Patrick Kitchell
Patrick Kitchell 4 May 2016

Digital Transformation - The Law of The Farm

There is no such thing as digital transformation only organizational transformation. If your have burning platform syndrome it is because there are other core things burning inside your organization like culture, processes, leadership, etc.

We all know the saying: "The Chickens are Coming Home to Roost" which sums up exactly how I feel with current state of  affairs regarding organizations and marketing technologies.  Many companies are trying to cheat or cram through organization change to meet the demands that society is bringing to them through advancements in technology:   There is no digital transformation there is just organizational transformation.

 A famous author once wrote:

So also in a business or a marriage there is no quick fix where you can just move in and magically make everything right with a positive mental attitude and a package of success formulas.

The Proliferation of Marketing Technology

I keep a close eye on the Lumascape for Marketing Technology(martech). The latest one can be found here: Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2016) I do this because over the last 5 years competitive landscape has exploded with technology from 150 companies in 2011 to 3874 companies in 2016.  I can completely understand why companies struggle to make sense of this chaos.

This mass proliferation of technology makes it difficult to understand for organizations which sets of technology will deliver the best results when trying todigitally transform their organization.  My Chinese friend from university use to say:

Where there is mucky water the fishing is exceptional.

The Law of the Farm:

Frankly, there is no magic pill for technology and organizational change.

It is impossible to cram for the processes that deliver long-term excellence.

 There are no "quick wins" that are not bound to actually organizational processes or culture.  If your company activates a technology that delivers quick wins it is most likely because the organization has been waiting for the fruit to be picked instead of falling to the ground to be forgotten.

Stephen Covey in his famous book " 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" outlines the most important principle that companies need to remember today The Law of the Farm.  He writes the following:

Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm -- to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is a natural system.

He also states the following:

The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut. This principle is also true, ultimately, in human behavior, in human relationships. They, too, are natural systems based on the The Law of the Harvest.

It is also true in reaping the benefits of technology.  There is no shortcut, there is no magic pill here.  On the contrary, technology is only an enabler to everything else that leads to organizational excellence. 

When Chaos Reigns - Stand Still

Maybe it is time to apply the law of the farm to how your organization is using its technology and recognize as Covey states: "there is no quick fix where you can just move in and magically make everything right."

The time is now to stop buying technology if you already own it and invest the time needed to get the most of your technological harvest.   If you have a technological stack lets make one simple assumption:

"You have all technology you need, for now."

If this is our constant that your organization has all the technology it needs for now then what needs to be done to harvest a successful technological harvest? I have some suggestions:

  1. Map and Define Your Technology:  Understand what each of your technologies do and what they are suppose to do. Every farm has a tool-set and understanding the purpose of each tool is important. Draw a purpose map so non-technical people can understand why a particular system is important as part of the whole ecosystem.
  2. Invest in People:  The key to any transformation or the key to a great harvest is your tool-set and those that use the tools.  Transformation is an inside out job and organizations can accelerate this move by taking employees along for the ride. It is important to understand the value slow learners have on embedding new processes in your organization and I would recommend a great article called: Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning - James March 
  3. Think Across Ecosystems:  Treat your technology and people as one ecosystem, an extension to each other.  People need technology and technology rots without people.  The synergy lies in understanding which technologies in coordination with the right people will deliver the best outcomes. The technology is only as good as the people that use them.


The conclusion is that we need to stop trying to find the magic pill of technology that will somehow bring amazing results regardless.  Many companies are constantly looking to replace existing good technology and maybe it is better to stop. It is rare that new technology alone delivers the expected outcomes without transformation change at all levels in the organizations.  

Technology may trigger the burning platform syndrome which is good but the burning platforms are a mirror to burning leadership, skills, people and process.  People and processes are the glue that binds the technological ecosystem together.

The result of this maybe a realization that your technological stack is not able to meet the current state of affairs in a fast changing world then of course go find the right ecosystem of technologies that can help catapult your company further in coordination with employees. 

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