Start with Your Culture
It may be argued by many CEOs that we are in a new digital era where all business operations must be transformed through technology to radically increase revenues and the efficiency of value delivery. If we should ask the organizational leaders involved in these transformation activities, they would share the many proven and established tools and frameworks they are using to create the new business process, optimize value and deploy technology. These frameworks and tools may include: Lean, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Agile Project Management, PROSCI change management, ISO 9001, Balanced Scorecard, OKRs, and many more. When these frameworks and tools are not producing the anticipated results, the leadership team often decides to hire a consultant to deploy these frameworks and tools on their behalf. Though deployment may occur, the realized results were not sustainable. This is because they have missed one key component to achieving these new and radical results, that is, “culture”.
In July 2019, Deloitte released an article with statistics from the International Data Corporation stating that, by the year the year 2022, organizations are projected to spend $2 trillion on digital transformation through fear of being disrupted by tech-enabled competitors. This may force many organizations to adopt new technologies into their daily operations without fully considering the business process updates and the people involvement required. Additionally, in the same article, Carey Oven, partner with Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory at Deloitte & Touche LLP, was quoted saying “Technology is definitely a part of digital transformation, but unless leaders can ‘win hearts and minds’ throughout the process, efforts can stall or be less successful than they could be”. A very true statement that leaders must examine and thereby determine how to impact the culture of the organization to facilitate the digital transformation activities.
The point above brings us to the stark reality that the culture of an organization sits at the base of every initiative being successful. Since an organization’s culture is built on experiences and beliefs of those involved, it can be viewed as a melded soup of ingredients, such as experiences, beliefs, core values, activities, etc., which work together to achieve some kind of performance, whether good or bad. Considering this, a framework or tool becomes useless if not incorporated into the culture of the organization, and by definition, the people involved. The big question then becomes, “can the current culture facilitate a leap in corporate-wide performance?” In their book, Change the Culture, Change the Game, Roger Connors and Tom Smith show the impact of culture on new, game changing results using the Results Pyramid.
The Results Pyramid underscores the principles that the experiences and beliefs of the people of an organization (culture) will dictate their ability to participate in delivering new and improved results. At the base of the pyramid is the experiences had by the employees. Some of these experiences are, being vindicated, being constantly overlooked, feeling pressured and exhausted, feeling loved, feeling appreciated, and being motivated. These experiences, if not done deliberately and strategically, can result in unnecessary roadblocks in creating the beliefs required to foster the motivation for creating new actions for greater results. The beliefs triggered by the experiences are often the factors that allow employees to say “it’s not in my JD” or to get their union involved to argue on their behalf that the organization is trying to misuse them to throw them out of the company. These beliefs must be deliberately planted, like a good farmer who has invested in having the best crop of the year.
Having deliberately created the environment for having good, long-lasting experiences to drive the belief of the employees, it becomes easier to create the necessary actions for revolutionary results. The employees now believe that they can make an impact in a meaningful, value-adding way, thereby effectively and sustainably achieving new results.
Make the Shift
In the field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology (I/O Psychology), theorists have opined that Job Performance is directly proportional to the product of employee motivation and ability less any situational constraints where motivation is the degree to which someone is incentivized to do work, ability is someone’s capacity or potential to do work and situational constraints are external factors that make work performance harder. The Results Pyramid could be likened to the Job Performance equation where situational constraints refer to experiences, motivation refers to beliefs, ability to action and results to the Job Performance. Using these likened theories, here are three things that leaders must consider when undergoing any digital transformation strategy:
1. Determine the Current Culture
It was Peter Drucker who said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, which many will agree is a certitude. This statement epitomizes the depth to which leaders must first examine their culture and match the strategy to the culture or devise a plan to create a new culture that supports the vision. Therefore, the questions that must be answered are:
What experiences have been created for the employees?
What beliefs do they hold?
What constraints exist that prevent employees from performing optimally?
How have I contributed to the creation or sustaining of current culture?
These questions can be answered through a facilitated workshop, a one-on-one discussion, town hall meetings, staff meetings or any other fora that may be suitable to have those discussions. Additionally, leaders must create the atmosphere to allow the employees to be open and candid without feeling that their honest feedback will be used against them. Therefore, acquiring the answers to the questions may require several intentional sessions with the employees as well as sensitization and training to the leaders involved.
2. Set Clear Objectives and Communicate Results
There are many leaders within organizations who are great at visioning the future and identifying what technological and operational strategies need to be employed to create and set the new vision. However, leaders may forget that in order to receive great results they must give clear instructions. Clear instructions are packaged with clear content to provide the employees with the needed motivation to do the new or improved activities required from the digital transformation strategy or the new results for the organization’s bottom-line. That is, where the required results are not stated or when success is not defined employees and leaders alike are left with a perception of the fact that may not align with the desired results the organization needs. Therefore, a recommendation would be to adopt a result setting and communication strategy that filters all throughout the organization. A few result setting techniques are:
Objectives & Key Results/OKRs
However, irrespective of the technique used to set the goals, intentions must be set to communicate the results to the entire organization and provide avenues for employees to receive clarity on any result they may not understand.
3. Align the Organization
Aligning an organization does not necessarily imply doing a restructuring activity and staff reduction, though it many involve it. An organizational alignment refers to setting the organization’s values, objectives ad activities in a manner that clearly outline the direction towards achieving the results. One key value that must be stated is Accountability. Accountability sets the tone for all leaders and employees alike that achieving the results in an agreeable manner that includes taking 100% responsibility is key. It ably provides employees the opportunity to trust the leaders, knowing that all are working to achieve the same good without an ulterior motive at the employee’s detriment.
After determining the results and communicating same to the employees, leaders must:
Set the organization’s mission and values to reflect the new desired results
Assess functional activities and determine which are wasteful
Remove unnecessary situational constraints to provide freedom to innovate and achieve desired results
As businesses continue to deploy digital transformation and automation strategies, leaders must spend ample time in developing and sustaining a culture that fosters agile product and service delivery through excellence and great people involvement, an organization’s greatest asset.