What is a Digital Culture? and how to establish one?

What is a Digital Culture? and how to establish one?

As a digital transformation does not happen overnight. Embracing the opportunity with legacy systems is just a question of hard skills. From launching pilot initiatives to wide scale adoption is a long journey with unexpected obstacles.

But do you expect an internal clash? How to have the right culture given the pre digital legacy you have ?

A company culture and a digital culture are two distinct things as one characterizes an organization when the other characterize how an organization encourages and supports technology use.

  1. Mind the gap: Soft Skills and Data
  2. Why startups have an edge with Digital Culture?
  3. How does it work in the tech industry?
  4. CEOs are the new CDOs
  5. CEOs are here to ignite
  6. Everybody needs trainings
  7. Few questions for a CEO

Mind the gap:  Soft Skills and Data

Having a digital offering, a well-set IT backbone that cover the core operations with excellence will never really be sustainable without a cultural shift that change not only the performance but especially behaviors of employees, inside and outside of the office.

Ironically senior managers do not realize that combination of old behaviors with new ways of working are always surprised to see incompatibilities when it come to elaborate a concrete action plan for system integration.

Leaving out of the table the toughest questions, the important ones and thus because you have dependencies between departments that now is connected through technology.

Senior managers, sometime tech averse and fan of micromanagement should be the first relay of propagation of the change. At the bottom, millennials remain confused or frustrated, following orders seeking purposes.

Balance between seeding cultural change and reaching company’s goal imply methodology and continuous effort. Values, guidelines and a set of behaviors to conduct the day to day job have to be shared and embraced by everyone.

The reluctant ones refusing the change are the long-term seed of the transformation failures. Not willing to realize and neglecting those aspects will just doom an organization at the end, no matter how long it existed. On the contrary, companies that made breakthrough tend to maximize financial performance.

Why startups have an edge with a digital culture?

Having issue to recruit? Did you know that a reputation for digital breakthrough attracts talent like a magnet? Young professionals aspiring to be creative, making an impact in a healthy work environment where collaboration fostering trust, where they can be autonomous and make decision on spot with the customer in mind and challenging status quo.

Those talents are in a world with high demand and short supply and their number choice would be to join an ideally a Digital Titan like Amazon, Google, Alibaba or Tencent.

A digital culture:

  • Empowers your employees to reach outside the organization, seeking after customers and partners looking forward to build new solutions.
  • Burry control and opt for delegation. Do your managers spend time to give explicit instructions instead of giving guiding principles?
  • Makes your employees risk takers. They want to try, fail fast and learn. They challenge status quo and old non sense working habit.
  • Accelerate your organization instead of stressing them
  • Promote collaboration more than individual performance

Success in the digital transformation can only be achieve with collective work, transparency and information sharing across departments, units and functions.

Risk taking and fostering new thinking does not mean being reckless, a leadership team should not hesitate to set bold moves as a traditional function such as finance have a set of constraints within the job. Depending of the industry, those elements are articulated with different intensity.

How does it work in the tech industry?

Having a look at the tech industry is interesting. Startups tends to define in the early days their Manifesto; agile software developers have their own when the agile movement started too.

In startups, everything is defined with the first ten employees hired. It all depends with:

  • Who is hired?
  • How are they paid?
  • And how are they promoted?

For instance, if an organization claim being collaborative but promote the wrong person, staff won’t be stupid. It’s a clear signal to not collaborate, but not all the startups get it right too:

Recalling reading a manifesto of a startup once where it was written “We are one team; we are all together” … This startup was paying everyone commission based and everyone was making sure to talk to a maximum of leads to be sure that the customer profile of the CRM is well connected to their commission if any.

A misconception from the startup world is that startups are all about technology and creativity. I have a secret to share: it is absolutely not the case. Startups is all about growth it begins and finish only with a singular human resources approach. As a result, they attracted unique talents like a magnet.

First, startups use to be the rebel’s kingdom, originally those people didn’t want to work for anyone, neither make resume, pass interviews or be under the authority of anyone with any kind of reporting. Behind all of this there is something that no one really want to understand, whether you like it or not, there is a generational conflict (recalling the culture clash in my intro?).

Millennials felt betrayed because we told them that life is simple, just go to a great school, get a great diploma and a great work. But digital innovation showed us that growth can not only be linear but exponential too in an uncertain world where we cannot predict the future.

Startups with exponential growth (Scale-ups) are perceived as a singularity, and millennials want to be part of it. This is how a 27 years woman can become VP of International Launch Team in a company like Uber that still recruiting a million driver in the month of November 2020 (last month) and opening 3 cities each month back in 2015 (growth).

In those case we have talents that join in the early days and grew up at the same pace of the company, who learned a lot of things in extreme conditions. And this wouldn’t have been possible in a traditional corporation or at school.

Traditional companies are not famous to understand singularity. They don’t like rock stars, ninjas or any cliché you want. But they reflect a reality that those talents are unclassifiable and does not want to fit where a traditional company wants to put them.

Entrepreneurship is an act of rebellion, and that is why startups attracts unusual talents. Look at the previous employee number 7 at Amazon from a diversity background that decided after paying an expensive education at Duke University (US, North Carolina) joining a little online library that are about to start. Another cool example with the employee number 7 from Tesla that made Sila Nanotechnologies.

Those choices that those talents have made was not predictable, but they felt empowered and made a bold move. They don’t do things in a rational way; they listen to their heart.

Organizations may have various resources, but do you have digital talents joining your company because of choice of heart? Or because it’s hard to get a ”good” job nowadays?

Startups takes risks, huge organizations is another story when sometimes simple projects are delayed.

Disruption is singular and require singular person performing singular tasks in a singular way. Traditional organization have issues to hire those scarce resource like good IT and software developers.

So, it starts by creating a favorable environment and a cultural DNA change, but it’s not something that will be nailed by doing some PR, that is why it’s a challenge to recruit talents for the next decades.

Change will not happen until everyone start to learn new things and it open a huge work towards how to organize a transition in the human resources world and how to treat employees to not just make them feel good, but also to empower them towards self-development.

“Studies have been carried out for years into how organizations can create environments that promote employee engagement and flow in order to improve creativity and overall effectiveness at work. For me, what’s new and interesting is looking at technology’s role and how culture may play a role in determining its positive or negative impacts.”

Dr Michael Parke, Professor of Organizational Behavior, London Business School

CEOs are the new CDOs

When the concept of CDOs emerged, a lot of them fail in their job because the mission wasn’t clear.

It does not mean you shouldn’t reinforce your organization with talents at all level. It means that CEOs have a new chess board to understand in order to create the digital culture shift inside the organization.

Even if we need to get familiar with technological concept, to put things in movement, people have to talk with transparency. It can start with short emails, memos, internal websites, blogs from senior executives where they facilitate the transparency aspects.

CEOs are here to ignite

Foster collaboration. When your employees start to enjoy their work and what they learn it increase productivity and silos crumbles. Employees need to empathize with one another. It builds cohesion.

Outdated management practice preventing that start to be irrelevant. Employees between department aligned each other first and start to manage their managers too.

Tell me how does your managers are able to work with employees as coach, not bosses? What does the employee are saying about that?

Once the movement starts, it’s all about continuous growth of a group of persons redefining how they want to work together with the customer in mind.

Everybody needs trainings

Knowledge is necessary for everyone. From the CEOs to everyone. Usually senior executives are the ones we spare. Between those who knows the importance and getting at it, it slows down the movement.

But how can they measure the progress of that movement they are supposed to be part of it if they don’t have the knowledge to measure if there is a real progress.

Between tech aversion, micromanagement, and reticence towards a flattened organization, it’s crucial to train them too. It’s a key challenge. Even if it’s difficult to understand causes and consequences, here some consequences which is visible observation made on organization:

  • Difficulties to get access to data
  • Reluctance of cooperation on data from business stakeholders
  • Lack of data competences internally

 Does it sound familiar?

“When I need data, I have to send an email to the manager which is really restrictive”

“The data being decentralized, at each POC, we lose a lot of time to cross-check the information from the different departments […] Several use cases were really difficult to implement because there were a high heterogeneity of data and sources. In addition, the data quality was low, with a lot of handwritten data”

At the end of the day, people just need to understand their roles, but we need to explain them.

Few questions for a CEO

  1. Does the management communicate clearly about the long-term business strategy? If yes, would any employee envision how they can contribute to serve that business strategy?
  2. How do you foster collaboration and brainstorming physically and remotely? . Does risk taking is rewarded? If no, why not?
  3. Does everyone, no matter their position feel encouraged to ask questions and challenged assumptions from their managers and leaders?
  4. How do we build a community where knowledge, experience and insights are shared across department, teams, business units?

You need to give the tools to people to change. Bridging the gap between management and the employee base cultivate an open culture, collaboration and results in productivity will at certain point have a network effect like a ripple effect.

Digital Culture is an amplifier, and having a right strategy only will not ensure its execution.

Results of the balance how much effort of work is needed to be put in by an employee to deliver a specific output should be the metric at the end of that funnel.

Digital Laoban