Digital Transformation: The Trilogy. Part three: culture

We catch up with digital strategist Dr Paul J Bailo, who reveals the third part of his digital transformation masterclass…

I believe that our final chat within the Digital Transformation Trilogy is based around culture…

The first of our trilogy into what constitutes a successful digital transformation centered around leadership, and this was followed by planning. But the glue to keeping this all together is the culture. And culture’s very hard to define for a lot of people, but it’s really the essence of what your organization is about. It’s truly understanding what your value systems are. When we think of who we are and what we believe we bring to an organization – our beliefs, our religions, our upbringing and what mom and dad taught us – we bring in our feelings of how we see the world. These are basic perceptions, deep, embedded thoughts in our minds, shared beliefs, and even unconscious feelings, right? Who we are and what we are as human beings have developed through where we lived, what zip code we lived in, our friends, our family, religion and background. And these are the values we bring into an organization, which are fundamental to this idea of culture. So, you’re mixing all these different values in order to drive a digital culture, in order to set the right mindsets and behaviors that could be shared with all the members of the organization.

When we talk about digital culture, it’s usually about organizational change and transformation…

Historically, organizations talked about siloed use of digital, but now we’re talking about how every department needs to be digital. When you start talking about keeping everything in a small group and collaborating, we’re saying, “No, digital is everywhere in every aspect of the business.” These are traditionally very hard things for organizations to develop in their culture. And it’s rooted in this idea and belief of who this organization is and what they stand for. And this digital culture needs to be reinforced on a daily basis from the executive leadership down to the frontline people. The culture is the foundation for the business’ success in digital. It’s this stable environment in which organizations behave and hold everyone accountable. I think of culture almost like baseball in a sense.

Baseball? How so?

So, baseball is a set of rules and every player knows that these are the rules. There’s a first base man, second base person and third base person. There are rules and regulations on how you behave in the game of baseball, so when people, the players go out in the field, everyone knows what to do. With our digital culture we need to know the norms that we believe in, and the values we hold true, and the actions we expect. These actions have rituals and behaviors and routine processes that are digital, and there’s a digital culture, which basically serves their structure. These structures are a digital structure of org charts, and products, and mission statements that build the digital culture, in order for organizations to be very successful in the execution of digital initiatives. It’s this idea of the digital culture driving the actions, the mindsets, and driving the mindset at the root of the cultural change that must exist, in order for organizations to be successful in this current world that we’re living and the constant change.

The focus of digital is not just about the actions alone, it’s about the actions and the change that must happen in our heart, minds, and souls in these organizations that are transforming to be digital. It’s who we are and what we stand for, and consistently reminding ourselves and the employees, and the team members, and the shareholders of what we stand for in this digital culture. It is the mindset and behaviors that we agree to. and police, to hold everyone accountable. Understand that by doing this in our culture, they will reap the benefits of this digital change and digital landscape by agreeing that this is how we’re going to support each other in our overall digital culture: the values, the behaviors, how we talk to each other, how we behave with each other, how we execute as a team together.

What are the tangible benefits to this cultural approach?

It’s through minimal disparity and a sharing of the high risk of failure. Support is built into the culture. Taking a massive risk is built into the digital culture. It is extremely hard to change the culture because you’re truly trying to rewire people’s minds. And in legacy organizations, most people hate change, so you have to think about the power structure in this idea of digital culture, and this idea that decisions need to be made quickly, efficiently, very fluidly, and to constantly evolve in this idea of continuous improvement, which means that the culture will be evolving with it also. It’s the values and beliefs that the organization hold as one. It also is the emotional piece. It’s truly, how do you want to work? Is this a place that you want to belong to? Are your personal values aligned with the digital values of this organization? What are the values, right? The values that this organization holds true in this digital arena, are a critical part of the culture, absolutely critical.

Digital is forefront and the lifeblood of these organizations that must have a digital culture in order to survive. There’s no way companies are going to survive –  banks, financial institutions, insurance companies – if they continue to behave in the way they’re behaving. Clients will not come to them, and will leave them in droves, if they are not bleeding edge digital organizations that have a culture pushing the envelope in transformation and change. Even the idea or ideas of decision-making, in a digital arena, are fast and furious. It’s not this big, long, legacy type of committee, in order to say these are now the decisions. It’s fast and furious in order to keep up with the marketplace. It’s the idea of strategy on a continuous, unending basis. It’s the idea that digital will change the way organizations conduct business.

It’s seeing the power shift within an organization?

Right! This digital culture is driven by the outcomes. And it’s this idea of digital culture which causes this power shift in the organization. And this is very egotistical, right? This idea of digital culture is a power grab for some people. It’s a mindset rewiring. It’s a behavioral rewiring. It’s an adjustment of values and behaviors. It’s a way of policing each other in a way that might make some people very uncomfortable. When we’re thinking about this, it’s this idea of culture which is one of the core pillars of a digital organization, and looking at these digital organizations in order to be much more efficient and effective in this brutal environment we’re currently in. It’s also building relationships, understanding that the idea of digital culture is a never-ending learning environment.

Apple doesn’t have the best products or the best services, but they react to the market extremely quickly. They react to it because they have a culture of learning, both on the soft skills and the hard skills. They understand the challenges of digital technology very quickly because their culture supports this idea of never-ending learning. A true digital culture within the organization is a learning institution. A digital culture in an organization is an organization that takes care of its employees and upskills them. It identifies the skills that employees need to be competitive, identifies the skills that organizations need in order to drive cultural digital change.

When we talk about digital culture, we’re discussing a massive shift in the way organizations think and behave as well as the organizational structure, the power structure, and executive mindset change. It’s really this idea that digital skills are required in every level of leadership, that training is necessary and the best practices of digital are required.

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