Who owns Culture in Business Transformation?
In my last blog post I discussed how “Transformation” is the new buzzword in enterprise services. This post discusses Transformation in the context of business culture and who is responsible for said "Transformation”.
The customer is at the heart of transformation. Right? As an experienced consultant, I've heard this regularly when speaking with business leaders. Particularly when talking about the business priorities and market changes that drive transformation for them. Yet, despite the truism, there is usually little evidence of this when I look at the governance objectives of enterprise transformation programs. In my experience, I would argue that the heart of enterprise transformation is actually found in its boardroom. In reality, this room is not just about power-plays, strategic investments, forecasts and the office furniture. It's also the place where the culture and mind-set of transformation is set and delivered. It’s from here that a workforce's perception of its leadership team and its future emanate. It’s from here that a workforce's belief and confidence in the business transformation is formed. Transformational leadership should never be forgotten when we consider enterprise transformation.
So, what do we mean when we talk about business culture? A business' culture is the collective emotions of its people and how they work together to get things done. It spans the generations and is made up of recent history, prevailing sentiment and varying degrees of uncertainty, hope and ambition across its people. It is generally rooted in how we get things done now and who gets things done now. Often, it’s motivated by "paths of least resistance" or "learned behaviours", created through working with (and for) the same people for long periods of time. Business culture is in no small part, a reflection of the leadership and management style evidenced on a day to day basis within an organisation.
An example of this would be the ebb and flow of changing business priorities or cycles. These shifts in emphasis impact business culture significantly. They’re often perceived to reflect individual the views of certain senior management members or departments, to the exclusion of others. This could be a voice for cost containment, the call for increased productivity, the need for tighter controls or the clamour for marketing euros. Without transformational leadership, these “cycles” can have some unhelpful side-effects when "played out" across the enterprise. Such coercive powers might be the Compliance manager shrugging shoulders at staff when talking about the CEO or the COO blaming the sales manager for increased workloads. Differences of opinion at this level are unavoidable, but should never be seen outside of a boardroom without the risk of damaging culture by creating divisions in the workplace.
Another good example of how poor leadership impacts on culture is the modern blight of "Wilful Blindness". Global surveys indicate that 85% of executives acknowledge issues at their work that they are afraid to raise! This is a huge figure that must also reflect negatively in the business culture of many enterprises. If this many executives are choosing to remain “shtum” on issues of importance to their departments, there must be many unhappy and frustrated staff below them.
Whereas enterprise transformation must acknowledge the history and politics that lie within every business, this cannot be at the expense of its own "Vision" for how things should be. What's more, these "encumbrances" are usually indifferent to any indirect application of budget, training and reward. You can't throw resources at an enterprise transformation program and hope transformational leadership will just appear. The truth is, if we are going to fully commit to a transformation programme, it’s not enough to do so without also including transformational leadership and business culture within its objectives. And if we are willing to do this, it must begin with the behaviours and attitudes of the senior management team.
Leading by example, mutual respect, transparency, collaboration and active listening are not new concepts in business. These virtues cannot be in short supply within any organisation that's serious about transformation. There is too much at stake. EVERYONE must be prepared to change "how we've always done things" if enterprise transformation objectives are to succeed
So let’s ask ourselves again, is the customer really at the heart of transformation? I believe the answer is no. The customer might be at the centre of any transformation. After all, products, services and experiences are built around the customer. But at the heart of any transformation must live transformational leadership and a positive business culture. This is what keeps people motivated to deliver the best product, best services and best experiences to keep the customers coming back for more.
At Sogeti Ireland, people come first. We are a team of people who share an enthusiasm for IT and a passion for results. We also work hard to build strong and enduring relationships with our clients and our people. Although we are part of a major global company, we have a strong local market presence that enables us to be flexible and fast in responding to client needs and the needs of our people.
If you are interested in joining Sogeti Ireland you can view our current vacancies here.