The genie is out the bottle!
For example, 90 per cent of respondents in a 2017 survey undertaken by Founders Group/DEfactoED acknowledged that a shift in culture and working practices was needed to enable them effectively to embrace new digital technologies. But transforming a corporate culture is far from straightforward – in fact, in a 2016 article McKineys argued that ‘The hardest part of a successful digital transformation is the cultural piece’. So, how should organizations approach the culture change that is a prerequisite for digital success? The answer to this is through learning.
Learning provides two different but mutually supportive routes to achieving culture change. On the one hand it provides knowledge and understanding about the actions required to achieve the outcomes being sought, what works, what doesn’t work, how other organizations have approached this and how they fared, and so on. This is of course invaluable information and insight for those shaping and seeking to deliver the change required.
But more importantly, the very act of embarking on a corporate learning program intended to build awareness and knowledge about digital disruption and its implications across a progressively widening swathe of the organization, the business is beginning to impact the prevailing corporate culture. It is demonstrating that digital disruption is something which is really important for the business in question; it is acknowledging that things have to change in order to respond to digital disruption; and it is displaying its commitment to learning as a core enabler of the change required.
Moreover, once the program is underway, and those participating are starting to learn, it becomes increasingly difficult to row back. The genie is out of the bottle. One organization which launched such an initiative with a cadre of high potential employees found that they began increasingly to challenge established norms and ways of doing things. As a result, senior executives concluded that they themselves needed to participate in the learning program so that they were in a position to respond authoritatively to what was being proposed. This in turn demonstrated the value of learning to an ever-wider group of employees across the business. It led to greater empowerment of the workforce and closer interaction between leaders and staff.
Whereas as many as 75 per cent of conventional culture change initiatives struggle, we believe that an approach which is centred on organization-wide learning provides a much greater probability of success. In fact, learning provides the essential driver of Digital Transformation, increasing awareness and understanding, helping to develop the skills and capabilities required, informing innovation and new ways of working, and changing mindsets and attitudes.