Territorial Challenges At The Top (MIT Sloan Mgt Q&A)


Q: On what level of the organization do you see most of the internal politics happen?

J: At the top and near the top.

“So many questions, so little time!” This series of posts is based on the questions I had no time to answer after my MITSloan Management Review Webinar in July 2018: Don’t Let Politics Back Your Digital Initiatives. I suggest you first check out the slides I used in order to understand the context for the questions in this series. Or you can listen to the webinar ($).

Middle management is more concerned about whether or not their roles will still be needed. They will of course, but in very different ways! As facilitators and coaches, not as bosses.

At the top and near the top, there are territorial challenges. For example, the creation of the CDO – the Chief Digital Officer, which started in organizations a few years ago, triggered great unease for directors and high-level managers.

My opinion is that the CDO is a temporary role. The CDO role overlaps all the major functions in organizations, creating potential power struggles. Today, 3 years later, I see the same thing happening in companies that create “transformation” departments.

The intentions are honorable, but unless the CDO or the people tasked with “transforming” the organization have the right skills and mindset, they will be perceived as being an elite HQ team, stepping on toes. Their role is one of accelerating and bringing coherence to the various digital initiatives already in place in the organization.

Time will tell if the transformation teams are a recognized, value-adding function, or if their  mission is limited in time.  Digital transformation is part of a continuum of change in organizations. Organizations are undergoing massive change, and in the end, the traditional functional teams need to change both what their role is in the organization and how they go about it.

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