Hack Your Culture for Successful Digital Transformation

Hack Your Culture for Successful Digital Transformation

By Rich McAvey, Research VP and Distinguished Analyst(Oil and Gas Research), Gartner, Inc. And Mary Mesaglio, Research VP & Distinguished Analyst CIO Research, Gartner, Inc

Rich McAvey, Research VP and Distinguished Analyst(Oil and Gas Research), Gartner, Inc.

Digital transformation means changing the conduct of business at scale. While the majority of oil and gas companies have embarked on such a journey, only a small percentage have yet to succeed in scaling digital transformation across the entire enterprise. Gartner’s research shows that CIOs identify culture as the principal factor inhibiting transformation within their companies.

CIOs in oil and gas organizations know they must do more to lead change, but how? In Gartner’s work with CIOs across other industries, we find that culture hacking is an effective complement to classic change management methodologies. In addition, the success of early experiments indicates that culture hacking is fundamental compatible with traditional oil and gas culture.

According to Gartner’s 2018 CIO Survey, 89 percent of oil and gas respondents reported to have a defined digital ambition, up three percent from 2017. Over the next few years, these companies are on a journey to bring their ambition to full scale. Gartner recommends that CIOs view this journey as a race and introduce the concept of “culture hacking” to move faster than their competition.

What is culture hacking?

The days of CIOs being solely responsible for IT service delivery are over. The CIO role is expanding to that of a general business executive who must drive business value in addition to managing IT. For many, leading change has already become as important as their traditional IT role. However, as we all know, change does not come easy especially in change-resistant culture.

Gartner defines culture as “the behaviors we do repeatedly because they work.” More formally, it’s the collection of beliefs, values and customs expressed in everyday activities. As the pace of change increases, and the scope of digital innovation intensifies, oil and gas CIOs will need new methods for changing culture that are simpler, leaner and faster. Culture hacking is an innovative approach that is effective at breaking innovation log jams by exploiting a single point where culture is vulnerable to change. Effective hacks have four essential qualities: • Emotional — they change mindsets by producing a visceral effect

• Immediate — they build momentum by producing results in a few hours or days

• Visible — they have high signaling power and cause many people to see that things are different now

• Low effort — They require few resources and little time, but often require great courage

By hacking their culture, CIOs can reduce confusion from competing efforts spawned in isolated organizational siloes, empower cross-functional teams to cut through red tape, and sustain the enthusiasm of key contributors whose jobs are impacted by change.

10 Guidelines to Create Effective Culture Hacking 

Mary Mesaglio, Research VP & Distinguished Analyst CIO Research, Gartner, Inc

1. Start immediately. Make it your responsibility to find hacks that are small, emotional, work quickly and produce big impacts. Design and implement at least one hack next week and note the results.

2. Link culture change to digital innovation. Say it out loud, allocate resources to it, and/or make it everyone’s job to look for solutions.

3. Be agile. Continuously clarify the change you seek — or risk a sort of cultural schizophrenia. One day, efficiency is the cultural goal, then innovation, then quality. Avoid this confusion by being clear about what you seek, culturally.

4. Think deeply but act lightly. Spend time examining the current culture, how it became that way, which parts work well and which areas would benefit from hacking. Then, narrow the scope. Do you want your culture to be more open? Agile? Autonomous? Innovative? Then design some low-effort hacks toward that goal.

5. Keep hacks small and instinctual. Build your hacks with the four essential qualities in mind: emotional, immediate, visible and low effort.

6. Look for hack opportunities where people spend time. Culture hacking can create change more efficiently than comprehensive transformation efforts, as hacks are designed to change “behaviors we do repeatedly” in a specific way. For example, how a meeting is conducted, how a project team is selected, how major decisions are made and how they’re communicated.

7. Focus on immediate results that also promote broader culture change. What will culture look like in five years? Ten? Use hacks that make progress toward that vision.

8. Design the hack to be self-sustaining. Create a hack that naturally reinforces the behaviors you seek, without your intervention. Designing sustainable hacks avoids one-offs that don’t achieve lasting change and minimize backsliding to old behaviors. The introduction of a new rule is a great way to create a self-sustaining hack.

9. Ensure that hacks complement conventional change management. Hacks are not for all situations. Avoid trying to hack big areas, such as overhauling all of enterprise architecture.

10. Have a plan in case the hack backfires. Create a mitigation plan in case of unintended consequences, and start with a small group to contain risk. Sometimes the hack might be initially painful but still very valuable, such as introducing 15-minute stand-ups across the IT department, for example. In this case, stay the course but allow for a short adjustment period while teams adapt to the new norm, and explain what you’re hacking toward.

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