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Establishing digital culture in the organization

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

While technology plays a crucial role in an organization’s digital transformation efforts, what weighs more in the success of such efforts is the type of culture present within the organization. A positive attitude among staff towards change, knowledge-sharing, and risk, as well as how well they work together in transforming the organization are crucial in the success or failure of any digital transformation campaign. Collectively, these attitudes form part of the organization’s overall digital culture.

A recent study unfortunately shows that many organizations have failed to instill a digital culture among their people. In turn, this has led to a large number of unsuccessful digital transformation efforts as experienced by 84% of businesses. So how can an organization turn this around and be able to foster the right digital culture for a successful transformation?

The elements of digital culture

In improving the digital culture of the organization, it is important to understand the elements that contribute to the right digital culture that makes digital acceleration and transformation possible. Heidrick & Struggles identified these elements as META: Mobility, Execute, Transform, and Agility. How each element contributes to the right digital culture framework is described below:

  • Mobilize – there is an effort to engage employees at all levels of the organization by defining and communicating a clear digital ambition supported by a sense of purpose about how investments in digital technologies can enable the pursuit of big ideas.

  • Execute – innovations, even the little ones, and the engagement that comes with them, are the key to continuous improvements that can help organizations become more productive over the long term.

  • Transform – there is a significant organizational commitment, effort to devote resources, and establishment of clear pathways that makes it possible for the organization to achieve breakthrough innovations.

  • Agility – companies continuously adapt their strategies for digital success by having a test-and-learn mentality, adaptability, and resilience, as well as a high degree of openness and flexibility as well as a supportive environment.

It is critical that organizations manage to excel in all four elements so they can be well positioned to succeed in their transformation efforts. Otherwise, this necessitates a great degree of culture change, depending on how far off the organization is in possessing the attitudes that make for a successful transformation.

Accelerating culture change

It is imperative that business leaders exert a sustained effort to impart and instill the desired mindsets across the organization. Heidrick & Struggles suggests four key tips that will facilitate a successful culture change.

Commitment to purposeful leadership

Organization leaders must own and take charge in the culture-shaping process. This is not just about communicating what the culture change is about, but also demonstrating the corresponding values and behaviors in order to attain the desired culture for a successful transformation. Once employees can see a clear and compelling case for change and the senior team behaving in ways that support the change, they tend to follow, especially if the entire effort is supported by resources and a systematic execution plan.

Support for personal change

The only way to transform a culture is through individual change. The organization’s leaders should take the lead and commit personally to making such a change. Once the rest of the organization sees this precedent they quickly follow suit. It must be noted that this realization often occurs on an emotional rather than an intellectual level, so insight-based learning as the most effective approach

Broader engagement

Even with the best leadership examples, culture shaping often remains too focused at the top of an organization, while the middle management tends to prevent culture change efforts at times from reaching those closest to the customer or operations. Leaders must ensure that changes in the culture must be instilled throughout the entire organization, which may involve directly engaging with employees at all levels so the message does not get lost.

Focused sustainability

It is crucial that the digital culture the organization strives to develop is systematically reinforced at the individual, team, and organization levels. Companies must implement institutional practices, systems, performance drivers, and capabilities to support the desired culture, from internal communications and training to measurement and performance incentives.

A foundation towards growth

Building a digital culture takes considerable time and effort. Even if a digital culture has been established within the organization, the challenge continues as digital culture continues to evolve. It is important to adapt accordingly to the changes that will be transforming digital culture into new avenues for growth and opportunity.

Fortunately, having the foundation of a digital culture in place means the organization no longer needs to make drastic course corrections. Instead, organizations should sustain the momentum it has built towards establishing their digital culture and reinforce the cultural values in order for the organization to remain ahead of the curve.


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