What if digital transformation tools don't change the culture, but instead amplify the culture that you actually have?
Recently, I came across this quote by Jay-Z:
Money and power don't change you, they just further expose your true self.
And it got me thinking: what if this isn't just about the money? What if something similar happens in other areas as well, like the digital transformation? It might sound crazy at first but hear me out. What if the tools, that are supposed to drive digital transformation, rather than changing the culture and driving the change, show what culture you actually have instead? Here is why I think that's the case.
I don't think there is an organization on the planet that doesn't acknowledge that times are changing, markets are changing and to stay relevant, they need to change as well. Many organizations turn to technology to streamline their operations, make better use of the knowledge in their organization and collaborate more effectively. It makes perfect sense. With the right tools, you can work better. But only the tools are not enough.
Many organizations spend a lot of time and effort on digital transformation programs meant to change how they work. Some succeed to a degree, but many fail. When the excitement wears down, organizations find themselves back at where they started. The last news message on the intranet is from three months ago, the next upcoming event was last month, there was no new CEO post in a week and Teams/Yammer are covered in dust. It's tempting to start pointing fingers at tools being too hard to use or people being too busy. But have you given it a thought, that what you see might just be the reflection of your company culture?
If people in your organization are hesitant to discuss their ideas, if they don't publicly share draft documents, if the management doesn't communicate transparently, if decisions are being made behind the closed doors, if discussions happen next to the coffee machine and if you weren't there you're excluded from the project, then no matter which tools you put in place, digital transformation will not work for you. It's as simple as that.
To me, digital transformation is twofold. On one hand, it's the technology, the hardware and the software we use to help us work more effectively, to help us find the right content quicker and use each other's expertise and experience to advance our organization. But these tools are nothing without the proper culture. And that's the second, the most important part.
Whatever technology you put in place, it needs to be supported by a culture of openness and collaboration. You need to welcome feedback from everywhere in your organization. You need to communicate clearly and transparently. People will have comments and questions, and it's good because it means they think for themselves rather than blindly following what's being said. You need to be inclusive of everyone in your organization no matter if they work in the office or at home. Finally, whatever change you introduce, you need to explain why it's needed. And not just explain it to tick the box, but ensure that everyone truly understands it, because you are in it together and you need everyone on board for the transformation to succeed.
So if you want to find out what culture you actually have, roll out digital collaboration tools in your organization and sit back. Give it a few weeks. What do you think: will you see public discussions or private chats or will people keep using email? Will you see draft documents or only approved versions? Will you see open groups or very granular need-to-know permissions? Will Teams/Yammer spark with discussions about everything from watercooler banter to deeply organizational topics or will it all be empty?
No matter the result, what you see, is your culture and if you want to succeed with digital transformation, this is where you need to start the change.
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash