Digital Transformation: Perfection vs Iteration

Eric Jackson

Source:, Richard Crook. Used via CC license.

Post 3 of 10 in our weekly series on what we think won’t work for digital organizations and what will.

At least once every week someone in a conversation or meeting says we have to wait.

Wait to release the app. Wait to publish the plan. Wait to launch the dashboard. Or report. Or announcement. Wait just a little longer so we can polish some part of it just a little bit more.

Sometimes, of course, that someone is me.

The motivations for these types of delays are a mix (as motivations always are).

We want to make sure that people don’t misunderstand, that things aren’t broken, that we haven’t forgotten some critical consideration. And also we want to make sure that nobody freaks out, that nobody gets in trouble, that nobody …. In other words, we’re both trying to do our best for our citizens or users and trying to minimize our risks.

In short, we want to control the outcome, starting at the beginning.

But there’s an assumption that underlies all of these motivations. We assume that we already know what needs to be communicated, what the app needs to do, what the plan needs to anticipate, or that we could possibly be “comprehensive” about the project or initiative.

The one big takeaway from the revolution of agile thinking and user-centered design is this:

We do not know.

The knowledge of what will be needed or how the effort will be received is actually locked away in the brains and behaviors of those who will listen to our communications, use our apps, be affected by our plans.

It is an error to pretend that we can control the outcome before we have this knowledge.

And THAT is why waiting to get it right is a huge waste of time. The only way to unlock that information is to bring those people into the process now, not later — and to design projects and processes that can take new information into account midstream.

Until we do, we are probably analyzing, paralyzing, and perfecting the wrong thing.

Why is “digital transformation” so important? Because it is about transforming our organizations to mirror the way that society has already gone. 10 years ago, information might take days to be widely understood. Today, Twitter gets the news out before the mainstream media even has it.

If we do not match our organizations with what is already going on in society at large, our organizations will fail. They may not fail today, they may not fail tomorrow, but they will fail.

This is a post in our weekly series on what we think won’t work for digital organizations and what will. Our original tweetstorm listed 10 things. This series takes a deeper dive on those ten things — one per week. If you’d like to come along for the ride, sign up for updates at right. Or, continue the conversation with @ejaxon or @_jfeldman.

Originally published July 14, 2017