The best strategy in the world will be doomed to failure unless you create the right environment for success.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” says strategist and consultant Thomas Brown, writing for Raconteur. Companies looking to succeed in a constantly evolving digital world will need to reorient their organisation in a way that supports their initiative.
Successful digital transformation requires more than a well-articulated vision of a desired destination. What is required is a change in culture – something that cannot be achieved by simple decree.
Every business has its own culture, which Brown describes as “the sum of the values, behaviours and ‘norms’ of those in your organisation”. For transformation to be possible, you need to change the prevailing conditions and allow a new culture to evolve.
Brown lists eight areas you need to tackle in order to bring about cultural change.
The bulk of established organisations will have entrenched systems of approval processes and sign-off requirements. It can take days or weeks for the go-ahead to be given to new initiatives. However, digital initiatives empower organisations to make changes after only minutes and hours, so the processes for getting those changes approved need to be challenged.
Traditionally, teams have striven to bring a software product or service to the point of perfection before release. Today, the trend is to mock up a rapid prototype and release it quickly in order to allow the market to test and feedback on it.
The advantages of this approach are:
- you can release your prototype before a competitor gets there first;
- you can use feedback to improve and adapt the product; and
- if the product is a failure, you have wasted less time on its development.
The culture of many established organisations will find them operating within a cycle of monthly and quarterly performance reviews. For the digital workforce, this undermines their ability to offer the rapid response required in the digital environment. New, faster processes will need to be introduced.
Historically, organisational structures may have developed around fiefdoms and inter-departmental politics. This aspect of company culture can be difficult to break down. However, failure to do so can limit the potential of digital transformation, which demands that a range of teams, with a range of priorities, learn to work together.
5. Shared ownership
The organisation’s digital imperatives should not remain the preserve of a digital department or director. They should be translated into shared key performance indicators and objectives across all departments and leaders, because “what gets measured gets done”.
In today’s digital world, the speed with which a company can launch an app, service, product or campaign is key to its success. However, a hasty launch increases the possibility of product failure. Any traditional stigmatisation of ‘failure’ as a sign of weakness needs to be culturally challenged.
The working environment has an impact on culture, and should reflect the stated cultural intent of the organisation. The Google generation of startups, for example, aim to appeal to Millennials. Some have done this by putting fussball tables in the lounge, or offering free food to staff. Creating the right cultural environment is “a prerequisite for the success of digital transformation”.
As digital technology grows ever more complex, there is a growing need for leadership teams to understand the language of the technology community – and vice versa. Kirstof Fahy, chief marketing officer at Ladbrokes, says: “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.”
The aim of digital transformation is to produce an entrepreneurial, nimble and digitally confident organisation. No management mandate is going to achieve this without first changing the culture, because “as in nature itself, when the prevailing conditions are right, anything can happen”.