Transformation: keep It digital but make it cultural
July 15, 2020
Written by: Ignacio Marseillan
For several years, the business world has widely accepted the mandate that companies must digitally transform in order to stay relevant and competitive. In the wake of the pandemic, this broad consensus has gained a sense of even greater urgency with many companies pushing digitalization to the top of their list of strategic priorities.
On the list of companies fast tracking investments in technological innovations, we are seeing a surprising number of organizations with traditional leadership structures and models with cultures not accustomed to innovation or digital project management. However, digital transformation without a true vision of the strategic dimension involved in this process will likely result in isolated initiatives in the medium and long term with the desired transformation left unachieved.
The experiences of those companies adapting successfully to this crisis illustrates how the key to success is placing the emphasis on “transformation” and not the “digital” aspect of this process. The most important element of the transformation is culture, which is what allows companies to drive innovation, flexibility and agility to address changes in a sustainable manner.
It may sound simple but without a doubt cultural transformation is one of the greatest challenges facing organizations.
The crisis may be an opportunity to shift companies’ “mindset” toward a digital culture that empowers them to lead the market in a post-pandemic world. What are the main attributes of organizations with digital cultures? How have they achieved that transformation?
Organizations with a digital culture: what do they look like?
The digital challenge requires companies to adopt a new culture that has as its pillars certain attributes, competencies and tools that are fundamental for transformation:
Facilitator Leadership Model
Project management inside organizations has become more complex in the last decade. Digital leaders must be able to work in simultaneous collaborative environments. Their main objective is to facilitate, recognize, motivate, guide and help all employees to achieve their goals and reach their highest potential. Reading between the lines, it is not to control or micromanage.
Once companies identify their people with these skills—arguably half the battle—they must ensure they are empowered to step into leadership roles and given simple and dynamic solutions to promote dialogue with their teams. This is more important than ever before in today’s virtual work environments.
Focus on the employee (digital) experience
Building positive work environments, where people feel valued, bolsters employee satisfaction and their level of commitment. In a world where more and more people develop activities connected to the online ecosystem, it is imperative that they can live meaningful experiences in their digital world on a daily basis.
Digital experiences require high doses of innovation with a user-friendly design that enables people to connect emotionally with each other and with the organization.
Digital culture is built with data
Obtaining data and knowing how to analyze it and interpret it in order to make better decisions are essential digital competencies of an organization with a digital culture. If in the past the focus of analytics was on understanding the customer, today more and more companies are also choosing to implement technological solutions that measure organizational culture and promote transparency around many key issues of companies with strong digital cultures: performance, engagement, organizational climate, retention, diversity, among others.
New ways of working foster innovation
The capacity for innovation is an attribute that has never been more highly valued than it is today. However, creativity, disruptive ideas, thinking “outside the box” and questioning the status quo do not emerge by chance, they develop within a culture that drives change.
The best way to build this culture is by encouraging innovative behaviors and work methodologies like Design Thinking, Design Sprint, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, among others. These methodologies were massively disseminated together with digital transformation and require skills such as risk taking, experimentation, co-creation, iteration, re-learning and entrepreneurship.
How to achieve cultural transformation
Why is it so difficult to change an organization’s culture? Mainly because culture is not taught, it is transmitted through values, norms and behaviors. The motivation to seek innovative solutions cannot be imposed on employees, you can empower and inspire them to innovate. People who are ready, willing and encouraged to change their mindset and accept the digital challenge will transform your culture.
The best way to achieve the cultural change required by a digital transformation is to follow three integrated tracks:
What’s the best course of action? The jury is still out as to whether organizations should first prepare themselves culturally for transformation or whether the first step is to incorporate technology and then try to change the culture.
And, while the experts continue to debate the order of steps for undertaking digital transformation, today there is a new generation of digital culture platforms that can help forge the necessary values and behaviors, while creating highly innovative work environments where digital experiences are part of their essence. In other words, solutions based on technology that enhances digital culture.
Thought leaders foresee many factors disrupting the market in the coming years, making the ability to innovate and adapt to change increasingly important for organizations.
If you want to predict which companies are set to grow in the coming years, you should not look at the success of their current products and services but at how strong their digital culture is. The leading companies will be the ones that develop digital capabilities to continue to evolve.