If you want to drop me a note: hello at aspitzer.com


Digital transformation? No. Cultural transformation.

Cover Image for Digital transformation? No. Cultural transformation.
Andres Spitzer
Andres Spitzer

Lately, I have been increasingly struggling with the term Digital transformation. It's great for adding it to corporate presentations along with “agile” and other buzz words. But, I believe it fails to convey the depth of the needed change and over-simplifies the idea behind the term.

Wikipedia definition for Digital Transformation is:

Digital Transformation is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology.“

Often, the challenge is far greater than that and, the implications of it lie in transforming the company DNA. It is not simply digitalizing products and services. I like to describe it as creating a perfect marriage between technology and the company business. Technology stops being a tool managed by an IT department and becomes core to the company product, operations, and strategy. Technology becomes a fundamental key differentiator for enhancing customer and employee experiences. Digital platforms and experiences become integral parts of internal and external products.

There are several challenges for such a change; a quick peek on the internet will show thousands of articles talking about the X pillars of a digital transformation, the main challenges, and how to solve them. For me, one of the biggest challenges, if not the greatest, is cultural change. Also is the most difficult to measure, anticipate and prepare for it. Some companies simplify this into “change management” as if it was as easy as managing a project. I would guess that approach fails.

Cultural change cannot happen on part of the company, needs to happen necessarily across the whole company. It needs to be an intentional, directed, and supported change. Top management needs to be aligned with the change and actively supporting it.

SHRM blog shares 10 good tips for changing company culture and making it stick. (you can see the article here.

  1. Define a set of desired values and behaviors.

    • Make sure people can understand and relate [your culture] to day-to-day behavior.
  2. Align culture with strategy and processes.

    • Look at your mission, vision, and values and consider how they line up with your HR processes, including hiring, performance management, compensation, benefits, and the promotion of talent
  3. Connect culture and accountability.

    • It is easy, particularly in difficult times, to forget the values you set in place to define your company.
  4. Have visible proponents

    • It must be a priority of the CEO and board of directors.
  5. Define the non-negotiables

    • Look at the current culture and call out which aspects you want to retain.
  6. Align your culture with your brand.

    • Culture must resonate with both employees and the marketplace.
  7. Measure it.

    • What gets measured gets managed
  8. Don’t rush it.

    • Changing a culture can take anywhere from months to several years.
  9. Invest now.

    • Don’t wait for staff and resources that may never come.
  10. Be bold and lead.

    • You don’t have to be in a position of influence to have influence.

In future articles, I would like to go deeper into this subject and address some of my experiences, for now, I would like to finish with a sentence I saw the other day in one of our internal presentations (Thanks Fernando!).

Transformation processes are full of people trying to transform others.

Change always starts with oneself.