Your digital transformation is also a cultural transformation

12 December 2019
author picture Article written by Morten Kamp Andersen

Today, most organisations are working with some type of digital transformation. Some are trying to improve collaboration (ex. Office365), work more effectively with customer data (ex. or to digitalise the customer journey (ex. custom customer-centric solutions). What all the digital transformations have in common are that they will only succeed if you also work with your organisational culture.

Studies supports this intuition

Culture’s essential role in the success of digital transformations are not new. On the contrary, it is well-recognised. McKinsey have concluded that “[…] our clients tell us that the main bottleneck in digital transformations is the lack of a strong and common culture.” And not surprisingly, the question “Which are the most significant challenges to meeting digital priorities?” the answer with far the most responses were “Cultural and behavioural challenges”.

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) have stated that “[…] like any major transformation, a digital transformation requires instilling a culture that supports the change.”. Based on their research, they made the graph displayed below, which clearly shows that working with your culture is essential for reaping the benefits of a digital transformation.


So, a digital organisation requires a digital culture. And many organisations experience, that a digital culture is quite different from an analogue one. The transformation impacts work patterns, hierarchy, communication style, cultural markers, information flow, speed, performance and much more. In fact, for many the culture will turn upside down.

Managing Culture

So, working with culture is essential. The first question following that statement is usually something like: “But how do we work with culture?”. And yes, changing culture is not easy and many steers away from even attempting to modify it for that exact reason.

However, having the right tools will get you a very long way. Why? Because to manage and change a culture, you must first operationalise it. Or in other words: find a way to measure it. There are different tools available for mapping your organisational culture, but our favourite is proCulture©. It maps cultural traits, which then can be used to manage the culture within the context of a digital transformation.

proCulture© maps an organisational culture on six dimensions, 12 sub-categories and 36 aspects. The mapping itself does not change the culture, but it does provide a starting point for conceptualising it and thereby knowing what to do to manage it.

Sounds easy? Choosing the right approach and tool is the easy part. Changing your culture is possible but much harder.

Changing Culture

Organisations approach cultural change differently and with good reason; the approach should match how the organisation operates. There is no evidence to suggest that one method is better than others, but five elements are critical for the success of changing the culture in an organisation.

The five critical elements are:

  1. Executive ownership. Executives do not dictate or shape the culture on their own, but they need to own and drive the effort to change it. Otherwise, it will not happen.
  2. Align strategy and organisational culture. If there is a misalignment between strategy and culture, the culture will prevail
  3. Change the stories and walk-the-talk. The informal processes are equally as important as the formal ones. An important cultural aspect is the stories we tell. Change the stories, change the culture.
  4. Prioritise a few critical values and behaviours. Focus on a few critical behaviours, which you believe is vital to get right.
  5. Monitor the progress and identify KPIs for success. Culture can be measured and analysed.

It is said that the success of a digital transformation can affect the very survival of a company. If the stakes are that high, it is even more critical to get the culture right. Because a digital transformation is also a cultural transformation.

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