Nurturing the right culture in any technology transformation is fundamental to successful digital transformation and makes you 5x more likely to achieve breakthrough performance.
Technical transformation is easy. Today we simply pick the technology we need off the shelf and plug it in. It’s because of technology that a digital startup can hit a billion-dollar valuation in just four years when it used to take a Fortune 500 about 20. Technology has been democratised to the point where it’s rarely a differentiator because it’s so easy to get up and running in the cloud. The differentiator has shifted to the customer experience domain.
But just because technology transformation is easy, don’t be fooled into thinking change will be simple.
Your culture will stall your progress
One of the most common reasons for failed change is culture. Even with the best vision and intentions, if you fail to take your people on the journey with you, the change won’t stick.
An organisation’s culture comprises elements that are visible (such as behaviours) and elements that are invisible (such as mindset and values). And to make it even more complicated, culture can differ across departments, job functions and countries.
Nurturing the right culture is one of the most important requirements to achieve successful digital transformation. According to findings from a BCG study, companies that focus on culture are 5x more likely to achieve breakthrough performance.
Culture isn’t taken seriously
Culture is so important to change, and yet it’s rarely considered to the same depths as technology.
For example, an organisation will happily sign off technology change for £20m, knowing the final cost could be double that, due to project overruns because they struggle to roll-out new initiatives and secure widespread adoption. If only they invested an additional 10% upfront to tackle the human element of change, their transformation would run smoother (not to mention complete on time and cost less overall).
“Just because technology transformation is easy, don’t be fooled into thinking change will be simple.“
Cultural change is something you have to account for, dedicate time to, and prioritise within any technology transformation. But when it takes an average of 66 days for a behaviour to become a habit, what can we as leaders do to influence that cultural change and keep the momentum going?
Set the right tone
Change management starts at the top. Change the conversation away from systems and platforms and start describing transformation in terms that matter to individuals and customers.
For example, if one of your outcomes is to become a paperless office, talk to people about how it’s going to help them do their work quicker, not be reliant on chasing people for things they can look up online, and help the business adapt quicker to market changes so you can scale – which leads to more opportunities for career progression.
Furthermore, think about how you can flip your language so people feel included in the change. Rather than expect everyone to run to you for approval on every little thing, start asking clarification questions instead, like, “Have you checked X, Y, Z?” or “What do we need to be wary of?”
Adopt the right management style
In times of change, it may feel tempting to take tighter control because there is more uncertainty and risk. But this is the last thing you should do.
The best leaders during change are those who:
- Articulate change through a vivid vision: tell people what needs to happen and why, but leave it to them to determine how.
- Use active listening: to be aware of what is and isn’t being said. A good leader will be able to recognise doubts and address them before they impact the project.
- Are effective communicators: change is scary, and the best leaders address people’s fears. They’re honest about it being tough, but articulate why that ‘pain’ is worth it.
Secure employee engagement upfront
The key to engagement is to empower your people – empowered colleagues displayed engagement levels of 79% (compared to dis-empowered workers who are only 24% engaged).
But it has to be real – you can’t say your people are empowered and then hover in the background watching over their shoulder and condemning them for every mistake.
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