Will you lead your organization's transformation in the 2nd machine age?

M. Nadia Vincent

June 28, 2020

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The Digital age is gaining in maturity, and we are now in the second machine age, the period where the machine is smart. What does that mean for organizations and businesses around the world? It means that we have to shift in our organizations to different work experiences: collaboration with the machine, personal transformation and an upgrade in our business and leadership vision.

Twenty years ago, the first substantial changes and the concept of change management began. It started with small changes, often led by new technologies. Then the changes came faster and faster. They multiplied as organizations struggled to set priorities among the changes they had to implement. As the pace of changes increased further, the number of them grew as well, with impacts so significant that the result was not just change but transformation.

The technology changes were led by IT, followed by the business adoption, then the customers. Businesses and IT adjusted to the changes but not without consequences. Employee engagement fell to a low 14% worldwide, according to several studies. More than 60% of large projects/programs failed or were delivered later than their due date, and for nearly twice their initial budget. Employees began to fear being replaced by the machine, as many experienced the loss of their jobs or changes in job positions that they sometimes didn't like but had to agree to in order to still have a job. Many employees have been hanging out in organizations without a clear job position. People experience a higher sense of loss of purpose and loss of faith in the future. This situation marks the end of the industrial age and the start of a new era, the digital age and especially, the second machine age where organizations go entirely digital.

The role of leaders in every area of the organization has become more demanding. They are to shape a new digital era instead of following the directions from the previous industrial era, though having previous lessons learned in context. There are three main missions that today's leaders should execute.

1) Self-transformation
Self-transformation is essential in developing new mindsets, building new habits, overcoming challenges, and functioning differently and efficiently in a new environment. It is also critical for developing agile organizations that will perform at their best in the new digital age. Telling people to change does not work, forcing them to change adversely creates more resistance and conflicts that will affect the organization's performance and return on investment (ROI).

On the other hand, self-transformed leaders inspire individuals and teams to self-transform as well. People trust more self-transformed leaders and willingly team up with them for the business transformation.

2. Visionary Innovation
In the second machine age, it is not enough to lead. We are creating our tomorrow now, and leaders should be visionaries and innovators. People are in a context where they are doubtful, fearful about tomorrow, for they are still attached to their yesterday that no longer exists. Leaders should have a clear vision of the future, be innovative in shaping that vision, and communicate it constantly to their people, so they progressively embrace the vision, work toward it and progressively reprogram their brain with that new vision.

Otherwise, they will remain confused, unfocused, in a state of fear and loss, which will stall the transformation progress and the business. Visionary and innovative leaders automatically breed teams and organizations that have clear goals and attractive visions in their minds. Teams that are eager and excited to win and succeed in the digital age. It will show in their efficient everyday ways of working and at the business bottom line.

3. Empathic Collaboration
So many changes and transformations, both inside the organization and outside in the marketplace, require great team alignment, understanding, agility, and cohesiveness. While machines can be configured to perform together at a precise alignment and rapidly, it is not the same for humans. We each move at our own pace because, unlike machines, we have emotions and a different intelligence. Sometimes all that is needed to resolve a challenging situation is someone who can relate to another person, show care and, as a result, facilitate a positive outcome.

The second machine age does not eliminate humans in the workplace. It requires a new intelligence made both of human and machine intelligence (artificial intelligence). In this context, there are more in-depth challenges for humans who have to team up with machines and exist in this new age. Leaders need to show empathy, care, and understanding to motivate their team, unleash their potential, and keep the momentum. Leaders for the customer experience will also need to show the same empathy with customers and prospects, or else the organization's performance will be at risk.

How can leaders be on top of such a demanding role today for themselves and their organizations?

When it comes to transformation, training alone does not work, according to scientific research. The Digital Transformation success rate in organizations around the world is low today, even though most of these organizations had some training. We need to transform our everyday and stop operating in our previous brain programming. The latest discoveries on brain science show that we are barely 2% conscious and function on about 98% of the information already programmed in our subconscious mind.

Training provides a learning experience for the conscious mind but does not reprogram our subconscious mind, which drives our daily habits and performance. After a few days, we forget most of what we learn if we do not strategically apply it and build new habits from it. What we need along with training is to develop new habits, new pathways in our brain to reprogram our subconscious mind and stay on course until we are transformed. This is challenging; it happens over time and does not occur with training only.

Thus we need both strategic transformation training and coaching for our leaders to help them become their best, lead the organization, and transform it to optimize the business potentials.

At Digital Transformation Leaders, I've created a different experience for leaders, with solutions that allow them to fully transform themselves, transform their organizations, and achieve optimum success in the digital age. I offer solutions for the conscious and subconscious minds and accompany the leaders in the process with both group coaching and individual coaching. This proven approach helps them become the transformed leader their organizations need to succeed.

My approach is coherent with my digital transformation success formula, which I created and describe in my book, "Leveraging Digital Transformation."


Digital transformation requires individual transformation (IT), Business Transformation (BT), Technology Transformation (TT), and the reduction of fear (F) in people.

To conclude, wherever you are in your organization, leading your team will require you to self-transform, be a visionary and innovative leader, collaborate effectively with people inside and outside of your organization, manage your fear and help others in the process as well while being empathic. Only then can we create digitally transformed organizations with optimum performance, happy individuals or employees, winning teams, customers who are excited about their experience, and real ROI for everyone involved.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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