Insights on cultural change within digital transformation

The topic of cultural change is often-overlooked as organisations feel the pressure of delivering top-line revenue generating “digital solutions”.

The result? Typically, a random sampling of digitised or digitalised initiatives that are neither grounded in supporting the business strategy nor have the required foundations to make the transformed state “sticky”.

To frame the discussion, let’s draw an analogy with our own lives.

In life, we go through various stages from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood to maturity and retirement. Although it’s argued that we retain our core values throughout our lives, it’s also true that each distinct stage of our lives requires us to adapt, evolve and develop new skills. If that wasn’t enough, in addition to our normal development as humans we also encounter external forces, opportunities and challenges. Examples include graduating from high school/university, falling in love, falling out of love (!), getting married, becoming a parent or losing someone dear to you. This complex matrix of human development and life situations frames our existence. And at each intersection of the two, we need to question, adapt or change what we know and develop new mechanisms/tools/behaviours to capitalise on (or survive) what faces us.

So why should it be any different for companies?

They are also living organisms that deal with the same matrix of lifecycle evolution and external situations. If managed well, start-ups become established organisations that will progress as they mature into various forms in accordance with the board’s strategy. In addition, they will extend and expand their portfolio of products, services and experiences in response to (or pre-empting) forces such as new market & technology opportunities, economic or socio-political landscapes. If the internal culture does not evolve to meet the increasing dynamic external environment, how can the organisation truly meet the advancing needs of its clients?

The short answer is it cannot (with some specific exceptions depending on the maturity of the current organisation and type of transformation). Digital transformations without cultural change and data transformation deliver short term gains at best, and expensive failures at worst.

This includes organisations that attempt to “force feed” a new culture and deal with resistance to change by removing valuable team members with legitimate concerns. In extreme cases, the result is a shortage of key skills within a team paralysed by fear, ultimately impacting the very agility that the new culture was intended to imbed. This is a prime example of why 87% of all digital transformations fail.

So how can we navigate the waters to become part of the 13% that are successful?

In the following weeks I intend to address this by discussing a host of topics to support your digital transformation journey, and most importantly, how to eat an elephant (spoiler: slice by slice)!

#digitaltransformation, #digitalstrategy, #culturalchange