To dig your heels into the shifting sands of digital business landscape is like trying to stop time. Change resistance isn’t just foolhardy. It’s futile.
But there is no denying the fact that organizational culture is one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation. This is not so much a threat as it is an opportunity for the CIOs to lead IT-mediated change to the organizational culture.
In an interview with ETCIO.COM, Darren Topham, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner shares how CIOs can employ culture hacking to expedite digital transformation.
Gartner predicts that by 2021, CIOs will be as responsible for organizational culture as Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs)? While CIOs have dealt with change management at various level, changing the organizational culture is a tall order. How should CIOs adapt themselves to become culture custodians and change champions of the organization at large?
Technology has been impacting culture ever since the first wheel was invented. Executives like CIOs are in a unique position to shape how technology will impact culture and by extension shift organizational culture.
Sure, culture is one of the biggest barriers to realizing the promise of digital business. But here’s the good news: People adapt. The way we use technology adapts. The way we work as teams adapts. We should think of culture as mindset and practices that shape behavior.
If you want to turn culture from being a barrier to becoming an accelerator, then you need to shape, shift and share to bridge that gap between mindsets and practices.
In the digital era, the CIO is as responsible for changing the culture as the CHRO. In a matter of 3 years, the CEO is about to make the CIO the change champion of the enterprise. So how will the CIO turn culture from a barrier and an accelerator?
Culture cannot be changed with 100-page slide decks or big, generic speeches about change management. Culture can be changed through culture hacking. These are simple, small things CIOs can do to make a big difference in changing the company culture and, in the process, enabling a digital transformation.
By culture hacking, we don’t mean finding a vulnerable point to break into a system illegally. It’s about finding the vulnerable points in your culture and turning them into real change that sticks.
Changing your organizational culture doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to be hard. Culture hacks are practical actions that you can do to make a big difference. Culture hacking is low effort yet a high courage initiative. Culture hacking acts as a high impact accelerator to digital transformation. The culture hacks must be visible. They should have an immediate impact. A culture hack has to be something that you can design and execute in under 48 hours.
CIOs are already good at designing a complex year-long initiatives. They should keep doing all that. Culture hacking is about smaller actions that usually get overlooked. Culture hacks also trigger emotional responses, show immediate results and are visible to a lot of people at once. This gives them a better chance of succeeding against change resistance.
What are some of the culture hacks that CIOs can employ to shape, shift and share the change driven mindset?
The digital strategy of an organization has to be created around the concept of Continuous Next. The concept of Continuous Next is anchored in a new digital business model that shows how culture, privacy, and product management are helping to enable organizations to undertake transformative change.
Let me illustrate this with a real-life scenario: Your company has embraced the concept of ContinuousNext and you have spent six months creating a new digital strategy. So you call a meeting to announce this to the rest of your company. Everyone acts like it is great but you know that the culture of your organization is equally great at resisting big change. So the next day you start walking randomly to the conference rooms where the staff was having meetings and you ask this question- How does this meeting advance our new digital strategy?
The silence is deafening. People avoid eye contact, they look at their shoes, check the screen of their mobile phones. So you cancel the meeting and ask them to meet again only once their meeting supports your company’s new digital strategy. This simple act sends out a strong message – “We are changing. We are pursuing a digital-first strategy. We are creating new mindsets and practices.”
This a real-life example of a CIO doing a culture hack. Culture hacks are low effort but they are not low courage.
Fear of failure is one of the biggest reasons for change resistance. How can CIOs use culture hacks to paralyze resistance through persistence?
CIOs should encourage the workforce to think differently about failure. They should celebrate what they can learn from failure. This culture hack helps you increase risk tolerance and that’s one part of culture change.
CIOs should start by talking about their own personal failures. Mike Benson, CIO at El Segundo (California) based, DirectTV, did this by sharing his own personal failures with his team. Sharing your failures sends out the message that failure isn’t fatal.
CIOs should orchestrate a culture hackathon. It is an exercise with an open forum for trying out different ways of addressing perceived challenges around meaningful collaboration.
Digital business strategy is all about thinking on your feet, gamestorming and taking accountability of your decisions. How can CIOs ensure that employees are not stuck in the analysis paralysis of decision making?
CIOs should hack their company’s decision making culture by shifting accountability. They should make a rule for managers that all decisions need to be made within 48 hours.
Steve Tedder, CIO at NC Department of Health and Human Services changed the rules around decision-making for his managers and staff by implementing a rewards-based system.
The team members got two points for making a decision and lost one point if it was a bad one, but they’re still ahead just by making a quick and time-bound decision. This exercise fosters a new mindset of prompt decision making among the managers. It has allowed his team to avoid analysis paralysis and reduced their fear of failure.
As a result of this culture hack, Tedder’s employees are stepping up the plate and they are enjoying their jobs as well. Earlier, Tedder used to spend 70% of his time on internal issues now it has come down to just 40%. These culture hacks help to make change happen faster.
Employee-driven change yields quick results. It ensures 24% higher probability of transformation success and 38% higher employee engagement.
CIOs have to be leaders who are shaping beliefs by taking ownership of their cultures. Many of the CIOs are spending 70 percent of their time in meetings and status update emails. They can free up time by shifting decision making authorities so that others can take action.
Let the person with the great idea become the CEO of his idea. That’s what Zack Hicks is executive vice president and chief digital officer at Toyota Motor does.
So how should the CIOs bear in mind when they start the process of culture hacking within their organization?
CIOs should observe their own mindset for a day through the lens of a fixed mindset and growth-oriented mindset.
They should identify one culture hack that enables them to show up with more of a growth mindset every day.
Over the next three months, they should share the concepts of growth mindset with their team. As a team, they should practice a culture hack for the needed growth mindset benefit area. Learn and scale the concept focused on accelerating culture change
In the long term, they should conduct a culture hackathon across IT to collect ideas. They should empower employees to action ideas. CIOs need to make culture something everyone is responsible for and demonstrate in their daily work.
The CIOs who have been successful as culture custodians should share their organization’s culture journey by running a culture hack club.