I’m curious, you are a year or so into this digital transformation/culture change initiative… how’s it going?
Here’s a line of questioning you can use to check on the awareness, urgency, and the alignment of the executive team involved in both the big “T” and little “t” imperatives:
1- Goals. What is the business reason/goal for this transformation? What are the key metrics used to measure degrees of success in the execution of this transformation?
2- Progress. How’s it going? What are you most excited about? What are you most concerned about? How are you feeling about the transformation? Where are you now, compared to your baseline measures?
3- Consequences. What are the business consequences of not transforming successfully? On a scale of 1 to 10, how important/urgent is this? What if you don’t intervene and people just do (think, relate, act) as they have been doing to date? Specifically, if you don’t shift the culture, what is the impact on the two business units that generate the highest revenue/margin?
4- Ideal State. Do the executives who make up the leadership team have clarity about the ideal culture (vision) you are transforming to? Imagine if you woke up a year from now and found that the vision has come true and your goals have been accomplished. What does that look like? When culture change has taken hold, it makes it a lot easier and more likely to achieve your industry-leading/pioneering performance-level goals. How can you tell? What is different? What are some key habits and areas of mastery that you are excited about? What are people inside and outside your company saying about it?
5- Current State. Compared to this ideal, what is missing in the current situation? Do these executives have clarity about the current culture and where you are now? Do you have individual and collective diagnostic tools? From your perspective, how do people need to perform differently in the next X years in order to transform?
6- Culture Plan. Do the executives agree on the gap to close? Do they agree on the plan, priority, and sequence to close it? What have you done already? What is keeping you from closing the gap and shifting to the ideal culture? What are the identified blockers/obstacles?
7- Personal Impact. Why did you raise your hand for this? What matters the most to you? Why? What happens to you if you don’t accomplish the vision? Will you get fired? Will you be disappointed and want to quit?
8- Understanding. Does the leadership team have clarity, shared language, and understanding about how culture evolves and the impact of history on the current state? Have they identified causal factors (e.g., systems, structures) that are part of the work climate? Do they understand how they reinforce and shape the current culture and what may be levers for change in improvement plans?
9- Shared Learning. How well does the leadership team embody the ideal cultural attributes? How are they being supported? Are they first going to create a shared learning environment for both the technical and human dimensions of change?
10- Organizational Impact. How many people in the organization, beyond the leadership team, are being impacted by the transformation?
In addition to questions like these, leaders need a reliable, MRI level of detailed visibility into the invisible components of culture (and a simple model) to understand and discuss where you are currently as a culture — and where you want to be in the near future. You need to see clearly where you have anomalies of ideal culture success and current culture gaps. To have an effective culture strategy, you can’t afford to use anecdotes or guess about the gap to be closed. Culture isn’t declarative; it’s interrogative.
CXO, you got this.