Fast food vs long-term nourishment: which digital transformation diet is right for you?

Posted on September 6, 2021.

I was having drinks with a colleague recently when the conversation turned to some complementary practitioners we both knew in our field. My colleague made a face about one of the practitioners — the kind of face where it was clear he didn’t approve of their methods and work. My curiosity was piqued not least because this was a practitioner that I greatly admired. I couldn’t resist, “What don’t you like about their work?”, I asked. “They’re the McDonalds of our industry. They sell fast food hamburgers — quick satisfaction without any long term benefit,” he replied.

Big burger on a bun with bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayonanise  on a bun.
Ok, this isn’t a McDonald’s burger but it’s a pretty good looking burger.

My curiosity was now double piqued! “Why is that bad?”, I asked. He continued to say that their customers think they’re going to digitally transform overnight when all these folks are offering is a workshop and maybe a speech. “No organization will transform after a workshop,” he said. And he’s right.

“No organization will transform after a workshop,” he said. And he’s right.

When I first started teaching workshops I didn’t know this yet. I believed that through an intensive 2-3 day hands-on workshop I would be able to plant seeds of change that would grow into a fully agile, customer-centric, digital-first organization. I really did. Oh, the naivety of youth. In the years since, I’ve accepted that the best I can hope for with a workshop or a speech is inspiration and awareness. And I continue to deliver many workshops and speeches. 

My colleague’s critique of the “McDonald’s Practitioner” made me question, for a moment, whether or not I was delivering value to my clients. After all, based on his definition I, too, was a McDonald’s Practitioner. Maybe I should focus instead on long-term engagements that offer the kind of continuous nourishment a true org-wide transformation deserves. Was I putting my clients on the wrong diet? Was I threatening the health of their culture with my work?

After a heated debate, I concluded that there is a need for both types of offerings. The short-form, one-off workshops and speeches have a place in organizations that want to tease new ideas and ways of working. They do the heavy lifting of introducing companies to new ideas without any risk. If the speaker or workshop practitioner has done their job well, the company will then ask for the long-term plan. Sometimes the same coach or consultant can deliver both types of services. And sometimes we specialize in one over the other and refer trusted colleagues to these opportunities. 

Companies need a variety of support tactics to realize a true digital transformation. As they start out and introduce new groups to these ideas, one-off events (what my colleague called “happy meals”) are a perfect fit. Like happy meals though, a steady diet of one-off events isn’t organizationally healthy. For the long-term, a continuous plan of coaching and assessment is the right diet.

If you’re interested in seeing how we can find the best transformation diet for you and your teams, take a look at my “Work with me” page.