Thursday, October 29, 2020

Leading Digital Transformation via Culture Evolution

Culture is deeper, culture is changeable, and the speed of culture change may also be expedited as the world becomes more hyper-connected and interdependent.

Every organization exhibits a culture. Anytime people work together for an extended period of time, a culture is formed. The departments within the organization have a subculture. The divergent workgroups that operate within the organizational system or subsystem also have a subculture. People’s demeanor, how they relate to one another, how they confront issues and resolve them is due to culture as well. 

We all know the old saying: Culture eats strategy for lunch. Organizations across vertical sectors are transforming from industrial silos to hyperconnected holistic digital businesses. How to make an impact on organizational culture to lead expected transformation and unlock the full business potential?

From culture as a custom to culture as a corporate mindset, attitude & character: When talking about culture, most people think about custom and only see the iceberg of culture: art, food, fashion, behavior, communication patterns, body language, mass media. In the corporate setting, culture should not be seen superficially as, "is everyone happy or we all wear jeans to work." Such understanding perhaps only scratches the surface of in-depth culture discipline. Culture is something a company does; it's the collective mindsets & character that are closer or further from an ideal. The character is fed by the heart and mind, we really need the acumen and power to probe at a very deep level. We call it organizational culture when such a mindset and attitude is set at the very top of the organization, and when people from top down concern about which ideas within our walls that derive profitable actions and collective confidence and wisdom.

Culture is a corporate mindset & character. Without character, the strategy is just a style without substance. Without a high performance culture, there is a lack of passion, motivation, and engagement to implement a strategy. Culture is often the #1 root cause to fail strategy. Culture change is a tough journey as you can’t impose the desired culture to your organization. To change "culture" is to change the persistent emotional experience of the people, there is friction and change inertia. First of all, you need to make an objective assessment by understanding the varying issues such as: the cognitive skills and decision-making biases; behavioral styles and patterns; or motivational drivers and passions at the corporate level. Altogether and combined, they provide a well-rounded assessment baseline of the organizational "character.” And then, you can follow a set of well defined principles and practices to transform culture. There needs to have a strong corporate character to make your organization unique. Without integrity of character, the good strategy will fail to inspire confidence and achieve business goals and objectives.

From culture as an asset to culture as a corporate competency: Organizations rise and fall, not on the quantum of plans and resources, but on the capabilities to manage, lead, yet most importantly to execute. it. Culture is a soft asset, but also a tough element which can harden the hardest, and lift your organization to the next level of digital maturity effortlessly, or sink your business tragically. Culture is invisible, but the culture system is a powerful pillar to run a digital organization. Culture is certainly part of the environment in which an organization operates, it represents the 'box' in which decisions and actions occur. In order to move up to the next level of organizational maturity, companies need to build culture as a corporate competency and the cultural aspect is an intrinsic factor that drives the organization's business longevity.

Culture is a competitive differentiator, the organizational differentiation may be facilitated by a culture encouraging innovation individuality and collectively. Culture needs to be changed to adapt to the emerging digital trends and pulling strategy execution towards the right decision. The culture of an organization is an indicator of the competency parameters at their best. Culture as a competency can be measured through performance. An organization with excellent culture is arguably capable of providing great performance results in their competencies. In fact, culture as the unique competency is a decisive factor for the business’s long-term success.

From culture as a behavior to culture as a corporate brand: If the culture thing is like an iceberg, the “visible” part of culture is the collective attitude - how employees behave in the workplace, interact with customers, adapt to changes and accept challenges., etc. At the societal level, cultural behavior is the end product of collected wisdom, filtered and passed down through hundreds of generations as shared core beliefs, values, assumptions, notions, and persistent action patterns. It is the policies, procedures, rewards, and retributions that drive behavior and it is the employee attitude and behavior that expresses “culture.” The spirit comes from the top, the culture will only be as strong as the behaviors of the senior leaders and the way they use these to demonstrate their commitment to the values and vision on a daily basis.

Business transformation is the change, but on a grand level, at the level of the system, differentiate in terms of the end result on a systemic level. Culture change is critical to make a leap of digital transformation. For example, today’s working environment is multigenerational, multicultural, and multi-devicing or to put simply, hyper-diverse. Many large multinational organizations have certain “diversity” best practices. However, if inclusiveness is not embedded in your business culture, it could generate multiple gaps in decision-making and strategy management. To step further, it’s important to develop culture as a business brand which differentiates yourself from competitors. Branding is not something that takes time away from the fundamentals of operations, execution, and management. It is instead a methodology, a different way of looking at how you do things innovatively and build a strong organization reputation. 

Culture is deeper, culture is changeable, and the speed of culture change may also be expedited as the world becomes more hyper-connected and interdependent. Digital organizations are living organisms on their own, different from the sum of its parts. Sustainable change is rather achieved by true internal shifts, which is more related to transformation than to "managing" change. This is needed to support a cultural change through the change lifecycle which enables everyone, wherever they are in that cycle, to accept the direction of the journey and focus on benefits realization and building long term business advantages.


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