No time to start your company’s digital transformation? Just learn The ONE Thing!

No time to start your company’s digital transformation? Just learn The ONE Thing!

I recently wrote an article that seemed to hit a nerve with quite a few people across my network:

“How the hell do you start Digital Transformation when you don’t even have time to do what you already do?”

It resonated because it is the reality many of us find ourselves in. We know digital transformation can help our companies improve efficiencies and increase revenue and profitability, but with increasing demands, we are struggling to find the time to do what we already have on our plate, let alone something as daunting as a big change project.

The article offered an organisational level solution in the form of a different operating model, but it didn’t address the other critical issue:


A new organisational model is one thing, but if you are someone that has always struggled to find time to get the real game-changer stuff done, no new model is going to change the outcome you are seeking.

So what is the solution?

There are a million and one books out there that teach you how to get the important things done: How to manage your time better, how to multi-task better and how to be more productive. But in my opinion, none come close to the simple yet practical message outlined in Gary Keller and Jay Papasan’s book, “The ONE Thing”.

Let me tell you a story…

Last year we shifted our business, WWC, from a traditional digital marketing agency to a digital product innovation agency. This didn’t just involve a re-focusing of our offering but also a completely different way of operating and forming relationships with our clients and partners. We had to detach ourselves from some well-established industry level organisations and form new relationships with new organisational bodies. We’ve had to learn new skills and venture into less familiar territory. Needless to say, this was (and still is) a “big” change for our company and our team.

To make the change we followed many of the guiding principles that change experts suggest, which given the nature of what I do for a living would be slightly hypocritical if we didn’t. But the thing that has helped us to steer the ship more than anything else was a newfound ability to focus on what is important. To focus on the ONE thing. 

The principle of “The ONE Thing” is to think big, but to focus on one specific thing at a time. This means you need to understand where you are heading – What is the big picture vision? Then you break it down sequentially, prioritising by impact.

We did that at WWC by creating our 2020 vision then brainstorming all the ideas we could think of, to move us from a digital marketing agency to a digital product innovation agency. The list was created in one on one meetings, team get-togethers and passing comments. Needless to say, it was extensive and everyone had a view on what we should be doing and some were quite vocal on what we shouldn’t be doing if anything.

To then prioritise the action and force focus we used Pareto’s 80/20 principle to determine what was going to have the most impact in getting us to affect the change required. We looked at two axis:

  1. Impact the action would have in helping us reaching our vision and
  2. The energy needed to make it happen.

Anything that was high impact and low energy was the sweet spot and made it onto our “success list” (as opposed to a to-do list). From that, we prioritised again until we had the thing we needed to focus on that week to drive the change. And we continue to do that each day, week and month.

To help get the principle across to our leadership team I bought numerous copies of The ONE Thing book and started sharing them around. It’s great to now hear the team sometimes say to me, “but Mike, what’s the one thing?”, if I fall into the trap of starting to action multiple solutions at once.

What’s been really interesting for me is how messy my desk has become and the fact I now have unread emails in my inbox for days at a time. The focus has become a matter of deciding what things I’m not going to do as much as what I do decide to do. And hence some things get left by the wayside. I’m a little OCD, so that’s been the hardest thing for me. But this is what happens when you spend your time on the thing that matters most.

So in closing, if you are struggling with your digital transformation or any real change for that matter, and you realise that your current habits are as much of a blocker to it happening, as the organisation you are working in, then do yourself a favour and buy a copy of The ONE Thing. I promise it will make a difference.

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