What do successful digital transformation and business culture projects have in common? Extreme ownership

Extreme ownership by everyone is essential for success in terms of both Digital Transformation and a true culture of Belonging.

There are two items to prioritise for most businesses in 2021.  The pandemic has given added importance to both.

  • Digital transformation, in light of the fact that excellent delivery of goods and services via digital is obviously a game changer for every business in lockdown.
  • Belonging, because having a better and kinder culture in every workplace, while always important for the well-being of employees, is even more crucial when we are working remotely (and will continue to be as we reinvent the office for blended working).

They might seem very different issues, but there is one significant differentiator to the success or failure of them both across business.  This is that everyone needs to take ownership, not just specialist teams.

Let’s start with Digital Transformation.  Ashley Friedlein, founder and president of Econsultancy, comments that business must “Double-down on Digital Transformation.  He goes on “Digital transformation is a mega trend that I’ve covered previously.. whilst far from new, the Coronavirus pandemic has given the need for digital transformation a new urgency, that for many businesses, is existential.”

Ashely and I have the shared experience of being part of the Government Digital Advisory Board when GDS (Government Digital Service who created and run gov.uk) was run by Mike Bracken and many of the team who now work at Public Digital helping government around the world with digital transformation.  His book “Digital Transformation at scale: why the strategy is delivery” written with Tom Loosemore, Ben Terrett and Andrew Greenway, is endorsed by Malcolm Turnbull who points out that dealing with government online “should be as easy as ordering from Amazon”.  That’s not a bad benchmark for every digital interaction that we have at work.  Is every digital interaction by you, your employees and your clients and customers that easy, user friendly and instinctive?

One of the key issues described in the book in achieving this is the problem of leaders who don’t think that this is their job and are unconcerned with the impact of technology on everything that they do.  “They set a cultural expectation that tech is no more than a question of plumbing… that can be ignored while the ‘grown-ups’ deal with the real strategic issues.”   Of course, the impact of tech on everything is the real strategic issue.   Businesses need a great CDO to lead.  But silo-ing the impact of tech on everything to that CDO only and their department can be severely limiting.  Instead every leader in the organisation needs responsibility and vision for digital transformation.

The same is absolutely true of the other top agenda item Belonging.  Culture is the beginning and end of best practice in business.

With a culture of Belonging you will retain great people

With a culture of Belonging you will reap the benefits of diversity

With a culture of Belonging you will recruit people who will make your culture even better

Belonging doesn’t just happen however – it needs work and leadership from the top, but also from every seat, particularly during lockdown, with remote working, and when blended working becomes the norm.

A great head of diversity and inclusion, or a brilliant chief people officer is useful and essential.  But silo-ing the effort of creating a culture and behaviours of Belonging to them and their department is severely limiting.  Every leader in the organisation needs responsibility and vision in this respect.  And in respect of a culture of Belonging there is a leader in every seat in the organisation.

Specialist leads have their crucial value, but to achieve true transformation you need everyone to take extreme ownership responsibility for change.







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