How should change practitioners approach change management and culture in the digital age?
When faced with the volatile, fast-paced world of digital change, how should change management strategies evolve?
Below, we’ll consider these questions, as well as:
- The impact of culture on change management
- What cultural traits are desirable in the digital age
- Strategies for transforming culture in today’s workplace
Change Management and Culture in the Digital Age
How does culture impact change management?
As experienced change professionals are aware, culture affects a change project at its deepest levels.
The viewpoints, mindsets, and corporate culture can impact:
- Change Management Strategies – Approaches to change management will differ depending on, for instance, how innovative, agile, digitally fluent, human-centric a culture is.
- Barriers to Change – Cultures open to change will be more willing to adapt and test new ideas. Companies less open to change will be more likely to resist.
- Project Outcomes – Because culture affects the context of a project, it will impact the outcomes of that project.
- Results and ROI – Ultimately, the bottom-line ROI and results of a project will be impacted by culture.
At the end of the day, corporate culture can decide how successful a change project is.
For this reason, it should be a top concern for any change management department.
What Makes a Good Corporate Culture in the Digital Age?
First and foremost, it should be stated that every corporate culture is unique.
There is no “right” corporate culture, any more than there is any “right” human culture.
Each workplace has its own unique flavor, mission, vision, and path.
However, the digital economy is built on competition, technology, and progress.
Companies that understand this – and incorporate those ideas into their culture – will outperform those that don’t.
To succeed and thrive, companies should strongly consider cultivating traits such as these:
- Innovation – Innovation is a strategic differentiator in today’s technology-driven marketplace. Those companies that can innovate will be able to disrupt their industries and gain a significant competitive advantage.
- Digital Literacy – Digitally literate workforces should be able to use technology to its fullest extent. Those that can will have more engaged, productive employees.
- Human-Centrism – The human experience has taken center stage in business. From the customer experience to the employee experience, human-centrism should become a core value in business cultures.
- Data Savvy – Data cultures incorporate data into their decision-making. They use insights and data to gain insights, make better choices, and design better strategies.
Values and traits such as these can help an organization’s bottom line.
But they can also improve the workplace – increasing worker satisfaction and engagement.
Strategies for Cultural Transformation
How do companies change their organizational cultures?
Here are a few approaches:
Create visions of the future, then follow change models to implement change. Any change program should achieve its vision by following change models. Cultural changes are no different – design a vision of an ideal culture, built upon solid values, then work towards that end.
Engage in continuous, incremental evolution. Overnight changes can be jarring and result in resistance, or worse. Instead, begin by seeding ideas in the workplace, then gradually introducing changes over a period of time.
Incorporate cultural change into other change projects. Other programs, from digital adoption to restructuring, can be used as vehicles to introduce new ideas and cultural ideas.
Make structural changes when necessary. Depending on the urgency of your cultural changes, it may be necessary or desirable to restructure departments. Those who don’t support the company’s culture or mission, after all, will only be a hindrance to the organization’s mission.
Focus on agility and lean thinking. An organization should be responsive – as should its people. Instill innovation, creativity, and flexibility into the company’s ideals. When a culture stays open to change, they will be able to react more quickly and efficiently.
Set specific, clear goals. A culture should have specific aims. Ideally, these should be articulated clearly in the form of a mission statement. Clarifying aims in this way will help employees understand the company’s cultural prerogatives. Such a mission statement can also help when developing communication strategies and introducing new cultural concepts.
Design for the future. Don’t just think about what works today. Consider what will work in three, five, or ten years. A company culture should be able to thrive in tomorrow’s world, when technology has advanced far beyond where it is today.
Regardless of your specific corporate culture, it is important to design strategies that help your organization compete … especially in such a fast-paced digital economy.
Corporate culture includes many factors – from how innovative it is to how social the employees are.
However, the top priority for any change professional should be the bottom line.
It may be tempting to align culture to existing values or office politics.
But cultural change strategies should always aim to support organizational strategy and improve profits.
After all, if culture takes precedence over and subverts strategic imperatives, there may be no company left to support.
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.