Culture is Key to Successful Business Change
In a world of digital disruption, every business must change how it operates and how it interacts with its customers. Such change requires the harnessing of new technology, new thinking and new behaviour, and brands need to shift their thinking from product to customer, outbound to inbound and channel to audience.
Brands must also harness the behavioural data of their customers and let it drive what they experience. Today’s marketing technology offers vast choice and sophistication. Many technologies have the potential to enable businesses to be customer-centric, but technology alone will not put the customer first. Changing technology can be complicated, but changing culture within an organisation to become customer-centric is truly difficult. It requires a movement more than a mandate. Multiple tactics are needed, driven by a clear vision and strategy.
Our experience tells us these five tactics must form part of any successful behavioural transformation.
1. Where do you want to get to?
It’s a cliché but if a clear vision is absent, then it’s hard to get started. Make sure that the vision has buy-in and then visualise what it means to the business. Clearly link the achievement of the vision to the future success of the business and the cost of not doing it. The mythical hero’s journey is a useful vehicle for convincing others of the importance of change. Give the vision a name and use it as a change brand within your business.
2. Galvanise your staff
Training and coaching staff is critical to instigate a change in the way they think and behave. Some staff will adopt new thinking and ways of working more easily than others, but all will need help to see how to do things differently. Think about training for new behavioural skills as well as functional skills. Regular sharing and communication should also form a central vein of any change programme. Identify and enable change champions and encourage them to develop cross-functional forums to share challenges and successes.
3. Support and nurture change
To begin with, doing things differently is not always the same as doing things most efficiently. Change, costs time and money and there must be an acceptance of the short-term burden to realise the longer-term benefits. Staff need to be assured that it’s okay to invest if the objective is progression. Encourage your team to fail early and value the lessons. Support them by ring-fencing what’s considered most important for the future and keep a focus on the goal rather than today’s delivery.
4. Create new working spaces and tools
Change requires energy and the right environment – and silos are the enemy. Creating new working spaces, both physical and mental, can fuel progressive behavioural change and break down people barriers. Think about how new working spaces can best address the change in behaviour you are trying to achieve. For example, if you are trying to shift from selling product to meeting customer need, create a neutral space for sales and marketing to work on innovation projects. The creation of innovation zones, stand-up areas and other spaces that encourage progressive behaviours can help.
And don’t hold back on the tools needed for new ways of working, whether this is digital project management, communication, collaboration and innovation tools, or physical things like big whiteboards and post-its. It might sound obvious, but there aren’t many spaces in offices that aren’t packed with desks these days. Physical spaces are a great way of releasing energy and inspiring brainstorming and different thinking. Don’t expect staff to think differently if you don’t create the head-space as well as the physical space to do it. Creating new headspace can be achieved through changing responsibility, workload or environment. It might just be that fewer desks could help create the spark for new thinking!
5. Pick your project
Choose a pilot project that has a high chance of success and lends itself well to a different way of working. Obviously, it should also help progress toward the vision and create value. Choose the right mix of people to work on it and give the project a senior sponsor, preferably C-Suite. Ensure the project is properly resourced and use it to trial new ways of working such as Scrum and Lean Start-up or Minimum Viable Product.
The goal is to showcase new ways of working, so conduct the project openly and invite others to participate. Talk to others about how the project progresses, its successes and lessons. Think about recording how it was done, possibly as video or a presentation so that it can be easily shared. People respond well to visibility and honesty.
The bottom line is that while technology is the enabler, people and culture are the most critical drivers of successful transformation. A culture of collaboration, openness and community will lead to the best possible technology adoption. So, focus your resources on cultural change first and the technology will be easy.
Nick Tusler is managing director, Navigate Unlimited