It’s said that digital has ushered in a “Golden Age” of television. Digital distribution companies and content producers like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are edging out traditional networks and studios. This year, Netflix took the title for Emmy nominations with 112, edging out HBO’s previous record of 108.

If you’re a fan of Netflix’s Stranger Things, you’re all too familiar with “The Upside Down” – a parallel dimension where everything is a frightening parallel version of how they appear in our world. Execs in all industries – not just those in media and entertainment – may be beginning to feel like the current reality of our digital world looks more like “The Upside Down” to them.

That’s because assumptions about how and where value are created have fundamentally changed in the last two decades, and so have the organizational structures and decision-making processes that create that value. Applying the best practices of traditional bureaucratic, hierarchical and stage-gate-driven decision processes are exactly the opposite of what’s required in a post-millennium, digital-first world. In fact, it’s as if we might invert every rule of what traditional governance looks like in a large organization.

In our work with clients and research into leading digital organizations, we’ve highlighted five key features of digital decision-making. Each represents a fairly radical inversion for established organizations to better govern organizations in order to become faster, better and more responsive to the market:

5 Ways Digital Governance Is Transforming Decision-Making

  1. Enabling – More often than not, traditional governance is intended to act as a barrier, not an enabler. It’s meant to stop colleagues from “doing the wrong thing.” The best governance in a digital world is the opposite: it’s focused on helping teams to accomplish the right thing more easily by providing both resources and timely guidance. Our most successful digital transformation clients are engaged at the very top level of their firms with the decision makers who can assign resources and remove obstacles.
  2. Engaging – Too many governance meetings are boring reviews of PowerPoint and spreadsheets. The best governance meetings today bring prototypes and show real work-in-progress to invested stakeholders for their feedback to shape the product or capability. Instead of making go/no go or stop/start decisions based on words and spreadsheet-based hypotheses, stakeholders are getting as close as they can to where the rubber might eventually meet the road. The enterprise leader of digital transformation at one of the nation’s largest financial services firms brings working prototypes and finished digital products along with real-world data when he holds accountability meetings with the executive leadership team.
  3. Agile– Instead of onerous “stage-gates,” modern governance takes place with far greater frequency, for far shorter duration and thereby offers more opportunities for course correction and reallocation of effort. One favorite example is a CEO of a multi-billion-dollar organization who has 90 minutes blocked on his calendar twice a week to see progress, provide guidance and swiftly remove any roadblocks for his digital customer experience team.
  4. Flat – Too many leaders insist that they know how best to present their organization’s work. Largely, this is an effort to manage up and it removes both credit and empowerment from the people who need to be inspired. Modern organizations are flat and fleet. They let the people who do the work represent their work.
  5. Decisive – Governance requires much less time if it’s efficient. Part of that efficiency is making sure that all decision making happens in the room and not “offline.” If there’s a decision that cannot be made on the spot, the presiding stakeholder must commit to getting an answer back to the team within 24 hours.

Final Thoughts

Organizations need to make a lot of decisions – and the five features of digital governance are applicable to nearly all of them. From the smallest Scrum team to the boardroom, from the data center to the desk of the CEO, nearly all teams can benefit from being better at making faster, more informed decisions. And most can start now. The next time you find yourself sitting in a governance meeting or making a key decision for your team, ask yourself – how might this process be more engaging, more enabling, more agile, flattering or decisive? If you’re prepared to turn some of your assumptions “upside down,” you may be surprised at the opportunities you find.

Learn more about how Prophet helps businesses rise to meet digital transformation challenges.