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Solace blog

3rd September 2018

Culture eats transformation for breakfast

Part I – Creating the right climate for digital change

For two decades, Agilisys has helped public sector organisations re-imagine their future and strive for positive change. In the first piece in a three-part series, Caroline Gray, Principal Consultant – Business Change, explains why instilling the right ‘change culture’ from the outset is crucial to successful transformation.

It’s said Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant, once quipped, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Whether Drucker ever actually uttered these words or not, they ring true for the public sector as it grapples with today’s unprecedented transformation challenges.

To keep pace with rapid technology change, rising citizen expectations, tighter financial constraints and more, the public sector must embrace wide-ranging digital transformation to modernise services. By applying new technologies, the public sector can also free staff from mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on what matters—doing work that’s both more interesting and more meaningful.

Yet, just like Drucker’s corporate strategy, an organisation’s embedded culture will chew up and spit out any incompatible agenda for change. At first, this seems counterintuitive. Why would any organisation not embrace simplified systems and processes that make life faster and easier?

While time and cost savings, new capabilities and better decision-making sound great in the head office, spare a thought for what frontline employees experience. Without clear leadership and effective communication, staff only see the individual pain of transformation, not the overall gains. Resistance and inertia are the inevitable results.

That’s why we’ve found there’s always one common theme behind successful transformation: a distinct view of where you want to get to and what you want to achieve along the way.

By taking the time to establish a clear vision for the future, organisations can stay focused on the right goals and more effectively communicate the reasons for change to everyone involved. Evidence suggests that digital transformation is six times more likely to succeed when CEOs communicate a compelling, high-level change story that’s tangible and digestible.

While developing and sharing a clear vision for transformation is crucial, don’t overlook the wider importance of culture either. Think about the core values that will be needed to get where you want to go. Actions and attitudes need to be aligned—for instance, that could mean making failure acceptable to encourage innovation, even if it doesn’t work out in the end.

The process of gathering information and insights to underpin your transformation strategy provides a great opportunity to engage with your organisation’s culture. Structured interviews with stakeholders, open and informal workshops, and the opportunity to comment anonymously via online surveys are all excellent ways to stimulate conversations, test ideas and achieve buy-in.

The ultimate goal is to create a burning platform for change, built around a compelling vision that inspires people to take action because they can see that transformation is relevant and beneficial for them too.

By aligning digital transformation to your organisation’s culture and values, it’s possible to supercharge your chances of success—particularly if you’re embarking on large scale change. Create the right climate and you’ll set your organisation up to succeed.