By now, all large and a quarter of medium-sized companies in the country are taking on initiatives to digitize their business activities and processes to leverage on the changes and opportunities in the impending 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Digital transformation is no longer a concept but a journey and a new way of working for organizations.

But the journey is never easy. Employee resistance, silo mentality, lack of common understanding of the company’s vision, and fixed mindset are common roadblocks.

Collectively, culture and people are the biggest barriers to digital transformation, according to Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda study.

Woefully, many organizations resort to traditional change management approaches such as employee training on technology skills and some soft skills. But this accounts only to 10 percent of behaviour change across the organization.

With the scale and magnitude of changes the 4IR will bring, there is an urgent need to look at managing change through a different lens.

Like healing one’s body through proper nutrition that targets the cellular level, digital and culture transformation can be achieved most effectively by targeting the basic unit of the organization – the employee. Only the organization member will ultimately decide whether to change and adapt to the changes that’s happening.

Self-transformation is the basic unit of transformation, without which no digital or culture transformation can happen. Drawing from previous work of Canadian author and life-coach Edward E. Wilson, self-transformation is like the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly.

“The caterpillar reaches a point in its life cycle where it is ready to change. It ceases its normal life activities and retires from the world. It constructs a cocoon to shelter it and structure the change. Inside the structure of the cocoon, it introduces an agent that dissolves it, it liquefies itself.

After it has dissolved itself, it reforms as a new being inside the cocoon structure. And once it has solidified in its new form, it breaks away that shelter and re-enters the world to engage in new life activities. These are the seven stages of self-transformation.”

We can adapt these stages to self-transformation in the workplace to enable digital and culture transformation.

Stage 1: Resolving

One has to recognize the need to change before anything else. Two things can happen for you to recognize this: one is hitting the bottom when your performance has dwindled which may be due to the fast-pace of doing business. The other is when you hit a ceiling such that improvement has plateaued.

Growth and improvement can happen by recognizing the need to change one’s mindset – from a fixed one to a growth mindset.

Stage 2: Retiring

Once you have made the resolution to change, you need to separate yourself from the status quo of day to day work.

According to Wilson, “The places, people and habits you fill your life with all act to reinforce your current way of being. The caterpillar separates itself completely from its normal way of life.” Remove old habits that involve mediocrity and complacency.

Stage 3: Structuring

“When the caterpillar retires from the world, it builds a cocoon to shelter it and to structure the coming changes. We need to do a similar thing,” Wilson avers.
Create a program and routine to effect changes in yourself, like taking on an online course, having a mentor, reading books, and volunteering on new tasks on the job.

Stage 4: Dissolving

“Once the caterpillar is secure in its cocoon, it secretes an enzyme that liquefies its body. After we have created the structure that we are going to change within, we want to dissolve our sense of self.” This involves removing old beliefs, such as “Things will not change here” or “This new system will fail”.

When encountering changes, have an open mind and dissolve the old ways.

Stage 5: Reforming

“Liquefied in its cocoon what was a caterpillar reforms itself in its new shape, that of a butterfly. Within the structure of routine and ritual we created for ourselves, we too must reform our liquefied sense of self.”

A new mindset, a growth mindset, is forged. This involves practicing new ways such as having openness in adopting new systems and learning new skills.

Stage 6: Solidifying

“After the butterfly has formed its new body, it’s still not ready to rejoin the world. It needs to solidify and dry out. We too need time to solidify after we have formed our new selves.”
This is where you reinforce your habits and new mindset through practice – applying new skills, accepting failures, and quickly learning from them.

Stage 7: Returning

“Now that the butterfly is fully formed and solidified in its new body, it breaks out of its cocoon, unfolds its wings and returns to the world. When our new habits and self have stabilized, it’s time for us to return as well.”

This is when we teach and mentor others in the workplace about new skills and mindset. We transform to become experts by imparting learning to others.
Now, not all employees will be able to adapt and transform themselves. Self-transformation requires hardcore introspection and learning.

Business leaders can effectively enable their employees to transform by guiding them through these stages. They can transform to butterflies, and become change agents themselves.

The author is President & CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consultancy Inc, a digital and culture transformation firm, and Co-Founder of Caucus Inc. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University, and digital transformation and organization development at the Benilde – School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPaCE).