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Managing Cultural Change in a Digital World - Part 1

17 October 2017 by

Managing Cultural Change in a Digital World - Part 1

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Joan Fahey Leadership, Digital, News & Views...

Outputs from Alternatives Digital Think Tank by Joan Fahey, Senior Talent Manager


Hosted by Alternatives Digital Talent Team; Joan Fahey and Oran Carolan and moderated by Charley Stoney, Managing Director of Alternatives, this was the second in our series of Digital Think Tanks attended by 20 Senior Digital Leaders from a range of industries including Banking, Insurance, FMCG, Travel, Retail and Media. The topic for this session was How to Manage Cultural Change in a Digital Worldand the obstacles that organisations are facing today. Two experts in the field of cultural transformation; Marina Meehan and Niamh Scannell were invited to facilitate the discussion and help address challenges such as:

  • Company-wide education in ways of digital working
  • How to work well with other leaders in the business (specifically HR) to effect cultural change
  • How to influence C Suite/Exec teams to recognise the need for Cultural Transformation
  • How to take an active part in implementing Cultural Transformation

Participants were divided into 2 groups to discuss the following:

1) What are the key obstacles facing your business when it comes to bringing about a cultural change to become a truly digital organisation?  

2) What are you doing well to drive the cultural change in your organisation?

Why Cultural Change is essential for Digital Transformation 

“What got you here, won’t get you there.” Marshall Goldsmith, 2007

The days are long gone when a company decides on a strategy, rolls it out and its business as usual for the next 5 years. In this fast changing world we live in today, the lifespan of a Fortune 500 company is now on average only 15 years vs 50 years in the last century.  Due to rapidly changing consumer needs and lifestyles and evolving technologies, businesses must change how they operate and interact with customers. Long-term strategies are no longer sustainable and change is now constant.

Cultural change is a key component to running a successful business today; we can change our technologies, infrastructure and processes but without addressing the human element change will simply not happen. The digital age had bred a new workplace culture – customer centric, data driven, cross functional, flatter and with a fail faster approach. For pre-digital businesses, it can be a daunting challenge to address their old ways of working and build a culture that takes them into the future.  In many cases, businesses are falling behind not due to their technology capabilities but simply due to their culture. 

According to a recent study by McKinsey, shortcomings in organisational culture is one of the main barriers to company success in the digital age. They highlight three digital-culture deficiencies: risk aversion, weak customer focus, and siloed mind-sets. Solving these problems is no longer optional as you simply won’t succeed. Building a successful digital organisational culture requires everyone in the organisation, from leaders to front-line employees to be involved and all working together. More importantly, cultural change needs to happen before any transformation process can begin. Digital transformation isn’t really about technology it’s about organisational agility with culture playing a huge part in it. We need to build a culture of constant change.

How to Drive Cultural Change

Our discussion kicked off with Marina and Niamh sharing their insights on how to drive cultural change in an organisation. Niamh has been working in the technology and health sectors for over 15 years consulting with global organisations around innovation, cultural change and digital transformation and Marina has a background in HR and has been a Cultural Transformation Consultant for over 10 years.  

Niamh has worked with all types of leaders in driving change and explains that the critical component to driving any sort of organisational change is its people – No matter what type of leader you are, you need to make sure you have the best people on board.‘It’s not about the technology, its people first’. It’s about collaboration and partnership between everyone in the organisation.

Marina adds that “today’s business culture is going to change beyond belief whether we like it or not and people are at the core of any cultural change”. Digital transformation is not a process, it’s about how people think. We need to challenge how people think and go about their work. The conventional way of thinking is that education will get us there alone but it’s about taking all your people with you. We need to stop referring to the term ‘Digital’ as it suggests something that will be “done” to us and that runs separate to the process of getting things done. This thinking in itself creates a challenge.

Marina highlights what is critical to driving change in your organisation:

1. Create the picture of the future and make a plan

2. Action your plan and make it big and loud

3.  Ensure everyone in your business understands what a truly Digital Organisation looks like

4. Everyone in your business must have a common purpose

5. Create a collaborative culture

6. Have the courage to see the blockers

7. Celebrate failure – this is god’s gift to say do it again and create the change!

Creating change is “simply about taking all your people with you. As long as you have the end in mind, you can adapt as you go”.

For more information please contact Joan or Oran

Managing Cultural Change in a Digital World - Part 2

Please see our first Think Tank on "Building Blocks for Success. Challenges and how to overcome them" here.