Culture, Like Technology, Is Changing at a Breakneck Pace

If you thought your company culture was good or bad or a static thing within the organization, well, guess again.

“It’s the way things are done around here.” That’s how Kathryn Brett Goldman defines culture.

What does that mean? Goldman, who is the managing director and founder of KBG Solutions, an advisory service focusing on "The Softer Side of IT," says there are both implicit and explicit aspects to an organization’s culture. The explicit aspects of a culture include things like the mission and values, things that can be measured. The implicit parts of an organization’s culture fly under the radar. “They are the not documented ways of working,” says Goldman.

For example, an executive leaving a door open as a signal that it’s okay to come in, or the unspoken process of raising a ticket with IT before you walk over with your issue.

“It’s the thing that new employees trip up on all the time,” says Goldman.

There’s a lot that goes into an organization's culture, and there’s often no all-encompassing employee handbook on it.

New technology has always impacted the pace at which we do work, as well as company culture.

While it was once acceptable to knock on an executive’s door, now there are no doors because the office is in an open layout. While it was once commonplace to call someone directly if you had a question, now it’s more polite to send an IM or email first to check that person’s availability.

In 2018, we’re looking at a breakneck speed of innovation with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and the service-oriented business model that not only impact how we work, but why we work, and where we work. Also, maybe, if we work.

The ‘way things are done around here’ is constantly changing.

As innovation changes the tools that we use to work, organizations must also change the way they work, but some of those changes will be easier to adopt than others.  

While your organization may gently glide from “meet me in the conference room,” to “meet me on Skype,” learning to become agile may feel more like a crash landing.

“You may have built up a way of doing things that have been fine up until you want it to be an innovative culture,” says Goldman. “Innovative culture requires risk-taking and an overall attitude that failure is actually learning,” in other words, an agile and empirical approach to tasks that includes hypothesizing and A/B testing.  

Embracing a new culture or trying to move from risk-averse to innovative is big, and a harder step for larger, more naturally risk-averse organizations such as those operating in the financial industry and healthcare.

For those companies that are wary of taking chances, Goldman suggests experimenting at the edge of the business, where a mistake will have a minimal impact. “There’s always places to be agile and innovative, you just have to know where it is most appropriate.”


Image: Kathryn Brett Goldman

But don’t expect the solution to be all about your organization and its culture. While Goldman says that the first step for project managers or anyone about to roll out a new feature or deliver a new product is to identify your team’s culture, she also says that it’s also vitally important to understand your customers. “[Ask yourself]: What are the values of the project and then align them with the people you’re rolling this out to.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how culture can be leveraged to implement sustained, positive change, or would like to find (free!) tools to determine what kind of culture you’re working with at the team, IT or organizational level, then check out Goldman’s presentation, Need to Change? Harness Your Culture!, taking place at Interop ITX, April 30-May 4.

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