Cultivating a “Digital-Ready” Culture to Support Digital Transformation

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The following is an excerpt from our white paper series, Becoming Digital Get your copy of the series here.

Digital transformation must involve transforming the organization at a deeper level so that it can continually make the most of emerging digital opportunities. The ultimate goal is to build capabilities for constantly learning, innovating and growing. The right culture for the digital age matches the speed and innovative nature of successful digital organizations without sacrificing integrity and stability. We call this a “digital-ready” culture.

There are no silver bullets to get there. Culture comprises a mutually reinforcing set of values and practices. Values on their own are not enough. The real results for performance come from practices.

Leaders of traditional organizations can follow these three principles to cultivate a digital-ready culture:

Grow the practices that set digital leaders apart. Encourage and reward rapid experimentation and self-organization, within a framework of data-driven decision-making. Focus on promoting autonomy and openness to encourage employees to seek out new sources of information and let them know that they have the freedom to experiment.

Preserve valuable legacy practices. Recognize that integrity and stability are assets appreciated by customers, employees, regulators and shareholders. Create guidelines that enable speed and autonomy without sacrificing integrity, and develop easy ways to monitor and adjust guidelines without jeopardizing stable processes.

Reorient practices still optimized for the pre-digital world.The speed and interconnectedness of the digital world demands a new approach to custom­ers, results and rules. Shift from asking about customer needs to anticipating customer desires. Shift from periodic performance assessments to ongoing attention to transparent goals and metrics. Shift from strict rules and controls to broader guidelines and transparent monitoring.

Getting Started:

  • Reframe the vision for more radical impact to focus employees’ attention, energy and effort.
  • Start selectively, perhaps with a separate unit that can safely experiment with these new ways of thinking and behaving.
  • Create opportunities for everyone to be engaged in the transformation, and strengthen employee, customer and partner relationships even as you push for faster, data-driven action.
  • Use your digital resources to make it easy for employees to collaborate and access data easily, quickly and securely.
  • Use those same sources of information to ensure accountability and monitor results.
  • Balance short-term results and your brand’s reputation over the long term.

Becoming “digital-ready” does not require sacrificing integrity, stability, employee morale, or the company’s heritage. Traditional organizations can — and do — thrive in the digital economy by selectively melding digital values and practices with certain traditional values and practices that set them apart in the past.

Click here to download your copy of “Becoming Digital” series.

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Deborah Soule

Author: Deborah Soule

Dr. Deborah Soule conducts research on the interaction between technology and organizations, with particular attention to the dynamics of learning, collaboration and change. She has over 15 years of experience leading research and development projects in both industrial and academic settings, including MIT and Harvard, plus ten years of client-facing responsibility as an organizational and technical subject matter expert. Earlier in her career, she worked on product development programs for a large chemical company in Europe.

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