Reflections on Leading in a Digital World
Blog by Lee Dunn, Head of the Scottish Government’s, Scottish Digital Academy.
The Leading in a Digital World programme supports senior leaders transforming their organisation to address the challenges and opportunities presented by our digital world. The first cohort to go through the new programme is now underway and they met for two days on 15 and 16 March at the Hilton Carlton, Edinburgh.
Building upon the success of Digital Champions, I’d like to offer a brief reflection on the first two days, which are designed to support senior leaders from across the public and third sectors, undertaking transformation within their organisation and designing products and services for people in Scotland.
Last year, we asked our delivery partner, TPXimpact to carry out research on our behalf, so that we could present a coherent and meaningful programme that not only addresses the immediate challenges that we face, but also looks to the future affordances of digital, data and technology and how they inform high quality experiences for our service users. It’s important that we provide a programme that meets the actual need of leaders and not our perceived requirement. Developing professional learning from an evidenced based perspective and including user centred design is essential to our success.
This year, the programme was opened by Mr Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, who highlighted the importance of developing digital skills and leadership capability and the positive impact that can have on Scotland as a thriving digital nation.
Technological advances provide new opportunities to reach, engage, collaborate and deliver services, both internally and externally to your organisation. It offers greater efficiency through automation and cloud computing. It can generate, analyse and store data in ways that improve understanding and help inform decision making. Yet these benefits won’t be realised through the implementation of technology alone. For organisations to fully realise this potential, they must organise themselves in a way that embraces agile ways of working to better utilise digital, data and technology. This requires the right people, mindset, tools, expertise, culture and leadership.
The Leading in a Digital World programme supports senior leaders to build on their experience as a leader and further explore what that means in a digital world. Through interactive discussion, reflective activities and rehearsing new approaches through scenarios, they build their confidence and capability in becoming a digital champion, supporting others to bring about transformation.
This programme aims to:
• Gain a broader understanding of your role as a leader in the digital landscape.
• Look at digital leadership from a more holistic viewpoint, understanding the actors and organisations involved in the landscape and the institutions that shape it.
• Reflect on the capabilities needed by senior leaders to foster a digital culture in your team and organisation.
• Understand the ways and means of investing in a digital culture, beyond technology and how that drives your strategy.
• Operationalise human-centred and digital methods within your team and organisation.
• Actively reflect on how pressing current and future challenges can impact your work and understand what your role should be in those contexts.
• Connect to other leaders and share knowledge and experience as well as explore opportunities for collaboration.
The first two days focussed on transformation and system leadership, with the remaining four days on digital culture, operations and planning next steps. Additional information about the programme can be found here: Leading in a Digital World – Scottish Digital Academy.
Speakers presented a variety of themes, with a range of discussions focussed on transformation and leadership, including sessions based on inputs from Geoff Huggins, Director Digital and Joy Bramfitt-Wanless, Director of Programmes at the Scottish Government as well as experts from TPXimpact.
It struck me that delegates needed more time and space to talk through challenges and opportunities and the power of networking and connecting with peers cannot be underestimated. For example, legacy systems and innovation seemed to be a reoccurring theme and so we’ll need to come back to those in the near future. As with any new professional learning offer, there is a tendency to add too much content and presentation and although everything was appropriate and relevant, we’ll seek to streamline this for the next cohort so that interactions and transitions between speakers and activities is more dynamic. It’s likely that we will now seek to include masterclass sessions to our Alumni offer, to continue the conversation once the programme completes. Overall, I’m very pleased with the work to date and the Scottish Digital Academy team is now reflecting on the programme thus far. We will continue to develop it in an agile way, through iterative and incremental continuous improvement.
One of the highlights for me, was listening to Brendan Hall, keynote speaker, talk about his experience of sailing around the world in the Clipper yacht race, and how team empowerment and resilience is essential in realising success. Emerging stronger, together is a theme that we can all relate to given the challenge of the pandemic and the continuing impact this has on hybrid working and organisational change. His lived experience demonstrates the reality of this concept and that self-organising and high performing teams really do make a difference in building culture.
“As a digital leader, I found the first two days of the “leading in a digital world” invaluable. The in person session was brilliantly organised, with energising and inspiring speakers, discussions and group exercises. The networking opportunity and the ability to reflect, strategize and share experiences with public sector leaders was fantastic for me. A key takeaway for me, is to create more time and space with my team and colleagues in the wider ecosystem to reflect and strategize. There are some big issues we collectively need to tackle, such as skills development and acquisition, greater re-use of digital platforms and prioritisation at a holistic level.
I’m already looking forward to picking up where we left off at the next session.”
– Lamine Lachhab, CTO ARE, Scottish Government