Ready for Digital? Digital Transformation and Corporate Culture

How important corporate culture is in digital transformation

Corporate culture is one aspect of digital transformation. Companies must adapt in many ways and also implement this in their employees and the way they interact on a daily basis.

Some companies in the midmarket environment are proceeding with little consistency when it comes to digital transformation. Yet digitization is not a passing trend. It is taking place – with or without the German SME sector. It goes without saying that medium-sized companies are working on digitizing and automating processes. However, digitization should not only be used to optimize existing processes, but rather to question them. In this way, new business models can be identified, new sales channels defined and new customer segments addressed. The success of the digital transformation is crucial for the success of medium-sized companies.

Necessity demands courage

Medium-sized companies must face the risk today. They must shape the future without jeopardizing their current business. An important prerequisite for this is to recognize the topic as such in the first place and to address it clearly. The workforce must feel a “sense of urgency” and recognize that things cannot continue without change. In addition, employees must be willing to embrace change – and this is often the greater challenge that management tends to underestimate.

Digitization not with a crowbar

Digitization means speed, but management should not approach transformation with a crowbar. It must start one step earlier: with the corporate culture. Why are startups able to adapt to change quickly and grown, medium-sized companies not? Is the only difference that employees of start-ups are younger and “hungrier”? Start-ups often face the same problems as mid-sized companies: exactly when they have grown so large that structured processes become necessary.

Change must be worthwhile

Management must drive the culture change and make the change palatable to employees. They must ensure that sufficient resources are available, that transparency is created and that clear goals are set. Ultimately, all employees must see added value in the change and be enabled to go along with it. Not everyone will immediately become a driver of change, but at least they should not be the blocker.
Management leads by example

Who do the employees trust if not the management? A change in thinking must take place, especially at the top level. Medium-sized companies are often still characterized by a hierarchical management style. However, the digital transformation requires autonomous employees and a cooperative management style. This can only be achieved by setting a positive example. Trust instead of control must enter the boardroom. This gives employees the confidence that they can initiate change. In addition to being allowed to do so, should (formal mechanisms), will (conviction) and ability (skills) also play an important role. For example, the book “Kulturwandel in Unternehmen” (Cultural Change in Companies) provides a current and very good overview of the need not to underestimate the topic of change.

No digital transformation without active change management

I have been involved in a number of digital projects that have failed. In almost all cases, it was not due to the selected system or the defined processes. Users were not waiting for new systems, innovations and improved processes. But they would probably accept an improvement or simplification of the result. Convincing the colleagues involved of the need for change (want to), equipping them with the necessary skills (can), creating the environment (should) and living the change (may) will become the most important task for management – if the digital transformation is to be successful.

    Nach beruflichen Stationen in großen internationalen Konzernen ist er im Mittelstand angekommen. Als Leiter Marketing & PR verantwortet er die gesamte Unternehmenskommunikation weltweit. Derzeit beschäftigt er sich mit dem Zusammenhang von Unternehmenskultur und digitaler Transformation und versucht, ein Reifegradmodell hierfür zu entwickeln.

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