Culture eats strategy for breakfast – ‘even more with digital transformation’

Rogier Offerhaus knows the pattern all too well. His phone rings, and at the other end of the line, another CEO complains that much of his investment in digital transformation is not going well. The underlying problem is inevitably the same: Organizations spend money on new strategic digital transformation projects, but neglect the cultural side of the transformation. “Ultimately, success comes down to one thing,” said the People Change founder: “Successfully change people and their culture.”

Happy employees are productive employees – this wisdom has been instilled in every leader over time. Despite this, they still tend to underestimate or even neglect its importance in large numbers when transforming their businesses.

Within a change, it is not always comfortable for employees to introduce new ways of working. It can cause them to ‘lose’ operational freedom to more rigid ways of working or to take on additional responsibilities that they are not used to.

Specialists who have fully internalized the old system during their many years of loyal service will inevitably yearn for the old familiar way of working in the beginning. And then, of course, there are those who feel that management is not “leading by example” – they are not leading well in change, or they are not communicating enough about what the actual end goals are.

In his more than two decades in business, Rogier Offerhaus has seen it all – and more. The founder of People Change, a management and cultural change consulting firm, is an expert in ensuring that the strategic goals of any change are in line with the management and culture agenda.

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One of the main reasons for this is that many leaders overestimate their people’s willingness to change – provided their “clear business case and objectives” will permeate the workplace, simply do not. This is partly due to the lack of coherence between the new digital transformation strategy and the existing organizational processes and culture.

“Managers are not in the workplace every day,” Offerhaus explains. “So they do not have enough insight into what is really going on at the grassroots level. What do people think about the current processes? Are today’s digital tools really that bad? ”

And when they design and roll out a digital transformation plan – and things go really wrong – “it’s often too late,” warns Offerhaus.

Measuring willingness to change

It is notoriously difficult to fix a digital transformation program. Unlike processes and systems, there are no quick fixes for humans. Offerhaus, who has encountered this problem time and time again throughout his career, came up with a new method a few years ago to measure cultural and change readiness.

“The key is to measure cultural readiness before change and then use that information to properly design change and orchestrate transformation in a way that meets people’s preferences for change.”

This is where People Change Scan comes into the picture, “a unique model that helps make the usually intangible aspects of organizational change and culture tangible”.

Through an online tool, employees answer a series of questions about the organization, corporate culture, views on change and more. There are also a number of personal questions – “if the answers always remain private – from and for everyone, including the management”, emphasizes Offerhaus.

“The scan not only provides insight into the existing culture, but also provides a picture of a desired culture and a possible path of change to get there.”

The depth and privacy of the scan enables People Change to identify four important factors: (1) the current culture of a team, (2) the extent to which employees feel at home in the culture, (3) the culture they would prefer. to work and (4) change preferences for transformation of the current culture into the desired culture.

This last point is perhaps the most important – and one that sets People Change Scan apart from other tools on the market. “The scan not only provides insight into the existing culture – how healthy the current culture is for everyone – but also provides a picture of a desired culture and a possible path of change to get there.”

Offerhaus explains how to reach these conclusions: “Crucial to all questions is that we do not look at the answers themselves – which is not even possible in some cases – but rather at the connections between the answers. Are there any discrepancies? Does a person’s mentality fit the culture? Can an employee deliver what is in demand? Of course, one answer or discrepancy does not say much, but when all the indicators are added together, a revealing picture emerges. ”

Reaching the next level of culture

However, receiving the results of the scan is far from over: they simply outline the starting point and an indication of the desired end point of the change. It is important that this creates a conversation about how that endpoint together is reached.

However, the way forward is not easy. Taking culture to the next healthy level is inherently much more complex than just rolling out a new software system. In this case, People Change Scan provides two valuable insights into the challenge that lies ahead of the organization.

First, there is the model, which describes a collective development of consciousness – including the cultural development of a team, department or organization – and which can be seen as going up a flight of stairs step by step. Second, the scan provides an assessment on an individual basis of which employees are best placed to lead the journey to the desired culture.

This is crucial in the case of a cultural journey in an organization – identifying employees who are sympathetic to the change can be the key to getting the rest on board.

“We only work with employees whose mentality is closely aligned with the desired culture, who want to change and who enjoy the trust of their colleagues,” explains Offerhaus. “Together, they form the first coalition for change, which can be seen as the germ of the new culture. They act as ambassadors for the new culture, so that it has the opportunity to anchor itself in the rest of the organization. ”

With this ‘coalition’ in place, change can happen team by team, department by department – “and that’s actually the only way forward, because in the end, culture is still something that needs to develop organically.” This process provides a kickstart to change, so that the traditionally infamous culture change also becomes possible.

“Companies do not have to be at the mercy of the culture that prevails at the moment,” says Offerhaus. “With the insights from our scan, we were able to quickly explain to the CEO what steps he needs to take to engage his employees properly and motivate them to become partners in change. Managers and employees build their next level of culture together, it must be a joint effort. “

And during the joint change effort, the temporary status is reassessed at regular intervals – People Change Scan is usually re-run every six months during the change process. “We will continue to support and coach leaders and teams based on insights from recent editions of the scan,” concludes Offerhaus.

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