Accelerating Digital Culture in Times of COVID-19 Crisis
One of the jokes which were making rounds during lockdown was “Who is responsible for accelerating digital efforts of organization and options were CEO, CTO & COVID 19 Virus. We all know the answer so I will not dwell much into it. Said that it is important to highlight that the current COVID crisis has not only accelerated but also given a new meaning to the need for digital transformation and building organization cultures to sustain such transformation. Organizations across industries, new age as well as brick & mortar, have been charting & executing their digital journey maps for some time now.
“We have seen some great examples being created in different areas of digital transformation. These case studies have been across the spectrum of product development, go to market, building digital processes & operations, customer engagement, building organization, and employee capability.”
With COVID crises setting in, organizations are witnessing an unprecedented impact on their digital transformation efforts. One of the biggest imperatives is the impact on an organization’s culture. This has become a double edge sword as now culture is the center point of change from forces not only internal (Owing to transformation efforts) but also external (Owing to COVID crises). While the jury is not yet out on how organizations are successful in navigating this change but it is important to highlight key cultural insights during this fast-evolving scenario:
Firstly, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the pace of digital adoption in organizations. Work from home, virtual meetings, online learnings have touched each and every single employee. This scenario has led to the overnight adoption of digital technologies and people experiencing digital processes. In a typical scale of digital transformation adoption stage of beginner, intermediate, and advanced, the current crisis has pushed the organization’s current state to the next state.
Secondly, the adoption of digital is also happening as more of a necessity. It is no longer a question of either Or rather it is a question of by when. This has led to a lot of stakeholders within the organization moving from the experimenting stage to the adoption stage. This no doubt has increased the risk-taking ability of organizations in pushing their digital agenda.
Thirdly, employees are playing a central role in the digital transformation agenda of organizations. There are a lot of pull factors operating right now. This coupled with an organizational commitment to digital is creating a sweet spot for proliferating various digital technologies, processes, and ecosystems. Not only employees are championing digital agenda within the organization but they are also becoming brand ambassadors of their digital agenda outside the organization too. With employees on board, it is becoming very important to focus on the right elements of building digital culture.
Fourthly, more and more realization is setting in that digital is no more a transformation agenda but rather a survival one in current crises. Organizations that already had accelerated their digital footprint are in a better stage of adapting to the crisis. In terms of adoption cycles, this realization has given a huge impetus not only to experimenting but also tolerance with failures in the journey of digital adoption.
Why do we need to talk about culture in the current crisis?
Digital technologies can make organizations faster, smarter, and better at what they do. The promise of digital is widely acknowledged, yet the majority of digital transformations fail not because of challenges with adopting new technologies or finding the right know-how but how people work together to transform the organization. This brings a lot of focus on managing culture while pursuing digital transformation dreams. Barriers to culture change like resistance to change, lack of knowledge sharing, risk aversion, blaming each other, stress & fear and lack of accountability can impede change in any situation, but they are especially harmful to digital transformations, given the pace of technological advances.
Unlocking an organization’s full potential on digital requires a shift in mind-set and very thought through the plan of culture change. Organizations succeed best with digital transformations when they match any investments in technology with a commitment to reshape the culture. While the pace of adoption is high in current times, organizations need to focus on the following to ensure that the momentum of digital adoption is high.
Leadership Becoming the Face of Digital Transformation
There are no better times than current for leadership to become the champion of change. Change to become faster and better. There is already an underplay of a lot of pull factors, it needs to be leveraged well by leadership by engaging employees at a larger level with greater momentum. As they say, putting the better use of crisis is so important in current times.
Ensure Digital Adoption at a Personal Level
For any change to be sustainable, it is important that there is a periodic flow of success stories and individuals become the change agent. Storytelling to curate digital success stories and making it part of the dialogue is so important in current times. This will not only help employees in attributing themselves to digital journeys but also makes conversations about digital adoption viral. There are numerous user cases which can be leveraged like deploying online learning platforms, virtual collaboration, making people processes virtual like onboarding and talent acquisition.
Making Failure Part of the Digital Journey
Nobody has a COVID 19 playbook. Embracing vulnerability in the current crisis is so important. Mistakes & no balls are bound to happen and are part of the change process. Every mistake hones the capability of making the next step right in this uncharted territory. Tolerance to failure has never been so important.
Collaboration a Key Element of Digital Change
Digital opens up immense possibilities not only inside the organization but also outside the organization. Possibilities of collaboration. Collaboration to innovate, ideate, troubleshoot, explore new avenues of ways of work, create value, and most importantly contribute to a larger ecosystem. Leadership and HR should leverage this immensely as nothing is more worthwhile in current times than to create something for all of us by all of us.
Once again, it is important to understand that the current crisis cannot be let go without leveraging the possibilities it has to offer.