CXO

10 easy ways to hack your culture to succeed at digital transformation

Changing company culture doesn't have to be difficult, according to Gartner. Here are tips for how to change the employee mindsets and practices that shape behavior.

Great news for members of the C-suite: Changing your organization's culture does not have to be a huge, difficult undertaking, Kristin Moyer, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, said in the opening keynote address of the 2018 Gartner Symposium/IT Expo in Orlando on Monday.

Some 46% of CIOs reported that culture is their biggest barrier to realizing the promise of digital business, according to recent Gartner research. But taking simple steps can make a true difference in getting companies on the path toward successful digital transformation, Moyer said.

"Think of [culture] as mindsets and practices that shape behavior—the stuff you do every day, the everyday fabric of your organization," Moyer said.

SEE: IT leader's guide to achieving digital transformation (Tech Pro Research)

A small group of CIOs are now turning culture from a barrier to an accelerator, she added, to bridge the gap between those mindsets and practices. This is something that all CIOs will need to learn to do, Moyer said: By 2021, CIOs will be as responsible as chief human resource officers for culture change.

Hacking your culture means finding the vulnerable points in your workplace, and turning them into real change that sticks, Moyer said. "Culture hacks are easy—you should be able to design and carry them out in 48 hours," she added.

CIOs are already skilled at executing large, yearlong initiatives, which are important, Moyer said. But culture hacking is about doing smaller actions that usually are overlooked. "Great hacks trigger emotional responses, have immediate results, and are visible to multiple people at the same time," Moyer said.

Here are 10 easy ways for company leaders to change their culture.

1. All meetings must support the new digital strategy

Moyer gave an example based on a Gartner client: An enterprise spent the past six months creating a new iteration of its digital strategy, and announced it to the entire company. But employees were typically resistant to change in this organization, she said.

The day after the announcement, the CIO began randomly walking into conference rooms where meetings were taking place, and asked, "How does this meeting advance our new digital strategy?" When participants could not answer, the CIO told them that the meeting was cancelled, and that the group should not meet again until the meeting supports the strategy.

"Culture hacks are low effort, but they are not low courage," Moyer said.

2. Think differently about failure

Work to increase risk tolerance in your organization by shifting accountability, Moyer said. Share your own personal failures to begin doing this, she added.

SEE: Hostile workplace prevention policy (Tech Pro Research)

3. Decisions in 48 hours

Make a rule that all decisions must be made within 48 hours. This helps employees step up and take action, and ultimately leads to them enjoying their jobs more, Moyer said. She gave the example of Steve Tedder, the CIO of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, implemented this rule, and offered employees points for decision making. As a result, his time spent on internal issues dropped from 70% of his workday to 40%, Moyer said.

4. Reward decisions

Rewarding decisions once they are made will help CIOs make change happen faster, so it can be scaled, Moyer said.

5. "Let it go" workshops

Lowe's uses these workshops to help employees let go of old mindsets and practices that get in the way of current goals, Moyer said.

6. Invite hard questions

Don't end a meeting until you encourage employees to ask you three really hard questions—typically the ones they ask each other after the meeting is over, Moyer said.

7. Don't have all the answers

Even if you don't know the answers to the tough questions from employees, the not knowing helps you create a growth mindset and an environment focused on learning, Moyer said.

8. Cancel status meetings

Many CIOs spend 70% of their time in meetings or answering emails, Moyer said. Cancelling status meetings and replacing them with brief written updates will free up a lot of time.

9. Make innovators CEO

The person with a great idea should become the CEO of that idea, and run the project, Moyer said.

10. Run a culture hackathon

Get employees in on the action, and shift accountability to everyone, Moyer said. "Culture can change," she added. "Just not through 100-page slide decks or big generic speeches about change."

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/tumsasedgars

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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