COVID-19 caused 7 of 10 boards of directors to accelerate digital business, but accelerating digital requires a change in work habits, and the reality is that people don’t change their habits overnight.
Acceleration is not just a tech problem. It requires a deliberate effort to rethink the ways in which work is performed, processes are undertaken and decisions are made, enabling more agile and better adaption to the emerging work culture.
“Accelerating digital business means working differently and faster, but people don’t change working habits on command, just like they don’t change eating habits on command,” says Mary Mesaglio, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner. “Executive leaders must frame the change for employees by defining new values or doubling down on existing ones, and then linking expected behaviors to them. Just stating the values is too vague.”
Gartner recommends that leaders adopt three default behaviors to become more agile. Each behavior has three sample hacks to get you started.
Speed up decision making
The keys to accelerated product delivery, governance, and other processes come from enabling faster decision making within the organization. The reasons that decisions often take too much time vary: Responsibility avoidance, risk aversion, unclear goals, ill-defined projected outcomes or lack of information.
Read more: 10 Culture Hacks for Digital Transformation
The speed of a decision should be determined by the speed with which it can be reversed. That is, the less critical a decision is, the shorter amount of time it should take to make it. Likewise, if the decision is more consequential, the more time it should take to make it.
Hack No. 1: “No” isn’t allowed
Leaders can’t just say “this won’t work.” Instead, they should ask, “How would this work, given XYZ regulations?” Make sure you reframe the negative as a request for more information, especially for any ideas that are new or untested.
Hack No. 2: The buck stops here
Only one person is required to approve any decision that is under $X. Be clear on who that is and when they have the authority to approve the decision.
Hack No. 3: Seek resistance first
Find the person most likely to disagree with your decision, and ask them to tell you everything wrong with it. Address the concerns early for faster decision making.
Processes can overtake the ability to make decisions because they’re unnecessarily complex. The truth is that the complexity of a work routine is not necessarily directly proportional to its actual value.
More often than not, simpler is better — but to achieve simplicity requires vigilance from leaders. It means determining the fastest way of getting the work done. Starting with the simplest possible approach first can often get a team from point A to point B faster. This is in contrast with starting with the most comprehensive approach. Complicated does not always — or even often — equal worthy.
Hack No. 4: Limit time
Give a time limit of 24 hours to create a first draft or prototype.
Hack No. 5: Reverse-mentoring hour
Assign senior executives to junior employees for one hour, and have the junior employee show them what can be done to simplify work.
Hack No. 6: Meme city
Turn employees into culture creators. Give an award to the top three “simplify work” memes.
Eliminate unnecessary tasks
Too often, the value of work is measured by the output generated rather than the actual outcome. Focusing on output is really only a way to make people look busy, and busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. What really matters, of course, is the end result.
To make an organization more agile, shift the focus to what the business outcome actually is, rather than how the task to achieve it is performed.
Hack No. 7: “Red light, green light”
Like the kids’ traffic cop game, discuss as a team: “What should we red light (stop), green light (start) and yellow light (continue)?”
Hack No. 8: Eliminate ideas without a sponsor
Test commitment from business leaders with their commitment to fund your initiative with real money. If it’s not there, stop working on it immediately.
Hack No. 9: Hold a weekly “break the rules” meeting
Here, the team can scratch policies, cancel old procedures, empower people, provide budget for new ideas, and so on. The idea is to halt toxic cultural behaviors, such as negativity and cynicism.
How to begin? Adapt existing principles and values to inspire faster, more confident decision making.
For each of these three behaviors, leaders can deploy a number of culture hacks. “It takes a deliberate process to insert culture change into employees’ daily life,” says Mesaglio.