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Culture eats transformation for breakfast

Culture eats transformation for breakfast: Part III

Building a culture that supports on-going change

Caroline Gray, Principal Consultant – Business Change, explains how to embed a culture that will support ongoing change through clear accountability, ownership and ‘can-do’ thinking.

Most organisations don’t put enough time, thought and effort into driving culture change as part of digital transformation, yet almost all see culture as the main challenge.

However, the vast majority of a public sector organisation’s culture is hidden below the surface. That’s why the first step in any digital transformation, is a crucial process: it reveals the complexity bubbling away beneath the day-to-day.

Alongside unmasking the current situation in terms of citizens, staff and infrastructure, you must also expose existing cultural assumptions and practices. The goal is to understand how all these elements dynamically interact. The result should be a nuanced understanding of what works and what needs to change organisationally, technologically and most importantly culturally.

We’ve already discussed the three vital levers that can be used to drive culture change - leadership, ownership and use of language – but what does this look like in practice? Here are our recommendations:

Lead clearly

Transformation is six times likelier to succeed when senior leaders share aligned messages about the change effort with the rest of the organisation. Be honest and pragmatic. In any transformation things will go wrong but make it clear that staff and stakeholders will be supported, that challenges can be overcome and that the results are worth it.

Keep listening

Listen to and acknowledge concerns across the organisation. Learn to distinguish between real issues and cultural resistance, exploring problems and acting on them as necessary. Ensure that people across the organisation are listening to each other too, facilitating communication and collaboration through meetings, workshops and more. Resources such as ‘The Cultural Web’ are great tools for altering an organisation’s culture in a dynamic and interactive way.

Instil ownership

Set clear expectations and accountability for delivering digital change. Tools like responsibility assignment matrices (RACI) can be extremely valuable in setting out tasks and duties. Staff should still be free to innovate and make decisions, but this needs to happen within an agreed framework that makes it clear where permission is required. Be ready to challenge words or behaviours that demonstrate a lack of ownership, like “no one told me”.

Set the pace

Closely measure the progress of the transformation journey, for instance by setting KPIs around specific outcomes or expectations. Timeboxing (allocating a fixed period for each planned activity) will keep your programme on track. Visibly praise and reward progress and on-time completion as this will show your people that it's important.

The right culture is integral to driving successful digital change – not just over the near future, but over the long-term. With emerging trends like the Internet of Things, AI, robotics and more poised to transform citizen expectations and day-to-day working life inside the public sector, a culture that fully supports change is a critical part of being prepared for the future.

While digital change can seem daunting, don’t forget: there are plenty of transformation specialists out there who’ve done all this before. From discovering more and embedding the right culture, to successful implementation and optimisation, they’re ready to help.

Download our whitepaper on Rethinking digital transformation now to discover the common traits behind successful change.