People and processesChange ManagementCulture eats transformation for breakfast: Part II – why leadership, ownership and language are crucial to digital success

Culture eats transformation for breakfast: Part II – why leadership, ownership and language are crucial to digital success

For two decades, Agilisys has helped public sector organisations re-imagine their future and strive for positive change. In the second piece in a three-part series, Caroline Gray, Principal Consultant – Business Change, explores why leadership, ownership and use of language are crucial cultural levers for successful digital transformation

Transformation is no longer a choice for the public sector. Citizen expectations are continually rising and, to keep pace, it’s imperative to embrace digital change.

Yet, when organisations try to realise their vision for the future they may start to notice things. A subtle eye roll here, a shrug of the shoulders there, a quiet sigh from the back of the room—all of these are signs that the current culture will hinder, or even derail, long-term transformation.

Compared to business as usual, digital transformation requires a fundamentally different approach. Strict time limits, cost sensitivities and a hard deadline for completion mean that success demands a culture of clear accountability, ownership and ‘can-do’ thinking. Cynicism about transformation can undermine efforts to change before they even get off the ground.

So, what is culture and how can you evaluate it? Think of it as what people say and do on a daily basis. What kind of habits are encouraged in the organisation? Is unhelpful behaviour challenged by colleagues and leaders? Are employees curious and ready to try new things? Do people actively collaborate across teams?

To enable successful transformation, it’s essential to embed the right culture. The wrong kind of culture will steadily eat away at transformation goals. It will slow down decision-making, it will mean important deadlines are missed, it will stifle innovation and prevent effective collaboration.

The solution lies in understanding what holds an organisation together and the pathways to change.

Our experience across the public sector has shown that there are three crucial areas to examine that can also act as levers to drive culture change: leadership, ownership and use of language:

Culture eats transformation for breakfast two

No matter where an organisation lies on this spectrum, it is possible to develop a culture that will help that organisation to deliver the future it wants to create.

The first step is to discover more. Start by identifying those people critical to leading successful change and ensure they’re fully on board. Remember to identify informal leaders too; the so-called ‘change-makers’ and key influencers.

Ensure these ‘change-makers’ are fully aware of the role they can play in embedding the right culture and proactively driving transformation: leading by example, instilling a sense of ownership and creating positivity and pace.

Of course, successful transformation doesn’t just depend on project leaders or the most influential staff. Change needs to be led from the top, but then cascaded down to everyone else in the organisation.

Remember that when it comes to culture change, people ‘act’ their way into new ways of thinking. Encourage involvement by showing the benefits of change, highlighting positive feedback and being as interactive as possible. Behaviour assessments, workshops, fresh communication strategies and new working practices—all these tactics and more can help create the right cultural conditions for success.

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