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6 Steps To Transform Your Company Culture

Joel Pitney

Company culture can’t be rigid and unwilling to adapt, or the company will fail. An outstanding company culture requires outstanding leadership, and changing the company culture requires leaders who recognize the real need for change and who aren’t afraid of it. Outstanding leadership demonstrates maturity, conviction, diligence, focus, optimism, and the ability to handle uncertainty.

Leaders are able and willing to make positive changes to corporate culture to evolve with the times.

Immature leadership, in contrast, does not bode well for strong corporate culture. Lack of leadership skills, illegal or unethical behavior, or character flaws are common to immature or ineffective leaders. Character and honor are difficult or even impossible to recover once compromised, and the executive leader can fall from grace from a particularly dangerous height.

Assuming your company has strong, mature leadership, transforming your company’s culture requires six critical steps:

1. Visualizing success

To transform your company culture, you must be able to visualize in detail what the improved company culture will look and feel like. What desired behaviors will produce which positive changes?

2. Shooting for a greater pleasure-to-pain ratio

The new, positive behaviors associated with your transformed corporate culture should be connected in your mind with having a greater pleasure-to-pain ratio than the behaviors associated with your organization’s past.

3. Remaining positive

Optimism doesn’t have to be unrealistic to be relentless. The strong leader who can effect strong cultural change cultivates positive thinking and optimism. That doesn’t mean denial of problems, but rather confidence in the ability to deal with them.

4. Actually taking steps

There’s definitely a role for planning and defining in the cultural transformation process, but at some point you need to start taking those first steps. In physics, momentum is mass times velocity, and no matter how much of one you have, if you don’t have the other, you have nothing.

5. Recognizing and dealing with obstacles

Strong leaders must be open to feedback so that they can get a comprehensive view of what is going on in the company culture. This information should partly be used to identify roadblocks that impede progress so they can be surpassed with skill.

Strong leadership means being realistic and identifying potential problems.

6. Embracing desire to improve

Leaders, along with key employees, managers, and others, must be able to understand and show humility and the desire to improve. This may involve the (sometimes tough) steps of asking for help and seeking feedback, and then paying attention, even if it’s painful at times.

The decision to be vulnerable

We learn from mistakes, even while we regret making them. Ensuring that mistakes don’t happen again is the key to your organization improving and evolving. It’s not easy to look in the mirror and examine our contributions to failures, but introspection is the first step toward learning from mistakes and strengthening bonds between leaders and teams.

Push the talent levers to increase cultural value

What is your company’s cultural value proposition? Pushing the so-called talent levers in your organization helps ensure a thriving future. Here’s how:

  • Differentiating compensation and rewards accurately and fairly at all levels
  • Diligently measuring competencies at all levels, including future employees
  • Creating a learning environment with resources, tools and support that enable each individual to excel and contribute to the excellence of the overall organization
  • Carefully selecting and promoting leaders and future leaders who have the qualities necessary to create the corporate culture we want to have

Company culture isn’t static

Corporate culture can’t be static and unyielding, because the world isn’t static and unyielding. But neither can transforming corporate culture be haphazard. Having a strong, thriving company culture requires leaders with strong character, and with optimism for what they do. They’re willing to monitor feedback, learn continually, and adjust course as necessary. The seas of business are constantly shifting and are sometimes stormy. But the best leaders steer their corporate culture with wisdom and attention to prevailing conditions so goals are arrived at with the satisfaction of work well done.

As Abraham Lincoln said to Congress in 1862, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.” That is something true leaders of thriving corporate cultures understand and practice.

For more insight on building a positive work environment, see Think Like A Workplace Futurist.

The post 6 Steps to Transform Your Company Culture appeared first on Switch & Shift.

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How To Design Your Company’s Digital Transformation

Sam Yen

The September issue of the Harvard Business Review features a cover story on design thinking’s coming of age. We have been applying design thinking within SAP for the past 10 years, and I’ve witnessed the growth of this human-centered approach to innovation first hand.

Design thinking is, as the HBR piece points out, “the best tool we have for … developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.”

This means businesses are doing more to learn about their customers by interacting directly with them. We’re seeing this change in our work on d.forum — a community of design thinking champions and “disruptors” from across industries.

Meanwhile, technology is making it possible to know exponentially more about a customer. Businesses can now make increasingly accurate predictions about customers’ needs well into the future. The businesses best able to access and pull insights from this growing volume of data will win. That requires a fundamental change for our own industry; it necessitates a digital transformation.

So, how do we design this digital transformation?

It starts with the customer and an application of design thinking throughout an organization – blending business, technology and human values to generate innovation. Business is already incorporating design thinking, as the HBR cover story shows. We in technology need to do the same.

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Design thinking plays an important role because it helps articulate what the end customer’s experience is going to be like. It helps focus all aspects of the business on understanding and articulating that future experience.

Once an organization is able to do that, the insights from that consumer experience need to be drawn down into the business, with the central question becoming: What does this future customer experience mean for us as an organization? What barriers do we need to remove? Do we need to organize ourselves differently? Does our process need to change – if it does, how? What kind of new technology do we need?

Then an organization must look carefully at roles within itself. What does this knowledge of the end customer’s future experience mean for an individual in human resources, for example, or finance? Those roles can then be viewed as end experiences unto themselves, with organizations applying design thinking to learn about the needs inherent to those roles. They can then change roles to better meet the end customer’s future needs. This end customer-centered approach is what drives change.

This also means design thinking is more important than ever for IT organizations.

We, in the IT industry, have been charged with being responsive to business, using technology to solve the problems business presents. Unfortunately, business sometimes views IT as the organization keeping the lights on. If we make the analogy of a store: business is responsible for the front office, focused on growing the business where consumers directly interact with products and marketing; while the perception is that IT focuses on the back office, keeping servers running and the distribution system humming. The key is to have business and IT align to meet the needs of the front office together.

Remember what I said about the growing availability of consumer data? The business best able to access and learn from that data will win. Those of us in IT organizations have the technology to make that win possible, but the way we are seen and our very nature needs to change if we want to remain relevant to business and participate in crafting the winning strategy.

We need to become more front office and less back office, proving to business that we are innovation partners in technology.

This means, in order to communicate with businesses today, we need to take a design thinking approach. We in IT need to show we have an understanding of the end consumer’s needs and experience, and we must align that knowledge and understanding with technological solutions. When this works — when the front office and back office come together in this way — it can lead to solutions that a company could otherwise never have realized.

There’s different qualities, of course, between front office and back office requirements. The back office is the foundation of a company and requires robustness, stability, and reliability. The front office, on the other hand, moves much more quickly. It is always changing with new product offerings and marketing campaigns. Technology must also show agility, flexibility, and speed. The business needs both functions to survive. This is a challenge for IT organizations, but it is not an impossible shift for us to make.

Here’s the breakdown of our challenge.

1. We need to better understand the real needs of the business.

This means learning more about the experience and needs of the end customer and then translating that information into technological solutions.

2. We need to be involved in more of the strategic discussions of the business.

Use the regular invitations to meetings with business as an opportunity to surface the deeper learning about the end consumer and the technology solutions that business may otherwise not know to ask for or how to implement.

The IT industry overall may not have a track record of operating in this way, but if we are not involved in the strategic direction of companies and shedding light on the future path, we risk not being considered innovation partners for the business.

We must collaborate with business, understand the strategic direction and highlight the technical challenges and opportunities. When we do, IT will become a hybrid organization – able to maintain the back office while capitalizing on the front office’s growing technical needs. We will highlight solutions that business could otherwise have missed, ushering in a digital transformation.

Digital transformation goes beyond just technology; it requires a mindset. See What It Really Means To Be A Digital Organization.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image via Shutterstock

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Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.

How Productive Could You Be With 45 Minutes More Per Day?

Michael Rander

Chances are that you are already feeling your fair share of organizational complexity when navigating your current company, but have you ever considered just how much time is spent across all companies on managing complexity? According to a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the global impact of complexity is mind-blowing – and not in a good way.

The study revealed that 38% of respondents spent 16%-25% of their time just dealing with organizational complexity, and 17% spent a staggering 26%-50% of their time doing so. To put that into more concrete numbers, in the US alone, if executives could cut their time spent managing complexity in half, an estimated 8.6 million hours could be saved a week. That corresponds to 45 minutes per executive per day.

The potential productivity impact of every executive having 45 minutes more to work every single day is clearly significant, and considering that 55% say that their organization is either very or extremely complex, why are we then not making the reduction of complexity one or our top of mind issues?

The problem is that identifying the sources of complexity is complex in of itself. Key sources of complexity include organizational size, executive priorities, pace of innovation, decision-making processes, vastly increasing amounts of data to manage, organizational structures, and the pure culture of the company. As a consequence, answers are not universal by any means.

That being said, the negative productivity impact of complexity, regardless of the specific source, is felt similarly across a very large segment of the respondents, with 55% stating that complexity has taken a direct toll on profitability over the past three years.  This is such a serious problem that 8% of respondents actually slowed down their company growth in order to deal with complexity.

So, if complexity oftentimes impacts productivity and subsequently profitability, what are some of the more successful initiatives that companies are taking to combat these effects? Among the answers from the EIU survey, the following were highlighted among the most likely initiatives to reduce complexity and ultimately increase productivity:

  • Making it a company-wide goal to reduce complexity means that the executive level has to live and breathe simplification in order for the rest of the organization to get behind it. Changing behaviors across the organization requires strong leadership, commitment, and change management, and these initiatives ultimately lead to improved decision-making processes, which was reported by respondents as the top benefit of reducing complexity. From a leadership perspective this also requires setting appropriate metrics for measuring outcomes, and for metrics, productivity and efficiency were by far the most popular choices amongst respondents though strangely collaboration related metrics where not ranking high in spite of collaboration being a high level priority.
  • Promoting a culture of collaboration means enabling employees and management alike to collaborate not only within their teams but also across the organization, with partners, and with customers. Creating cross-functional roles to facilitate collaboration was cited by 56% as the most helpful strategy in achieving this goal.
  • More than half (54%) of respondents found the implementation of new technology and tools to be a successful step towards reducing complexity and improving productivity. Enabling collaboration, reducing information overload, building scenarios and prognoses, and enabling real-time decision-making are all key issues that technology can help to reduce complexity at all levels of the organization.

While these initiatives won’t help everyone, it is interesting to see that more than half of companies believe that if they could cut complexity in half they could be at least 11%-25% more productive. That nearly one in five respondents indicated that they could be 26%-50% more productive is a massive improvement.

The question then becomes whether we can make complexity and its impact on productivity not only more visible as a key issue for companies to address, but (even more importantly) also something that every company and every employee should be actively working to reduce. The potential productivity gains listed by respondents certainly provide food for thought, and few other corporate activities are likely to gain that level of ROI.

Just imagine having 45 minutes each and every day for actively pursuing new projects, getting innovative, collaborating, mentoring, learning, reducing stress, etc. What would you do? The vision is certainly compelling, and the question is are we as companies, leaders, and employees going to do something about it?

To read more about the EIU study, please see:

Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @michaelrander

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About Michael Rander

Michael Rander is the Global Program Director for Future Of Work at SAP. He is an experienced project manager, strategic and competitive market researcher, operations manager as well as an avid photographer, athlete, traveler and entrepreneur.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

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qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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Internet Of Things: Where Is All The Data Going?

Tim Clark

The Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer happening in a galaxy far, far away. It’s happening right here, right now. It may be in your pocket, on your wrist, in your clothes – heck, it might even be helping you drive your car.

In fact, IoT is moving so fast, we’re actually on the third wave, according to a panel of experts who weighed in on the topic during a recent episode of Internet of Things with Game-Changers, presented by SAP.

However, a nagging questions arises when it comes to this third IoT wave: What’s going to happen to all the data that’s being collected?

Coping with IoT reality

Gray Scott, futurist and founder/CEO of seriouswonder.com believes serious questions remain around IoT data collection because technology is moving faster than we can cope with.

“The main thing I’m concerned with right now, is getting people to understand that the Internet of Things is already in their lives,” said Scott. “So if you look around your house, either your television, refrigerator, or some of your appliances – they are probably already connected.”

And because IoT is now permeating our everyday lives, it must provide tangible results to consumers and businesses, according to JR Fuller of HP Enterprises.

“It can’t just take our data and subject us to additional advertising, which is one of the ways that it pays for itself,” said Fuller. “It has to provide something to us. It has to provide convenience.”

Evangelizing IoT convenience

The conveniences of IoT, such as a refrigerator that breaks down and automatically alerts the manufacturer to send a repairman, needs to be evangelized during this critical time, said Ira Berk, Vice President of Digital Transformation Solutions, SAP. Making proper use of the massive amounts of data IoT generates also plays a critical role in evangelizing its benefits.

“Think about what happens when you start to mix and match different sources of information,” said Berk. “You start to understand the data behind the world around you. In your house, car, environment, earth, public transportation, smart cities and factories. What questions can you ask that you wouldn’t even imagine being able to ask before, because you can start to synthesize the information?”

Gray Scott believes synthesizing different data sources “is a continuum of everything,” a great example being traffic in urban areas. Apps like Waze and Google Maps help drivers circumvent traffic.

“It’s a physical thing that can grab a hold of data and literally rearrange our lives by changing the direction you take your car in,” said Scott. “This continuum is going to keep building on itself as we move forward into the future.”

Living in a post-privacy world

While the general populace may not want to admit it, we are living in a post-privacy world. Anything put online is made public and everything that can be hacked, will. The question is what do we do with all of that data? Can we rise to a higher state of humanity and not just use data for advertising purposes, but to make our lives more convenient?

“I think we don’t mind giving up some of our personal information if it benefits us,” said JR Fuller. “It makes for a very interesting time, especially companies that can add value to bridge the gap and help enterprises achieve the benefit that we know are possible with IoT.”

Internet of Things with Game-Changers, presented by SAP, is hosted by Bonnie D. Graham. Listen to this broadcast in its entirety here.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image: Shutterstock

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About Tim Clark

Tim Clark is the Head of Brand Journalism at SAP. He is responsible for evangelizing and implementing writing best practices that generate results across blog channels, integrated marketing plans and native advertising efforts.