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The success of digital transformation in a manufacturing company is not driven by the technology, but by the workforce that uses it.

Made Smarter’s Leading Digital Transformation programme (LDT), run in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, aims to bring like-minded business leaders together and provides the tools, ideas, and leadership skills necessary to make the most of the opportunities that digital transformation can offer.

The latest cohort of manufacturing leaders was led through the programme by Lily Newman, founder of Morgan James Consulting Ltd.

The former BBC journalist, now behavioural strategist and leadership consultant has worked with over 3,700 businesses, from start-ups to multinationals, delivering executive coaching, bespoke leadership and management programmes, whilst creating highly effective leaders who can build successful businesses and develop their best assets.

Lily looks back over the last cohort and the value they received from the Made Smarter Leading Digital Transformation programme.

From day one of the course, the energy and inquisitiveness in the room was palpable, as were the nerves, which soon fell away. I was pleased with the level of honesty and trust that we managed to establish so quickly. We had a wide range of sectors represented by their owners, directors and senior managers in the same room: everything from companies that made fibre optics, health drinks and ceramic wall art, to those that made grease products, playground equipment and all terrain wheelchairs. Questions such as: “Am I good enough? Are we ready for digital transformation? How can I persuade, cajole, (force) the mood-hoovers in my business to adopt radical change? … came thick and fast and helped the delegates to recognise that they were all in pretty much the same boat.

Some of our delegates had just switched from a pencil and paper system to Excel. Others were using AI, 3D Printing and implementing ERP software systems. It didn’t matter about the maturity of their leadership and digital transformation journey, the course has something for everyone.

Understanding the needs of each of our delegates is critical for me – meeting them where they are at and helping them to plot the next stage of their journeys. Some of the delegates were particularly advanced in the digitisation of their businesses but lacked the experience and the tools to bring their people with them and create the culture they wanted.

Others were extremely people-orientated, had wonderful cultures but were trepidatious about ‘upsetting the apple cart’ and bringing about digital change. It was wonderful to see them building strong relationships and learning from each other’s triumphs and mistakes so readily. Whilst we, the facilitators and learning partners might give those that sign up the course the framework for learning, the delegates themselves have a huge amount of experience to share and really help their peers to learn from their practical experience.

Embarking on the course takes commitment and energy, and therefore it is always a joy to find almost every single person who signed up for the programme, delivering their showcase presentation after four months of diagnostic assessments, webinars, workshops, peer group sessions, Print City visits and case studies.

The learning process is quite intensive but, from a facilitator’s perspective it is incredibly humbling. To see the quality of the presentations, the thought, the learning, and the personal growth that each of our wonderful delegates demonstrated on showcase day was incredible. I felt like the proudest of parents in the room, watching my children deliver a school play with energy and passion, absolutely word perfect. Apart from the increased understanding of how to deliver a digital transformation strategy, the level of confidence and self-belief is one of the greatest benefits of joining this programme.

As a behavioural strategist and leadership consultant, I hope that I have been able to bring along a bit of glue to help everyone who has been through the Leading Digital Transformation Programme to bring their people with them on their change journeys. That they have understood that you can have the best strategy in the world, but if you don’t create the conditions for people to emotionally connect with your vision and your purpose and it you don’t role model the behaviours you want, you can have the best plans in the world, but they are likely to fail.

For as one of my favourite authors and activists, Maya Angelou said: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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