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Digital Transformation : Understanding Organization Culture

In the last post, we discussed how culture is an important element of successful digital transformations. This means that we should stop looking at culture as a byproduct and instead start making it part of our digital transformation strategy.

There are a few frameworks that I have found useful in thinking about org culture but like the blind men trying to describe the elephant, these frameworks are individually limited. It is by using them together that we might be able to get somewhere. So that’s my attempt over the next few posts.

All models are wrong; some models are useful.

George Box

I. The Schneider Model

William Schneider, in his book The Re-engineering Alternative from 1999, talks about 4 organisation cultures.

The Control Culture

Talks about strict hierarchies, processes and controls and an authoritative style of management.

The Competence Culture

Is all about meritocracy. The way to win is to be the best.

The Collaboration Culture

Says that we win by “working together”. The idea here is for experts to work together to achieve difficult outcomes

The Cultivation Culture

The cultivation culture says that the way to achieve our vision is to help each other grow

We will get into the depth of each of these in another post but the thing to keep in mind is any organisation doesn’t have just one of these cultures. There are always elements of every culture in every organisation but there will be a dominant culture that will be at play in any group of people working together.

II. The Learning Organisation

Peter Senge in his very popular book The Fifth Discipline talks about building a learning organisation by encouraging:

  1. Personal Mastery
  2. Team Learning
  3. Mental Models
  4. Shared Vision &
  5. Systems Thinking

In the long run; the only sustainable source of competitive edge is your organisation’s ability to learn faster than your competitors

Peter M. Senge

III. Cynefin Framework

A couple of years ago, I came across the Cynefin (pronounced : kuh-NEV-in) framework by Dave Snowden as a device to understand complex systems. Dave stresses that this is not a classification framework but a sense-making framework. This in my view is one of the best techniques I’ve used to understand what I’m dealing with and figure out a strategy that works.

So… what now?

These 3 frameworks lay the foundations of how we can think about organisation culture for digital organisations. Over the next few posts, we will delve deeper into each of the frameworks to understand them well and then bring together elements from each of the frameworks to build our model of the culture we should aim for.

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