of practical sense to this, too, right? You can't do everything at once. So what do you say to them, to leadership teams or to leaders or to whoever is that's coming to you at the beginning who are saying we can't possibly do this all at once? How do you then make decisions about building that framework, about building that strategy in order to have success long term. 

Nadia [00:29:23] Well, I fully agree with you, we cannot do all of it together. The point is not to do it all together. The point is to be able to prioritize it, to see what other investment, because there are some transformation project that I've seen since they never looked how one transformation is going to affect the other business unit, after they spend a lot of money, a lot of time, they have to restart the whole process again. So it's not about starting together, it's actually analyzing the impact, every change and also the priorities, the dependencies, the resources necessary, and then the business priorities as well, the business goals where they are at. And then that's when they can define what's the priority, what do we do first and how we integrate and when do we start this and that? It's like music. You need our money. That is, you have to know when to bring this or that other instrument you see. And there are many things you cannot do it. I mean, there is a time frame to do it. For example, I may want to implement artificial intelligence, but if I have no data, if I have no cloud, then I mean, those are priorities I should bring, see, and the business strategy. So that's what I mean by looking at the priority, what to work on, when to bring the other parties in, and what you can reuse in different organizations and different business units, because it's about making the most of the resources that we have as well. So that's why we need the whole team to sit together, to strategize. We have them in strategy. But to prioritize, to put it in music, I will say. But it's not about doing it all at once. 

Gemma [00:31:05] So final question for you. Just thinking about people listening to this podcast and kind of wherever they are in their digital transformation journey, whether they feel that they maybe haven't even started yet or they're still at the beginning or maybe they've already begun and are kind of in the middle, or maybe they feel they're already done. Although I would maybe challenge that to some degree. What would be your piece of advice in terms of what people should be doing moving forward, particularly leaders? You know, what should they be doing to prepare for both their current or next business transformation that they might want to make? 

Nadia [00:31:37] I would suggest first that they make an assessment where they are today, what's the next priority, what they want to achieve. It's really the business assessment that we covered, the technology and the organization. But as well, it's never too late to invest in self transformation for themselves and for the team, something that is very important, very crucial wherever they are at is to really work on the business vision for the digital age, not the business vision that will we change this to be like the competitor. We've changed. No, it's looking even five years, sometimes even ten years for some point, is the business sustainable for full digital age where we are going for the future of business? It's really looking at that to strategize, to really reinvent the business. Then based on that, once they do that, they will see all the priorities, what they need to do, etc.

Gemma [00:32:34] Amazing. Nadia, thank you so much for sharing so much with us. So many different strategies, formulas even, and loads of ideas about how people listening can really start to take good practical steps. But also think about things maybe zooming out a little bit more and thinking about what it really means for individuals and for people, not just the technologies and the businesses that are the ones doing the transformation at the end of the day. So, Nadia, thank you so much for joining us on the show. 

Nadia [00:32:58] Thank you very much to you as well, Gemma. 

Gemma [00:33:03] That's it for this week. Thank you so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Nadia's work and indeed some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. If you enjoyed the episode, please do take a few moments to rate and review the podcast. It really helps other people discover the show. And don't forget to hit subscribe and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. 

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