In a typical digital transformation effort, C-Level executives often overlook the importance of driving a digital culture. Leaders of digital transformation efforts are often preoccupied with getting the technology and process changes right, that they overlook the people side of things. In the few cases where people are considered, it is most likely about training them to use the technology and adhering to the new processes.
In this article, I will introduce you to the concept of Digital Culture and how it can make or break your digital transformation efforts. I will also share some tips on successfully driving a digital culture to see positive digital transformation results
It is a known fact that successful digital transformation efforts come about as a result of driving a strong digital culture. In their 2018 research of 40 digital transformation efforts, the BCG Group found that companies that focused on driving a strong digital culture posted a strong financial performance (90%) than those which did not (17%) ( www.bcg.com ). They also found that 80% of companies that focused on digital culture as part of their digital transformation efforts sustained their performance for at least 3 years ( www.bcg.com ).
These are powerful observations, given that culture is difficult to change in any organizational context. Think of it as altering your very DNA, and in this case, the deep-rooted values, beliefs, and experience of hundreds, if not thousands of employees to adhere to new ways of working, digitally.
Digital culture goes beyond just learning to use technology or learning to adhere to new digital processes. It embodies the set of values, characteristics, and behaviors that define how things get done digitally in an organization to advance the goals and objectives of the organization.
Driving a digital culture
In driving a digital culture, it is important to know and understand the existing organizational culture and identify the behaviors that propel this traditional culture. On the other side of the continuum, having a clear picture of the desired culture and defining the behaviors that will characterize this target digital culture is the first step in driving a successful digital culture.
- Define the necessary behaviors: Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of driving a digital culture is defining the behaviors that exemplify the culture. Before the set of behaviors is defined, it is paramount to have a goal and a target digital culture. It could be a customer-experience focused culture or an agile-way-of-working. Once the goal has been determined, the cultural characteristics that lead to such outcomes must be defined and then translated into specific behaviors that spell out the rules of engagement (“culture code”). These target behaviors must then be well-integrated into existing communication channels to foster the needed cultural change.
- Active engagement and the opportunity to lead: In a fast-paced, digitally-driven organization, teams need to act autonomously to make decisions that favor customers, on the go. This, therefore, requires that employees are empowered to become self-leaders who can challenge the status quo. For instance, by taking up leading roles at meetings, managers can provide real-time feedback on leadership behaviors. Through active engagements, leaders of digital transformation efforts constantly engage employees, encouraging them to take risks, fail fast, and learn fast. Finally, to drive a digital culture, leaders encourage collaboration and first-time-right thinking to deliver value without the need for rework.
- Integrate and scale: Traditional ways of working encourage a chain of command, and teams competing for scarce resources. On the contrary, however, a digital culture encourages creativity and greater autonomy, in place of control and micromanagement. It is recommended to hire a digital culture champion, for instance, a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) who would lead a team of digital culture experts to ensure that the new digital culture is well integrated into the various organizational business units. Another approach is to craft new ‘Vision’, ‘Mission’ and ‘Values’ statements that are aligned towards the new digital culture and integrate them into the performance review of employees with a reward and/or punishment structure for adherence and non-adherence.
Driving a digital transformation strategy is not only about securing the right technologies and designing the right processes. It also involves driving the right digital culture, which has proven to be the most difficult but also the most rewarding if done right. To be successful at it, it is important to note that there is nothing new under the sun. Learning from those who have successfully driven a digital culture is the sure best way to define and drive your own digital culture. In the current age of digital, technology-driven companies are still paving the way, making them the best candidates to learn from.
In driving a successful digital culture, it is important to adopt a design thinking approach and prioritize the following:
- Impact: The level of innovation and change that is allowed, even if radical.
- Speed: The need to move quickly in meeting customer needs (with iterations), instead of planning forever without action.
- Openness: Effectively communicating the agenda, engaging a broad spectrum of digital innovators, and sharing information.
- Autonomy: Allowing employees higher levels of decision-making discretion to use data to make decisions (data-driven) that favor customers (customer-centricity) instead of relying on a formal bureaucratic hierarchy of decision making.
Finally, to close the leadership – employee divide, it is important to hire a digital culture champion, a CDO, to lead a team of digital experts who will engage both senior management and employees to drive the digital culture strategy.
About the Author
Kwadwo Akomea-Agyin is a seasoned business professional with 12+ years of progressive experience in consultative business development, product and digital transformation solutions. He has a unique ability to understand the market (i.e. buyer and user requirements), and collaborate with key internal stakeholders to translate such business needs into Unique Value Propositions (UVPs) that can be successfully delivered. He is a member of IIPGH and a regular contributor to this column.
Contact Kwadwo on WhatsApp: +233544341374 | Email: [email protected] | Skype: Kwadwo_2010