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C is for Culture....and Change!

As a senior leader, managing the huge amount of change required to play in the digital world involves a mindset and behavior shift; and it starts with the Leader first. Your customers are demanding new products and services at high quality and at an unprecedented and rapidly increasing speed – and with CEO’s citing that Growth is still a number one agenda item, servicing those clients and meeting the organisations needs requires investment in new skills and approaches.

Gartners CEO survey shows that a high degree of business model change is understood to be required in order to get to this growth and the highest area at 43% is Capabilities around people, assets, competencies, financial models:

To achieve this level of organizational/Digital transformation simply sticking your people on training courses or breaking out one agile team to deliver a new app will not work – we see this time and again with clients we engage with and whilst they may see some minor incremental gains people tend to then revert back to old practices and behaviours once the project has ‘finished’. Plus the use of an ‘agile methodology’ alone cannot do this – understand what agility means in the context of the broader change that is required.

Focusing as a leader on the actual cultural change required to achieve this shift is a key starting point (and no, not the only piece you need to focus on but let’s start here). Gartner also cited that 46% of CIO’s report Culture as their biggest barrier to change.

The word culture has at least 6 definitions but for the purposes of organizational culture we will define it as:


The culture of a particular organization or group consists of the habits of the people in it and the way they generally behave.(Collins)


Here are three initial small changes we believe can help to move the dial on culture and business model adaptation:


1. Leaders need to Lead and EARN it!

It starts with you – demonstrate the behaviours that will encourage more leaders to emerge inside your teams. Start by ensuring that you have a clearly articulated strategy for change that each person understands, can communicate effectively on and align everything that they do towards to goals of that strategy. Encourage your teams to ask hard questions of you even if you don’t have the answers.

We encourage the use of memes (See: What do you Meme) and getting into the habit of effective storytelling to help this become a regular habit – habits are formed slowly and repeated through the use of ceremonies. Get your team involved in co-creating the memes required to translate that story and have them communicate the evolution of these as the change moves forwards. (Tip: You need to have a good set of core values defined and understood to do this first)

Earn your role by showing and doing. Invest in your people BUT also invest in yourself – utilize mentors, coaches (internally and externally) to learn new habits and to unlearn old ones that aren’t serving you. (Are you aware of who you are and how you lead – a 360 survey could help you baseline a change plan for you first)



2. Encourage Experimentation

Ensure that you create a tolerance for fast failure and risk taking – failing incrementally is how we learn. Create regular feedback loops to help build confidence and over time empower your people to make fast decisions without needing you to be constantly monitoring them. Their success rates will increase and you will actually see risk reduction as you build an organization of continuous learning. With so much technological change occurring in areas like AI and the huge volume of data now available to us you cannot possibly have all of the answers without trying new things. Reward your teams for innovative ideas which support the business model change required.


3. Visibility and Business Partnership

Use your leadership to communicate across business openly and regularly. Using memes and show the results of the experiments to help to make this a regular habit of change. Visible walls and cross collaboration in meetings with clearly articulated outcomes (not outputs!) will solidify your relationships and help to build trust when you have to start prioritizing / deprioritizing work (another real challenge for leaders with so much ‘new’ stuff being requested). It will also support your asks for any additional funding as you want to experiment for new innovations. And – you can start to avoid useless meetings for meeting sake.


These are just some initial starting points and we would love to hear your ideas – what have you tried? Would you be willing to share your culture change stories to other leaders – if so get in touch!



Sources and Inspirations:

- Gartner 2018 CIO forum

- Book: Unlearn by Barry O’Reilly

- Book: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari


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