Why your culture needs to go digital and the 10 key steps to achieve it

force4change Blog

A common question we are asked by customers: “How do we change our culture to facilitate going digital?” People ask this question because they know their current cultures aren’t supporting their change to a digital strategy.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a great insight from Peter Drucker, so to make a dramatic shift in strategic direction with digital, your organisation’s culture has to be set up to support the change. If your culture is based on norms from a pre millennium organisation it will be challenging to go on a digital journey.

Imagine attempting to sell new digital based products when your teams are still in a quagmire of paper-based forms. Imagine a sales guy engaging customers with paper based brochures and an old paper diary when you want to be perceived as the most innovative brand in your market.

To effectively deliver digital experiences, products and services to your customers and partners, your organisation needs to live an internal digital life, to understand digital everyday, experience the lessons and develop your capabilities.

We definitely see that organisations using digital tools and platforms foster a more collaborative workplace and are more likely to succeed in implementing digital strategies. They learn, they leverage digital work practices and ways of thinking creating the foundation and confidence to deliver digital strategies.

This highlights the nature of learning in organisations and the important role of learning and development in organisations today in building a sustainable competitive advantage.

“The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.” -Peter Senge

Before we get to the 10 steps to a digital culture, what does a digital culture even look like? While you run through these points please reflect on your own experiences in your organisation it would be great to hear from you about them.

Digital cultures are open and transparent

In our personal lives we have learned to share our thoughts, feelings, pictures and data via social networks but in many organisations the culture is far from open or transparent.

Knowledge is power and information may only be accessible on a need to know basis. For organisations to collaborate effectively and respond quickly to their customers and market needs collaboration is key and that means greater visibility and access to information.

There are many cases where open and transparent access to information has changed cultures, perhaps one of the most extreme examples is still underway in the US government.

Leaders who understand this know to ensure they have open and transparent conversations with their staff. They know this sets the scene for the organisation to change to being open and transparent in its work practices.

Digital is all about data and the ability for people to be empowered by it.

A Digital culture is both purposeful and mindful

If you look at the type of conversations we now have online they are often single purpose, with only a few sentences at a time, such as posts, instant messages, comments or tweets.

Internal email is therefore hard to align with a digital culture because it is neither purposeful nor mindful, you need only remember the last time you received a four paragraph email from a colleague that was complex / not to the point, filled with hidden meaning or unclear actions and only visible to those on the CC list to understand this point.

You may also recognise your social media activity lives in the moment, making it purposeful, more prescient and mindful. Think Snap chat, instagram – it’s the moment that counts and it counts because that’s where you’re able to act / do and create.

Digital Cultures learn, adapt and are agile

Being mindful and purposeful is part of the reason why digital cultures are also more agile and adaptable. In the past we ran waterfall projects where we only planned at the beginning of projects, there was no scope for either learning or change during the project, we lived in the past, to a point in time where the plan had been set and the budget fixed, this doomed a majority of projects to fail.

Digital cultures have democratic, autonomous and network characteristics

In a culture that has embraced digital, small teams or project teams to are empowered, networks and forums both formal and informal are commonplace.

Relationships are as important as status or title, there are more voices with user generated content, with social network sites we see more points of view, more positions from brand advocates and mavens, and thought leadership. There is a greater level of participation and association through likes, knowledge and relationships.

Organisations that recognise and foster this, that measure and recognise these relationships and the influence of their employees irrespective of place in the organisational hierarchy have effective digital cultures.

Digital cultures exhibit higher levels of level of EQ and creativity

In a collaborative environment with high levels of sharing, peoples EQ is more important, enabling diverse interactions, interacting socially both externally and internally.

With less cogs in the wheel and people thinking more laterally, and being measured on outcomes people have more freedom to be creative, more resourceful and with a broader range of skills.

This can also help you set up small cross functional teams, with more openness and transparency driving more holistic, blue sky thinking from a broader group of people.

Here are 10 steps to shift to a digital culture:

1. Adjust leadership styles to be more open and transparent
2. Make your digital strategy a priority and execute the changes well, measure and monitor your progress.
3. Provide the digital tools and workplaces to enable & empower teams to work digitally with collaboration and mobility
4. Manage your data to deliver intelligent and actionable insights
5. Adjust your org structure to empower project teams with collaboration, change roles, be more democratic, change your performance metrics, feedback more often, balance team and organisational outcomes
6. Reframe your values and mission, reward merit, reward communication and participation
7. Adjust your processes and policies, automate low value activities and focus on the high value, make processes more transparent and open, align to the behaviours you want to see
8. Foster a culture of learning, fail fast, be iterative, adapt, drive continuous improvement and innovation
9. Reinforce and make the changes sustainable
10. Don’t forget to have fun

Digital cultures value knowledge, data, insights and intelligence and they rewards merit and participation. Your team, your leaders and most importantly your customers will value the shift.

Have no fear, don’t thing “Jeez how are we going to do this?” surprisingly technology is now how you can change.

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