3Sixty Insights #HRTechChat with Mimi Brooks, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Logical Design Solutions

Your organization has completed a digital transformation. But the organizational transformation you hoped would naturally follow has not materialized. Why? What happened? Mimi Brooks, founder and CEO of Logical Design Solutions (LDS), joined us at 3Sixty Insights to answer this and discuss the tricky notion of the role digital transformation plays in organizational transformation — and vice versa. This is a chicken-and-the-egg scenario wherein at times the chicken is first, and at other times the egg is. This and how organizational cultures and makeups of the future of work will affect digital strategies, as well as the near-future considerations at the intersection of organizational and digital transformation vis-à-vis the pandemic and a return to work, are among the many topics we covered with Mimi, our guest on #HRTechChat.

LDS is a management consultancy that works “with large global organizations on their digital strategies when they’re trying to use digital to create organizational change,” Mimi says. She speaks of a future workforce and sees a move toward employee experience plus productivity, as well as experiences in the context of work. In this way, digital transformation helps drive the gig economy. “I like to say worker experience, because it could be whomever and wherever work gets done.” And this has implications for the semantics of the term employee experience.

Getting back to the origins of digital transformation, Mimi says it “came first, because people bought the technology first. The human behavior was to buy the technology. And we thought that if we bought digital technologies that we would become digital, native companies as a way of working.” And this didn’t necessarily happen, even though they were good capital expenditures. The challenge since has been to transform cultures to be digitally native and receptive to using the tools and forming a virtuous circle. The thing about COVID-19 and the major disruptions that came along with it is that it accelerated utilization of this preexisting digital infrastructure and has had a net-positive effect on the interplay between organizational and digital transformation — again, that virtuous circle.

We touched on a lot more in the half hour we spoke. I encourage anyone interested in this topic to view the full episode.

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Brent Skinner 00:00
Welcome to this the latest episode of HR Tech Chat. And with me today we have Mimi Brooks, who is the, the excuse me, the founder and CEO of logical design solutions. And I’m looking forward to speaking with her today around the ideas of digital transformation and then play experience against a backdrop, I think of the of the pandemic, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Welcome. Thank you, Mimi, for joining us.

Mimi Brooks 00:29
Thanks for him such a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Brent Skinner 00:32
Yeah, absolutely. I’m really looking forward to our discussion. Because this is this is a particularly apt topic right now. I mean, we’re right in the midst of things, maybe we could start off with you. If you wouldn’t mind just cluing, our readers, or readers or viewers into just what it is that you folks do at logical design solutions? I think that might be a great place to start.

Mimi Brooks 01:00
Sure. Sure. So we’re a management consultancy. And we work with large global organizations on their digital strategies when they’re trying to use digital to create organizational change. So you know, how can we create a strategy where our investments in digital come together to create an employee and I would say, increasingly worker experience, you know, that moves the needle towards the organizational capabilities that we’re trying to develop for our future workforce. So we’re very future focused in terms of org of the future workforce of the future, and then trying to use digital experiences and capabilities to help accelerate that change.

Brent Skinner 01:47
Okay, interesting. Very interesting. I have two questions right off the bat. And I think this might be interesting. So one is, I heard yourself, I heard you correct yourself. When you said employees, and you said, increasingly, workers, yeah, you weren’t really correcting yourself. But that was really interesting. So A and I’m curious what if you mean, let’s, let’s sit on that for a little bit. Do you mean, the gig economy? That’s what I’m guessing? You mean?

Mimi Brooks 02:15
Well, I think it’s a great question. Because, you know, I mean, we’ve been talking about the employee experience for about 12 years now, you know, the fact that it’s become quite a hot topic, you know, in organizations, I think, you know, propelled by COVID. And some other factors, you know, it doesn’t make it necessarily a new concept, right. And so I think that, that, if we think about the employee experience, historically, as trying to deliver on these capabilities, where I’m a member of an organization, you know, me as a member helped me find things I need, help me understand my eligibility for things helped me become a part of the organization. I think that what we’re seeing, Brent is a move towards employee experience plus productivity, and experiences in the context of work. So I like to say worker experience, because it could be whomever and wherever work gets done gig economy, yes, you know, contractors that are functioning as integral members, partners, because I think about the business as an increasing digital ecosystem, the humans that are in it, you know, as associates or workers who are trying to be productive in the context of work as well as be a member. So I think that we’re seeing a transition my language from the employee experience to, you know, a homogenous worker experiences, we solve important problems of productivity.

Brent Skinner 03:46
That’s, that’s, I think you’re right. Yeah, I agree with you. And not to get off on too much of a tangent here. Because I have another question. That, that, that I managed not to lose, what in my head while we were talking there, but we talked not to get on too much of a tangent here. But there is, I think, a an evolution, and undeniable one around just what it means to be the relationship between was put this way the relationship between an organization I’m not even going to say employer, an organization with a mission and the people who contribute to its to its mission, right, undoubtably.

Mimi Brooks 04:31

Brent Skinner 04:32
yeah. In and, frankly, I’ve been trying to figure out, you know, on my own and conversations with folks, what’s the new nomenclature? Like, what’s the new lexicon? What’s the new word the new parlance writer is? Talent seems to be a good one, although it would be great to move away from that term too. But, it is interesting and, and we won’t go any further down that rabbit hole right now because it’s inevitable. leads to AI. And that’s, that’s always a day long conversation. So let’s stay away from that for now. But, but I do want to go back. So I was very interested to hear what you meant by that. So thanks for sharing, going back to digital transformation, though, and using digital transformation to, to influence or have an impact on organizational transformation. Right. So I’m just going to just lay it out here, from what I understand from what I’ve heard is that, well, let’s put it this way. Let me ask a question, which you think this is a real chicken in the egg question, I think, you know, which comes first organizational change, or digital change? Or? Or can it happen either way? Is it? Is it bilateral? Again, it just depends on the situation?

Mimi Brooks 05:47
Well, it’s good question. So here’s how I think about it. I think there’s multiple doors into the same party here, honestly. But this is the door that I would come in from, in working with a lot of the organizations and prizes that we have for a bunch of years now. You know, we first started seeing digital transformation, you know, in about 2008 or so, you know, as enterprises were bringing in technology, digital, social cloud, you know, analytics, etc. All right, about bubbling around that 2008 2010 time period. And I think digital transformation came first, because people bought the technology first. I mean, the human behavior was to buy the technology. And we thought that if we bought digital technologies that we would become digital, native companies as a way of working, and that’s what didn’t work, right, Brent, that’s what didn’t work, you know, it, they were good purchases, they were good capital expenditures, they created infrastructure that was needed. So not like, you know, throwing, you know, water on it. All I’m saying is that, you know, after like the first, you know, X number of years, 10 years or so of that, we realized that organizational transformation was not going to be a natural byproduct of the technologies that we bought. And we needed to start really focusing on the idea that it was about people and organizations and organizations with purpose and culture that binds and, you know, so it became appropriately so, organizational transformation. So I think it went, you know, left to right, following that, because I think that’s how we instantiated those ideas into the business.

Brent Skinner 07:32
This is making a lot of sense to me now. Yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot of extant digital in the way of many extant digital tools in their organizations, foreign, foreign wide. Right. And, and these have been invested in their sunk costs. They’re there. Right. And, and, and we thought that these organizations thought that these tools would essentially sort of nup Well, facil, they knew they would facilitate, but they didn’t know if it would, would, they thought it would spawn Organizational Transformation didn’t necessarily, and so, there is a, there is absolutely a need to to help these organizations figure out how to transform their, their, their culture, to, to, to be more amenable to to be more open, receptive to using these tools, so that these tools can be used to their fullest extent and, and then then becomes, I guess, maybe a virtuous circle at that point, right?

Mimi Brooks 08:36
I think so. You know, I think that, hence why right, Brett, in the last five years, there isn’t a conference industry conference that you show up to where culture isn’t big on the agenda, right? I mean, everybody started doing the culture is the glue, which really makes a ton of sense. But, you know, as we, in my opinion, as we evolved these models, you know, what we’re finding is that culture really needs to become to things purposeful in terms of the business, it goes up to purpose, and then it goes slightly down to ways of working, in other words, culture alone, as a commitment idea, you know, isn’t the isn’t the gap closer? The Gap Closer is organizational purpose that makes people feel that their personal purpose belongs in this company. I belong here. That’s why they’re leaving to go places that they think they belong to better. And then in addition to that, from a digital experience, we’ve got to turn culture into ways of working. So I think that what’s happening is digital transformation becomes organizational transformation becomes human Centricity and how we think about our operating models. And now we start developing capabilities and ways of working that we didn’t have before. Now we can start putting stuff together.

Brent Skinner 09:53
Yeah, maybe you could share with us just I love When we were sort of discussing what we wanted to talk about, before we decided to have the episode here, one of the things that you mentioned, and I really thought it was interesting was, you know that COVID was an accelerator. Yes. And, you know, I just want to take this opportunity as a shameless opportunity to share my own idea around that, you know, I’ve been calling COVID-19, the whole pandemic, the shutdowns every, it’s almost like a wormhole to the future of work. It for the Star Trek, you know, nerds out there. And I’m actually not a huge Star Trek fan. But I picked up a few things as my father was, is, and but one of the things that that wormhole is that thing when you’re in, in you’re traveling in space, it’s something to do with the space time continuum, because I’m not a I’m not a physics person. So I, but I understand that it, it shortens time, so that you can get some place a lot quicker than you would have and you use utilize the momentum of space or whatever. So I think in late 2019, we had no clue how much closer to the future of work, we’d be by to late 2021, that we actually are now late to, we’re so much closer to the future of work than we thought we’d be. That’s, that’s how I put it but it has been an accelerator. Maybe you can just delve into that a little bit around. How has it? How has it changed attitudes around employee experience and visa vie the organizational transformation and digital transformations?

Mimi Brooks 11:41
Yeah, so it’s such a great question. You know, I’m just if I can, you know, I can say that, I think that the backdrop before COVID. Brent was digital transformation, right, which was already exponential, and combinatorial, in terms of how the technologies were going to accelerate on top of each other, you know, they combine, they accelerate, and that is essentially digital transformation, Game Changing advanced digital technologies combined with, you know, human behavior, you know, and other societal issues. Right, and we get this exponential change. So I think that was the backdrop. And then to your point, like you say wormholes, I think that’s interesting analogy. You know, I think of them as tipping points. And I think it’s similar, you know, in terms of, of the phenomena that you’re pointing to. So sometimes things seem to start out gradually, gradually, gradually, and then they tip, you know what I mean? And then they tear. And sometimes there are accelerators to tipping things. And that’s how I look at COVID. You know, it was, we were cooking, we were cooking, it had to tip at some point, it had a tip at some point, and then COVID Really spilled, you know, the beans on the floor here. And I think it that right, it tipped because it created, you know, motivation and context, the motivation for people to adopt tools and ways of working that we might have been spoon feeding them expecting change to happen under a normal longer term idea of change, you know, yeah, celebrates on itself. Right. And so I think it created motivation, you know, for leaders, especially people, say, workers, leaders in a lot of ways, brand leaders and Ahmad ways became, you know, the advocates and the folks that finally, you know, let the handcuffs off and let the teams work. Right. So, so leaders, you know, in combination with, I think, context, so motivation and context plus tipping points to me, you know, can do kind of crazy things. And I think we’re, you know, we’re seeing that on the back of, of course, highly unfortunate, you know, event. So, so yeah, I do think it was it was an accelerator, but, you know, I think sometimes people view the accelerator, you know, without seeing the backdrop that was being accelerated, which is digital transformation. Yeah. The backdrop otherwise, what are you talking about, you know,

Brent Skinner 14:03
yeah, it did spur additional investment and in digital tools designed to, you know, facilitate interactivity and collaboration and communication between ploys, which is what I understand digital transformation to mean within the context of HCM. Beyond it beyond pulling yourself out of the Paleolithic era and getting an actual HCM system in place, which is what a lot of smaller businesses deal with. I’m curious, though, in terms of So, so first of all, it’s interesting, right? Just to sit on that for a minute, you know, COVID-19 the whole the pandemic is very interesting how there was a lot of lip service paid to the idea that the employee experience mattered right before him We were talking about in I think it was Gallup has been measuring employee engagement, which is an expression of employee sentiment for, you know, two decades now, since 2000, or 2001, something like that. And so it was very much on the radar. And a lot of people were kind of paying lip service to it thinking, Oh, eventually, I’m going to have to spend some more time focused on this. And then, but maybe, or maybe just thinking, Oh, I can just keep this as Bay at bay, if I talk about it, but I don’t have to invest too much in or whatever. Because it doesn’t, maybe there was an attitude that doesn’t really, really matter, right? You know, we have to do these other things. Did COVID-19 happen? Everyone goes to work from home, and all of a sudden, it’s like, this is the thing that matters, you know, all of a sudden, oh, gosh, we have to do this in order to remain productive and all that. I just, I found that kind of amusing, to be honest. And in retrospect, right.

Mimi Brooks 15:56
I think it was a huge idea, you know, as a company that for over 25 years, we’ve done inside the enterprise for workers only, but that’s all we’ve ever done. We never did B to E, you know, we do b2c, b2b, b2c In that context, but never B to E. And, you know, those budgets, the priorities, you know, we’re always second class to the customer experience always. And I do think, to your point, that that’s probably the most significant tip, you know, as a result of COVID. And it’s the recognition that it’s really an operating model idea. It’s a business model idea, you know, people workers at the center of the business model, it’s, it’s literally the design now. And it’s because right to your earlier point, you know, the more and more that we level out on technology, the more our value proposition, we requires human ingenuity, you know, and our, and that’s what we need, right?

Brent Skinner 17:06
Yeah, I totally agree. And also some intentionality. Right, because there’s, there’s, there’s an inclination, I think, and I don’t think we can really blame anybody, it’s just you get into this tunnel thinking, but there’s an inclination to forget that the business is the people. I mean, there are some business models that, that, you know, conceivably it could just be all, you know, mechanized, or robots delivering, you know, food at a fast food joint or whatever. Right. And there’s very few people involved, and there might be a market for some of those things. Right. But most, a lot of businesses have, you know, that it, even though the big objective in business goal is to make profits and you know, and make money, right, there’s, in that pursuit, there’s, there’s a, there’s a tendency to forget that. Yeah, but your business is nothing without its people, the people are what constitutes the business? It so it’s almost a it’s almost like an execs, existential question. And we, you know, and one thing that I wanted to just ask, though, is just thinking about organizational transformation, right? What are some of the specific things that organizations are thinking when they when they have a vision, oh, we need to transform our organization, organizational culture? What do they mean by that? What, what are they trying to move away from? And what is the sort of the ideal vision of typically what they’re looking for?

Mimi Brooks 18:43
Well, you know, I think it’s funny, because what you were talking about, right, before you went into this was this idea of, you know, but you know, didn’t people know that, you know, people were the big difference in their business all along, right. But if you look at our organizational systems and structures, they’re hierarchical, and people are at the bottom, like, it doesn’t, you know, they’re at the bottom of the hierarchy by design, you know, like, emphatically by design, undeniably by design. And so I think that what charros are trying to do in alignment with the CEOs objectives in terms of transforming the business, that’s where I think it’s coming from marketplace disruption, business transformation, you know, organizational transformations, I think the line of sight, and what they’re trying to do is build really horizontal capabilities, not vertical capabilities. So what does that mean? cross functional teams, for example, autonomous teams, for example, changing role of leaders, you know, where leaders are less than a command and control idea, and they’re more in a let me model what good looks like and how we enable teams to really be effective, how we think about combining the ideas of people’s experiences You know, with newfound business insights that are data driven, and how do we put those two things together so that people make better decisions. So I really think that, organizationally, what we’re trying to do is to swim against our long instantiated vertical structures that are very bu centric, or department centric, or whatever, you know, in order to create, you know, horizontal context, you know, ways of working culture, horizontal, you know, collaboration, horizontal leadership, horizontal, you know, cross functional, horizontal, diversity, horizontal, like take any of those, and we’re reconstructing the organization to be fit for the future, we’re literally reconstructing it to be fit for the future, where digital maturity is a is a backdrop, you know, of, of a driver, that’s just simply going to be, you know, an integral part of how we work from the actors in the ecosystem, humans and machines to all the other things you want to talk about. So that’s what we do a lot, a lot of what we’re doing is coming in and meeting with the Charo, or, you know, the owner of culture, or the chief transformation officer, all of them who are collaborating, frankly, more than they ever have before, which is great. As we try to break down silos, and build organizational capabilities that are horizontal, it’s a good place to start.

Brent Skinner 21:29
Yeah, you know, what, you mentioned, breaking down silos? And I think you mean, in, within the C suite. Especially not only but, definitely right. And have you, you must have heard of this, or, well, I just stumbled across it by accident, and it’s like, oh, wow, that’s actually kind of like something I was thinking. And then, and then I thought to myself, well, of course, somebody thought somebody else thought of it first, right? But eccentric came out with an idea a couple years ago, 2019, the summer of 2019, his ideas, whole brain leadership. And it’s this idea that, you know, that there, there’s sort of a left brain and right brain in the, in the, in any given C suite person, right, then there are more it, the idea is that the best leaders, this is the idea, the best, this was the idea, excuse me, that the best I the best leaders in organizations are able to, to combine their left brain and right brain thinking. And I looked into left brain and right brain. And I found I learned that that is actually a somewhat discredited hypothesis about how the mind works, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not, it’s still a good metaphor or analogy, right? That there’s the right brain thinking is more creative. Left brain is more, you know, analytical and math based numbers based. And so they came up with the leaders that have a more of a, an integrated whole brain approach to their leadership, those organizations perform better along various commonly understood indicators of organizational success. So I found it so interesting, that this was a little bit of a leap, but when you mentioned that, that all these folks in the C suite are, are essentially or, you know, vice presidents, as senior vice presidents is C level people, they’re collaborating more kind of cross training, if you will, cross pollination there to make sure that the culture improves, what’s kind of fits in with this idea that, that we have 360 insights that, you know, the C suite has, they’re more left brain thinking, C suite executives and more right brain thinking C suite executives, so you know, the CHRO might be considered to be maybe more of a people person, if you going into HR or, or certainly the chief people officer, right? Whereas you look at a CFO, very, very left brain, right, very much numbers based and all that sort of thing. And if you’re if your organization, you want those folks, you want all your left brain more left brained, inclined and more right brained and client, C suite executives collaborating, working together as a whole. So that said that the C suite is being as old brain as much of a whole brain leader for the organization’s possible if you will, right. So I just thought that was interesting. Going back to your idea of getting these different stakeholders in Organizational Leadership working together and that that’s a good thing. Yeah, and it is, it is about it is about horizontal structures, right? and you’re waiting from hierarchy. And that was one of the thing that really struck me about what you said, is, you know, we have, from what I’ve read, and when I, you know, go down the rabbit hole on YouTube with some of these, these folks in there, right. And what I understand is that our, our, our tendency as humans is to be hierarchical. And so it’s so it’s kind of an uphill battle to to combat that. But it’s but but the, but the potential yield for that is very, very positive. So maybe, maybe you could, maybe, maybe you could expound on that a little bit?

Mimi Brooks 25:36
Well, let me say, so, you know, you touched on a lot of important points, I think, to your to the start of that discussion on the Accenture model that you that you refer to, I think that there’s a lot of, you know, really good and useful, thinking around how we redefine, you know, the role of leaders, you know, from our closest to the frontline people, leaders to, you know, our strategic leaders, you know, that operate across the organization. So, I think that makes a whole lot of sense. Because, as you know, you know, no sustainable change is going to happen unless we get leaders leading it for all the obvious reasons. So, I think that’s a, that’s a big idea. You know, I think, though, just to take one, one piece of what you’re saying, Brent, is that, I feel that there’s never been a time that I can really think of outside of, you know, a few, you know, catastrophic event times 911 Other things like this, which I’ll let go, that, you know, that we’ve seen such an honest, you know, attempt by leaders to build horizontal capabilities across the organization, you know, they all I really believe realize, now, you know, that they simply must create capabilities that they don’t have today, in order to be competitive, you know, in this fast running, you know, digital economy that we’re living in, I think they all get that the CEOs get it, you know, they certainly get it. And I think the issue now is how to do that? Not if we should do that, you know, and when we should have done it, and the answer is, we’re running a little late here. But what’s the best way to do it, so I think that there’s universal agreement, you know, that you can say, let’s pick the, you know, the critical business capabilities that we need to build that align, you know, most critically to our business model and focus on those. And I think you’d get a lot of people, you know, pricking their finger on that, you know, relative to, to a good idea, and the Charo, leading it on behalf of the organization, which is why you have to get to the worker experience that you and I were talking about before, because the people that are running those lines of business, need help in how their business works, they don’t need help signing people up for benefits, they need help and how their business works, you know, what I mean? And yeah, retaining those capabilities. So I think it’s promising, but I think we need good operating strategies for how to do that.

Brent Skinner 28:12
Yeah, I agree with you. And the, the the benefit to it is you have far more talent mobility in your organization, within the organization, so that you can, you can build the teams you need for the realities that the organization faces at any given moment, right. So you have more flexibility and agility, right, these are

Mimi Brooks 28:35
firing to write Brent is true and hiring to, you know, you can now hire out of adjacent markets, you know, you can you can hire from industries that you never considered hiring from before, because you change a bit of the prioritization, you know, of long tenured industry skills to, you know, some of these, you know, either leadership or durable skills or cultural skills or some of the other things. So, it opens up a lot of opportunities now that we can think broad, you know, think broadly about how we, you know, want to structure our workforce.

Brent Skinner 29:08
We’ve had some conversations, and I’m so glad you brought that up, because we’ve had some conversations lately on on the podcast around, you know, hiring for soft skills, as opposed to falling back on sort of old think eligibility requirements and these sorts of things and looking more or seeing past performance isn’t necessarily an indicator of future success. Yeah. As opposed to, you know, hiring for soft skills, and we don’t, you know, and what we think we know, what we think we know, what we believe we know, is our factors in a person’s ability to be a leader, Arness usually aren’t actually the, the factors so you know, there’s Yeah, a lot to be said around even psychometrics, modern psychometrics, and all that and AI helping to tax on minimize where it’s gonna be to, to create a an ontology excuse me of a, of an organization’s internal skills so that you know who you need to hire soft skills, right. So you know who you need to hire externally versus who you might have internally that that might benefit from leadership. Role?

Mimi Brooks 30:21
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I see that I see that a lot. And as you know, these changes come with, you know, two steps forward one step back idea. But I think that that’s the sign of the times that we live in, right. I mean, it’s true for workers. As an adaptability idea. It’s true for leaders, like we all have to be comfortable and taking the first step without necessarily knowing, you know, where the next step goes. I mean, that’s just where we are.

Brent Skinner 30:49
Yeah, you just have to, you know, take a take a leap of faith, in a sense as an organization and, and, and believe in your organizational transformation. Maybe we should conclude there. It’s actually pretty. It was it was pretty deep. Thank you so much, me, me, for joining us today. It’s been a real pleasure to have you on the podcast.

Mimi Brooks 31:16
Thank you so much. This was fun. Brent, I really I really appreciate it. So thanks for your time, and maybe we’ll see you again another time.

Brent Skinner 31:23
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Take care.

Mimi Brooks 31:24
Bye bye. Take care. Bye bye.

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