by D&E Staff

September 26, 2017

You don’t have to search too hard to find hundreds of conversations about digital transformation. According to Google, there are 1.78 million results for the query “digital transformation.” Many organizations are yearning for digital transformation. But what are they really seeking? Change – for themselves and their organization. Why are they seeking change? They’re realizing that the world around them is changing – from customers to prospects to employees to investors and other stakeholders – and organizations need to evolve digitally to remain relevant and grow their value.

In my last blog post about digital communications, I shared some preliminary thoughts on change. The post focused on changing to a model where we, as marketing and communications professionals, lead with digital thinking and put audiences first.

If your organization isn’t currently practicing this model, where do you begin? A key first step to this change or any change is ensuring your organization has the right culture to accept the change. Some questions you may want to consider about your culture:

  • What cultural change do you want to see?
  • What is your organization doing to influence a culture of change?
  • How can your organization switch to think digital and put audiences first?
  • What are your leaders doing to enable and influence change toward digital and audiences first?
  • What barriers are in the way of your organization adopting a digital- and audience-first culture?
  • Who are your internal change agents who will act as champions for the cause?
  • What behaviors should you watch for – both new and old – that will indicate change or lack thereof?

report from the Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute discusses significant perception gaps between leaders and staff on culture. Do gaps exist in your culture? How is your organization measuring these gaps and how will you work to close the gaps? The Capgemini study suggests that culture is the number one hurdle to digital transformation emphasizing the need to influence and foster the right culture.

Howard Stevenson from Harvard Business School states, “Maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy.” With such high importance on getting culture right in order to successfully adopt change and evolve to a digital- and audience-first model, as leaders we must take some critical steps to exemplify the change we need to see.

  1. Change starts (and can end) at the top. What behaviors do you want to see from your team and your organization? Define these behaviors and live them daily. The leadership team is where it has to start.
  2. Get in the trenches. If you believe that learning new technologies can help your organization innovate, make this an objective and roll up your sleeves to participate in the process. This could also help with closing the perception gaps between leadership and staff.
  3. Invest disproportionate time into your top priorities. If others don’t follow, it’s up to you as a leader to help correct their course. Influence their behaviors. Show them (don’t just tell them) how to spend their time and resources.
  4. Invest in your people. If you believe that your people need to improve their skill sets, it’s your responsibility to train them and prepare them so they can help drive the change.
  5. Hire leaders and change agents who think digital and audiences first.
  6. Reward innovation that improves your organization as you forge down the path to digital transformation.
  7. Embrace failure – in the spirit of learning. By adopting a mindset of learning, you open up your organization to think about experimentation and growth. Without this mindset, your culture will be averse to the risk that’s necessary to try new things, learn and grow. You’ll be stuck in a mindset of “that’s how we’ve always done things around here” and you won’t make progress on your critical change agenda.

Many will advocate that your organization needs the right strategy to advance on a transformation agenda. While they are correct, what they’re not considering is that strategy will only work with the right culture in place. Frank Cespedes of Harvard Business School argues that strategy rests upon execution. You can have a great strategy but if you don’t have the culture, team or mindset to adopt the strategic change, then all you have is a strategy. Get culture right first and you’ll have a recipe for success.

Let me know your thoughts about how you’re influencing culture and driving digital thinking and transformation.