5 Culture Changes to Accelerate Your Digital Transformation
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker
Digital transformation is everywhere these days as companies race to deliver customer-centric value to the market faster than their competitors.
Gone are the days when a company agreed on a strategy and delivered it over the next five years. In today’s digital age, businesses of all sizes are under pressure to change how they operate and interact with their customers on a daily basis. Some have risen to the challenge, releasing software to production multiple times per day. Amazon, for example, releases code on average every 11.7 seconds!
Change is constant and long-term strategies are no longer appropriate or sustainable. Digital transformation is absolutely necessary for businesses to keep up. The problem is that this is often done without consideration for the cultural impact of these changes to the business.
We can change processes, infrastructure and technologies but without thinking about and addressing the people element, you will fail at delivering lasting change. Your people and your culture must be the heart of any organization, and without a functioning and happy heart, no business will survive.
The most successful digital transformation is grounded in cultural change.
Make sure you bring your people with you!
The fact is that culture will always enable the adoption of any new technology: the ability to innovate depends on the impatience and maturity of the organizational culture.
So how do you deliver a successful cultural transformation? Here are five considerations from my experience across many enterprise transformation projects:
1. Match Your Digital Strategy to Your Culture (Not the Other Way Around!)
Culture trumps strategy every time.
Yet so often we see executives start their transformation process by focusing on strategy. In far too many cases a company’s proposed transformation strategy, imposed from above, is directly in conflict with the ingrained practices and attitudes of your existing culture.
Executives need to shift their focus away from strategy and instead prioritise the cultural alignment of the transformation.
2. Focus on a Few Critical (and Achievable) Behaviour Changes
Change is difficult – so pick your battles. No organization is able to make a single jump from current- to end-state so pick a few key areas you know you can succeed in and prove you can change. For example, one of the key success factors will be the breaking down of organizational silos. Rather than believing you can (and should) do this overnight, focus on getting small teams to shadow each other or rearrange seating so that they can sit next to each other.
3. Honour the Strengths of Your Existing Company Culture
It’s easy at the beginning of a transformation to focus on what you need to be doing differently and/or better. While this is necessary to plan your transformation, you must always consider where it is that your culture is at its strongest. Acknowledging and adjusting your transformation based on your existing cultural strengths will also make any major change feel less like a top-down imposition and more like a shared evolution.
4. Integrate Formal and Informal Interventions
As you promote these vital new behaviours, be sure to integrate formal approaches—like new rules, KPIs, and incentives—with informal interactions. In our experience, most corporate leaders favour formal, rational moves and neglect the informal, more emotional side of the organization. They change IT systems, decision flows, processes, and reporting lines at the outset but ignore informal approaches, such as networking, communities of interest, ad hoc conversations, lunch & learn sessions and peer interactions.
5. Measure and Monitor Cultural Evolution
Finally, it’s essential to measure and track progress at each stage of your journey, just as you would with any other significant business initiative. Rigorous measurement allows executives to identify backtracking, correct course where needed, and demonstrate tangible evidence of improvement—which can help to maintain positive momentum over the long haul.
Digital Transformation Is Always Unique
If you’re at all interested in learning more about this – or understanding where we can help, we’d love to talk. The challenge (and the joy) of digital transformation and culture change is that it’s never one size fits all, every situation has its own varying difficulties but we’re here to help!