GUEST POST from Geoffrey A. Moore
A quote you often hear is, “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” typically attributed to Peter Drucker (whether correctly or not). Regardless, it puts a spotlight on the power of culture to resist even the most compelling strategic narratives. These days it’s hard to come up with a more compelling narrative than digital transformation. But it can definitely find itself at odds with culture, so what chance could it possibly have?
In my work with successful companies, two cultures show up over and over again. One is a competition culture, where teams get up every morning driven to be the best. The other is a collaboration culture, where teams strive to be the best for others. Both cultures can create great companies, and, if you play your cards right, each can be enlisted as an ally of change. You just have to get it aligned properly.
To do so, you need to use your culture to focus people on a driving force of change that is outside of your company:
- In the case of a competition culture, this would be a competitor using disruptive technology to steal your market share. Think Google for Microsoft, Lyft for Uber, Nvidia for Intel, or Arista for Cisco. Transform or they win! That’s the sort of thing that galvanizes change in a competition culture.
- In the case of a collaboration culture, the driving force is fear of letting your customer down as the world shifts to a new platform. Think of Salesforce championing machine learning, Docusign championing systems of agreement, or Proofpoint championing people-centric security. These are changes that could put your customers’ franchises at risk. No customer left behind! That’s the battle cry that brings a collaboration culture to attention.
The key point here is that, regardless of whether you have a competition or a collaboration culture, the force for change must be external, not internal. Either culture, internally focused, simply will not transform. Instead, everyone will spend all their time listening to radio station WIIFM—What’s in it for me? And what they will learn is that there are not a lot of good songs playing. Transformation requires sacrifice. We are going to have to step back before we step forward.
People are willing to sacrifice for the right cause outside the company, but not inside. So, when you are leading a transformation, be sure to keep people’s attention focused on a North Star that transcends their individual issues, not on the career compass they are holding in their hand.
That’s what I think. What do you think?
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