CIO Perspectives

Leading digital change means moving beyond the mission statement

… and you can start by banishing the word "impossible"

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Steve Rubinow Catalina Media Lab

Steve Rubinow, CTO, Catalina Media Lab

At the CIO Perspectives event in Atlanta earlier this month, Steve Rubinow, CTO at Catalina Media Lab, spoke to the audience about how to lead a traditional business into the digital world.

“[In our industry], everybody knows they need to do something, nobody knows exactly what they need to do,” Rubinow said. “This particular industry [retail consumer packaged goods], is a little bit more conservative than others, so they don’t have a lot of money to spend, they don’t want to take a lot of risks … but they also know that you can’t do that and not take risks, and you can’t afford to stand still.”

Quoting a favorite Internet meme, Rubinow said that while a lot of people think that a company needs a digital strategy, it’s more about having a strategy in a digital world:

A lot of people think this is just, 'Oh, we’re going to just get more efficient. We’re going to do things a little bit faster. We’re going to cut some costs out of the system' - that’s what being digital means. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. It is a much more dramatic change.

In fact, changing a company’s strategy is not about the technology, per se, but rather dealing with the people. “[T]he technology part, although not easy, is the easy part," he said. "The hard part is the people part. People don’t move at the same rate. People are illogical. People are emotional, and machines aren’t, so it’s a much harder task.”

Rubinow outlined some of the different ways leaders can change the culture within a company, beyond just putting “we want to change” or “we want to innovate” in the mission statement.

Once the change process is enabled, Rubinow warned about some of the behaviors that people will exhibit to try and stop the change, and how the “change agents” can fight back (for example, not allowing people to say that something “is impossible”).

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