The leaders of many traditional companies look forward to fast and innovative cultures, similar to digital startups. They crave and duplicate the cultures of large digital-born enterprises like Facebook, Amazon, and Google – which have used their customer obsession and innovativeness to become global tech leaders.
But, thinking more deeply, smart leaders tone down such expectations with reality. Rather than try to replicate the practices of digital-born companies, tech-leaders take essential steps to build a digital-ready culture. Beyond communicating broadly regarding their digital-ready values, leaders must ensure that employees genuinely internalize these values and make them part of their everyday operations.
Stress on the practices that set the differentiation benchmark
Cultivate habits of rapid experimentation and self-organization within the overall framework of data-driven decision-making. These practices seem to run counter to firms whose values, structures, and governance rules were implemented for cautious stability. Yet, these practices strongly drive self-reported innovation and growth. Moreover, firms can’t experiment smartly without measurable data to support.
Preserve practices promoting stability and integrity
The employees, regulators, customers, and shareholders deeply appreciate the qualities and practices that support them. They appreciate that companies are managing and tracking the stability and integrity of their employees – reporting innovative performance. But what is crucial is finding ways to achieve such goals without hindering the self-organizing experimentation that makes innovation possible.
That’s where the values of agility and openness, to work with people regardless of organizational location or title, and accountability, providing freedom within guidelines, can also help. And, firms should struggle to get rid of a rules orientation, where people rely on rules to prevent changes they don’t want to witness.
Reorient crucial practices that were optimized for the pre-digital world
The interconnectedness and speed of the digital world demands advanced approaches to customer satisfaction. If customers are asked what they want, they’re likely to get incremental and non-innovative.
Instead of asking customers about their needs, it’s better to focus on anticipating customer expectations and proactively experimenting to satisfy the customer. Demand the most relevant information on the unit and product performance, and manage and optimize it effectively. And change opaque and infrequent performance evaluations into ongoing attention to transparent performance metrics and goals.
CIOs play a critical role in making their firms digital-ready. Self-organizing, data-driven decision making, and rapid experimentation depend on having the correct information and tools available – especially in today’s pandemic-struck world of ubiquitous remote working.