Practical tips to changing culture as part of your digital transformation

Digital Transformation

Earlier this week, I was featured in the Which-50 cover story, ‘Change Is Hard. Here’s How To Build A Culture That Delivers Your Digital Transformation‘.

The article has some great tips on how to change culture as part of your digital transformation. I especially like the tip to give people a physical symbol – a plastic sword! – to indicate that they have permission to try new things.

In this article, I was quoted on what I believe is the underlying key to successfully managing change through transformation:

“I’m a little unsure whether people hate change or if people just hate change happening to them.”

To elaborate further on this, here are four stages (with tangible actions) to help transform culture as part of your digital transformation:

1. Story tell
Leaders need to be story tellers. A lot of people who implement a transformational strategy or who are in those leadership positions have been on that journey for a long time and they’ve seen what’s coming. It’s important that they can sell this vision all the way through the organisation from the start. Transformational stories can be created by answering questions such as; What happens if we do nothing? What are we going to do? What does success look like? These are great jumping off points to create an illustrative and inspiring story to get the team on board. Think about how you can share that story in a personalised but scalable method. This could be in the form of video, organisational wide conferences (physical and virtual) or through relevant media channels.

2. Involve
The story does not need to have all the answers. In fact, it is better if it doesn’t. The rough script should be; “We see the disruption in our industry, we understand it, we are changing and we want you to come along on the journey.” We need to include our teams to create the change we are going to implement.No one likes having change happen to them. While the vision is set, it is important to engage the team through empathy sessions, manager one on ones and direct feedback mechanisms such as surveys. Great organisations may push this one step further and ask their team to design the solution for them through organisational challenges such as shark tanks or innovation days. By ensuring the team are heard and building the change together, there will be less resistance during implementation.

3. Action
Culture is not a fluffy ambition which will happen organically by replacing technology, people or process. Culture is changing the standards we accept and the way achieve them. By understanding the way we are currently working and contrasting it with the desired way of working, we can make decisions and create an action plan. Changing the way of working might incorporate significant actions such as moving to different delivery methods such as agile, setting new behavioural standards through simple rules or a complete organisational restructure. Or it may be much simpler such as introducing new communication channels such as chat, changing the time we open/close the doors or introducing healthy snacks. Whichever  actions we decide to take needs to be carefully planned and communicated with the team to ensure that they can see tangible actions being undertaken. By having clear goals and end-points, we will be able to measure the impact these actions have had on your organisational culture.

4. Celebrate
It is important that the plan is broken down to identify key milestones and achievements. This does not mean the end of a project or, heaven forbid, the end of the transformational programme. After all, a digital transformation may take years! Celebration and recognition needs to be constant throughout the transformation to demonstrate real progress, create momentum and demonstrate a visible shift from where the culture once was. Key celebration points which are often overlooked include the on boarding of new team members or partners, positive shifts in customer feedback and key project milestones such as the end of the development or testing cycle. Celebration can range from a team email to a morning tea to a full blown party but it is public, positive and progressive.

I believe that these elements are key to ensuring that a change of culture is included and successful within your digital transformation. If done successfully, it will have more impact than any technology, capability or process ever could.

Nathan is the founder and lead strategist at 12HIGH. 12HIGH specialises in activating digital, eCommerce and marketing strategy. Contact Nathan