To begin with, among the benefits from the industrial automation were lower productive costs with significantly increased in both capacity and productivity. Although digital transformation is not limited to the “Office”, it is precisely on these environments where its outcomes are quite like those from the industrial automation. Moreover, the pursued outcomes are almost the same, since all digital transformation are looking for cost reduction with capacity and productivity increased. In fact, RPA solutions are for administrative offices what “robots” were for manufacturing plants many years ago with the same process improvement outcomes. In addition, AI will allow to automate both data analytics and business intelligence as well as Cognitive Capabilities will move forward on the same direction regarding the decision making, extending at all organizational levels the benefits of the digital transformation.

An industrial automation resemblance

First and foremost, people were replaced by machines during the former as well as they are being replaced by technology within later. Moreover, massive headcount reductions and relocations are being held in office environments through centralization in Share Services and global TOM’s deployment, following the same “roadmap” that industrial automation when manufacturing plants were automated and moved to countries with lower production costs. Furthermore, since the loss of Ford’s vision of the employee as a customer with the Globalization arrival, the people is seen only as a cost to eliminate or reduce, hence they are performing the work that technology cannot, or it is cheaper to be performed manually. As it happened with industrial automation, with digital transformation organizations are becoming “technology” centred, which in many cases is neither synonym of “0” defects with 100% delivery performance nor simpler and streamline processes as well as operating without people and fully automated.

The digital “magic” solution fallacy

On the other hand, most global companies who believed in a digital “magic” solution, realize that “technology” is necessary but not enough for itself to deliver business results. Moreover, after not only poor ROIs but also poor performances because of “low cost” and “technology centred” deployment processes, it is through people problem solving capabilities that things “keep on working”. However, the lack of empowerment and motivation, and to some extent trust, makes organizations to create “fix to all areas”, first to deal with quality and improvement, then with operational excellence and now with business transformation. What is more, the old “mechanical” paradigm built by scientific management principles, is still there giving lots of “spans” of control, complexity and rigidity as outcomes. Furthermore, organizations try to address those issues by creating new structures believing that “agility” can be also” added” by creating a new area or process as well as by hiring external consulting services.

The challenges and readiness for change

In conclusion, I believe the greatest challenges faced by organizations and consulting firms helping them to drive their business transformation are not only an ever-growing complexity, rigid structures and too many spans of control, but also “technology” centricity and “mechanical” paradigm with lack of leadership and engagement as consequence. Moreover, the short-term “only profit” purposes driven by the neoliberal paradigm, have made “organizational purpose” not useful to motivate people and drive performance. Furthermore, organizations have too long management cycles based on “benefits” instead of “cash flow” with monthly, quarterly and yearly performance reviews. I believe that to some extent, these challenges are common to all organizations while to addresses them require an interdisciplinary approach between strategy, organizational behaviour and operations management areas. As Einstein mentioned “We can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them”. Are not only organizations but also academic institutions really opened to think and approach problems in a new way?

Thanks for reading.

Marcelo Sauro is an internationally experienced performance and improvement senior manager. He holds an Executive MBA and Master of Science degrees and has helped people and organizations to transform themselves. Not only he led E2E transformations in Global Business Services, R&D, Supply Chain and Finance organizations at all levels within the LATAM and EMEA Regions, but he is also experienced in several industries including Life Science, Healthcare, Insurance, Fintech, Technology, Telecoms, FMCG, Chemicals, Automotive, Energy and Mining. Since 2015, he has been researching and developing content in agile and resilience through Value Ways, while working under contract for customers such as MetLife, Novartis, Vertiv (Emerson NP) and Experian among others. Previously, he worked for more than 7 years as Master Black Belt for a LATAM-based consulting group, which had ASQ, Qualtec and Oriel as business partners. Prior to that, he worked for more than 10 years at BASF and GSK in positions of growing responsibility in the area of Operational Excellence. Marcelo is currently working at Ferring's “International PharmaScience Center” (IPC) for the Global R&D organization in Copenhagen. To find out more please visit

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