Culture eats strategy for breakfast. While this may be something of an overused cliché, when it comes to digital transformation, nothing is closer to the truth.
If you’re looking to re-orient your organisation for success in our constantly evolving digital world, chances are you’re not a new tech startup. It’s more likely you’re an established organisation that’s recognised the need to be different.
And with established organisations comes legacy business models, enshrined processes and ways of working, and a culture – whether implicitly or explicitly defined – that supports how you operate.
Culture isn’t something you change by decree, but by changing the prevailing conditions within the organisation that will, over time, lead to a culture evolving.
The trouble is transformation means change – usually lots of it. And that means culture – the sum of the values, behaviours and “norms” of those in your organisation – which supports you today may end up inhibiting you tomorrow.
Any successful digital transformation requires a coherent vision, articulated in a way that gives meaning to all employees and rallies them around the upside potential of the change envisioned.
But what good is a vision and eloquent storytelling if, when your workforce returns to their desks, they’re confronted by processes, behaviours and ways of working that get in the way of the proposed change, rather than enable it? These are the same processes, behaviours and ways of working that support today’s system and status quo, rather than the organisation you’re trying to create for tomorrow?
It’s not enough for leaders to set the vision. If they don’t create the environment for it to thrive, your workforce won’t adapt. That means missed opportunity, wasted effort and a disengaged workforce. This is where culture truly comes into play. And culture isn’t something you change by decree, but by changing the prevailing conditions within the organisation that will, over time, lead to a culture evolving.
A number of imperatives have emerged for those hoping to influence cultural change in support of a digital transformation initiative.
Culture is a prerequisite for the success of digital transformation, not a feel-good factor or afterthought.
Importing the very best of what makes Shoreditch or Silicon Valley’s digitally native startups successful isn’t an overnight endeavour. It can’t happen with a rallying cry or leadership mandate alone.
It requires leaders to endorse and actively champion efforts to work root and branch through an organisation to change things that get in the way and conflict with a pacey, entrepreneurial, digitally confident and nimble organisation.
As in nature itself, when the prevailing conditions are right, anything can happen. When they’re not, life fails to flourish. This makes culture a prerequisite for the success of digital transformation, not a feel-good factor or afterthought. It’s tough, but the rewards of an attempt far outweigh the risk of inaction.
VIEWPOINT: KRISTOF FAHY
Kristof Fahy, chief customer officer at Ladbrokes Coral Group plc, with previous leadership roles at Telegraph Media Group, Yahoo! and William Hill, tells how to be digital.
“From my experience leading digital transformations, I’ve seen two common stumbling blocks which, if tackled up front, can make a meaningful difference to building a digital culture. The first is about customer orientation. Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, ‘You know, what? I’m going to have a mobile experience while I’m lying in my bed, having a cup of tea. And then I’m going to have a desktop experience while I’m at work. And then I’m going to probably have a retail experience at lunch time.’
Real customers don’t see the world in this way. For a business to be truly digital, it needs to stop thinking and organising itself around the channels it historically operated in, and start thinking about how it can be there for the customer when and how they want them to.
The second is leadership understanding. It’s easy for leadership teams to sit and talk about ‘being digital’, but I think it’s incredibly important for us first to be honest with ourselves about our gaps in knowledge and understanding.
Think about the typical composition of a board or executive committee. How many of these people truly live as many of our customers do? Understanding our own limitations, as leaders, in terms of our real experience of what our customers are doing every day is essential. We can then find ways to increase leaders’ exposure to customer realities, bring meaningful insights to the top table and connect our leaders with talent in our business who can help close these gaps.”
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