You probably have heard the quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This couldn’t be truer now than when business management guru Peter Drucker stated it over 60 years ago.

During our current age of digital transformation, culture is eating well. Many companies are just beginning to realize the impending digital wave that is about to crash down on them. If not, it’s time to get your head out of the sand. You don’t want to suffer the same fate as Nokia. After the sale of Nokia to Microsoft, Stephen Elop, the former CEO stated, “We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow we lost.” Nokia was so focused on running their business the way they thought was right that they didn’t fully realize how fast the world was changing around them. Their refusal to change and learn, led to their demise. They, like a lot of companies, became victims of their own success.

Companies have been focusing on squeezing all they can out of their operations. This may have made for efficient operations and helped realize short-term gains, but it was often at the expense of the customer. At the same time, new digital companies focused on delivering a positive customer experience have been more than happy to come along and give your customers what they are looking for.

Now let’s assume you realize the need for change and you have developed a digital strategy to transform your company, but you fear your culture might be getting ready for a feast. You would be right to worry, as you will have many obstacles to overcome during your transformation. People are paid to do a job, not change it, so resistance is only natural. So how do you change your culture and lead the charge?

There is only one thing you must do right. Do this one thing right and everything else will fall into place. That one thing is to hire and retain the right people. People are the biggest driver of growth, product differentiation, and profitability. Cloning a product takes no time, but cloning a team or organization takes all the time in the world. The organization is the greatest innovation; people working together toward a common goal can accomplish amazing things. And that is the key - a common goal - or better yet, your vision.

Vision matters. Often, little to no importance is given to vision, but a compelling vision is the key to not only a successful transformation, but a successful company. Hopefully yours isn’t an impersonal, meaningless, run-on sentence of a vision to which no one in your organization pays attention. Or worse, you have a vision to control costs, expand the market and become a profitable company for your shareholders. What you need is a vision to help drive the organization, your employees and your success.

In his book on leadership, Think Out of the Box, Mike Vance tells the story of a determined journalist who got into Walt Disney’s hospital room for an interview the night before Walt died. Mr. Disney was so ill that he could not sit up or speak above a whisper, so he invited the reporter to come close. For 30 minutes, the reporter lay in bed next to Mr. Disney, who pointed to an imaginary map of the famous theme park on the ceiling while he described his vision for the Magic Kingdom. After the completion of Walt Disney World six years later, someone said, “Isn’t it too bad that Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” Mike Vance replied, “He did see it. That’s why it’s here.”

Your vision is your north star. Your vision will give employees an idea how their jobs and skills will fit in the new world, and how they might play a role in the future. Having a well-defined vision will energize employees and give them purpose and reason to do more than just show up to work every day.

Make sure everyone knows the vision and the desired end state. Be sure your board and senior executives support you, and believe the company’s future depends on achieving the vision. You don’t want anyone to wonder “Why are we doing this?” If people are wondering why, change will be difficult. If someone asks why, explain the vision and how their work contributes to the vision. We are doing this to make life better for our customers, our employees and the company, not because (the vision was) old and we need to replace it.

People rally around a common mission, not around just showing up to work to do some meaningless tasks. People want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves, something they can get excited about, something that keeps them coming to work every day.

Remember, we lead people, not projects.

The success of your business will ultimately be determined by how well your market insight, leadership team and digital transformation come together to realize your vision. As you decide on a digital business partner, it’s important to select one that has the forethought to enable you to implement not just today’s projects, but also to help you plan and execute for the future.

I’d love to hear your story and discuss how I can help you succeed in this ever-changing world. Please reach out!

Allen Poppe

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and starting on the first one.”