10 Culture Hacks for Digital Transformation

Pay attention to these highly visible hacks that drive immediate results.

When the CIO at DirectTV wanted to create a culture where learning from failure was celebrated, he started by sharing his own failures.

Gartner predicts by 2021, CIOs will be as responsible as Chief Human Resource Officers for culture change. CIOs will be responsible for changing culture from a barrier to an accelerator.

Read more: Gartner Keynote: 5 Significant Imperatives for Digital Success

Culture change isn’t as easy as calling a meeting and declaring it’s time for a culture change, but there are culture hacks that can be designed and carried out in less than 48 hours.

“By culture hacking, we don’t mean finding a weak point to break in to a system illegally,” said Kristin Moyer, Gartner Distinguished VP, at Gartner 2018 Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Florida. “It’s about finding vulnerable points in your culture and turning them in to real change that sticks.”

Kristen Moyer, Gartner Distinguished VP, discusses 10 hacks for culture change at Gartner 2018 Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Florida.
Kristen Moyer, Gartner Distinguished VP, discusses 10 hacks for culture change at Gartner 2018 Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Florida.

Gartner recommends 10 culture hacks that are highly visible and offer immediate results.

  1. All meetings support new strategy
    Imagine that on a Monday, you announce a new digital strategy. On Tuesday, at your first meeting of the day, ask how this meeting advances the new digital strategy. If there are no answers, cancel the meeting and make sure the meeting doesn’t reappear on your schedule (or anyone’s schedule) until it does.
  2. Celebrate failure
    As with the DirectTV CIO, it’s important to celebrate failure and the lessons learned with it. By sharing his failures, the CIO was able to increase risk tolerance, which is one type of culture change.
  3. 48-Hour decision rule
    Create a rule that all decisions need to be made within 48 hours. This shifts accountability. This can be approached in other ways as well. For example, a government CIO told his team they get two points for making a decision, and lose one point if it’s a bad decision. If you make a bad decision, you’re still further ahead than if you made no decision at all.
  4. Reward decisions
    The example above isn’t about keeping score, it’s about creating a new mindset among the managers. In turn, the CIO found his team was stepping up and enjoying their jobs more. Plus the CIO went from spending 70% of his time working on internal issues to spending 40% of his time on internal issues.
  5. Let it Go workshops
    Lowe’s hosts workshops to help employees “let go” of old mindsets and practices that get in the way of company goals.
  6. Invite hard questions
    Don’t end any meetings until your employees ask you three really hard questions. The types of questions they might ask each other after the meeting ends.  In order to change the mindset, you need to be willing to tackle the hard questions in the open.
  7. Don’t have all the answers
    Realistically, you won’t have all the answers to the hard questions. The good news is you don’t want to have all the answers . This creates a growth mindset and environment focused on learning.
  8. Cancel status meetings
    CIOs spend up to 70% of time dealing with meetings and email. Cancel status meetings, and replace them with brief written updates. This shifts decision making authority to project owners, allowing them to move things forward and take action.
  9. Innovator as CEO
    Let the person with the great idea own the process and become CEO of their own idea.
  10. Run a culture hackathon
    Share the culture journey by running a culture hackathon.
Culture in Action
The role of leaders in making the culture perform
Download the free e-book

Gartner clients can read more in “The Art of Culture Hacking” by Mary Mesaglio.

Get Smarter

Gartner CIO Events

Learn more about CIO leadership and how to lead your enterprise through its digital journey.

Explore Gartner Events

Building a Digital Business Technology Platform

What are the technology building blocks an enterprise needs to support digital business? This report details how CIOs and IT leaders...

Read Free Research

Connected! Exploring Life and Work in the Digital Society

ON-DEMAND VIDEO FROM GARTNER SYMPOSIUM/ITEXPO 2017 The digital society is quickly emerging, blending the physical and the virtual world....

Start Watching