The 3 Little Pigs of Digital Leadership

Photo Cred from Disney Archives

Digital Transformation isn’t just for companies; it’s for leaders too. A company’s need to digitally transform has been well documented, but the need for its leaders hasn’t.

So what does becoming a Digital Leader even mean? 

Becoming a Digital Leader means becoming more data-driven than you are today. 

When you use data to become a Digital Leader, you become more insightful.

And that insight helps you transform your company to withstand the winds of change. You become the little pig building the brick house

It’s important to clarify – becoming a Digital Leader does not mean you have to become a techie. Instead, it means using technology to make smarter and faster business decisions. It’s about using technology to run a more agile operating model.

The next 10-20 years have been referred to by many as the technology deployment age. There will no longer be the have and the have nots. It will be the use and use not – until the use nots go out of business.

Technology is shifting from differentiator to equalizer. 

Large corporations will use technology to more cheaply reach into secondary and tertiary markets to access customers previously too fragmented or expensive for them to serve.

Small and mid-size companies will use technology to punch up in customer experience, target marketing, and solution design.

(To dive deeper into this concept, check out this podcast with PE Investor @Tracy Graham of Graham Allen Partners about investing in overlooked businesses and modernizing their operating model to unlock value.)

This creates a huge opportunity and risk for both sides…so who wins? 

The little pig building the brick house wins. 

Which leader little pig are you? Let’s find out. 

Little Pig in the Straw House

Most of us, myself included, are building straw houses. We’re building straw houses because we’re relying too much on our tribal knowledge to make decisions.

Tribal knowledge cements us in the past, like using MapQuest to drive to your Florida vacation.

Suppose you’ve been in your industry or your job a while. In that case, you’re likely using your well-earned experience and “gut feel” to fill in data visibility gaps and make (outdated) insights.

Recently we acquired a company that brought new talent into our organization. The new leader, let’s call him Tom, and I began working together to integrate our businesses. Tom started asking data-driven questions such as:

“How do you know how much client work is in your backlog at any point in time?”

When I went to show him our reporting and respond to his question, it hit me: I had been building a straw house. I was relying too heavily on my tribal knowledge. There was no way this data alone was sufficient to make the right resourcing decisions.

The biggest problem the little pig building the straw house has is thinking their tribal knowledge is an asset to the company.

 In truth, it rarely is as valuable as we believe it is.

Little Pig in the Stick House 

The little pig building the stick house recognizes the need for change but gets it wrong. 

In business today, this little pig is an “add more people leader” when solving a problem or gaining access to the data they need.  


“Our systems don’t integrate the way we need them to. Let’s create roles and hire people to manually perform a process, and give us the reporting we need.” 

In truth, we should be spending our time being ruthless about systematizing access to the cold hard data. 

Little Pig in the Brick House 

The little pig building the brick house spends his time systemizing the data in his business, department, or team. His objective is to make it visible and usable for himself and the other little pigs across the enterprise. 

By systemizing the data you need, other leaders in your business begin to benefit from that visibility too. You help other leaders start to see customer change happening earlier than they previously would have. 

This is how digital transformation begins in a company. 

So, which little pig are you? And what can you do next to start building a brick house?

Published by brianhquinn

I write a weekly post to help you grow professionally, elevate your career and Become an "A" Player.