One of the first major change projects I implemented was an office automation system for Whirlpool. It was the company’s foray into automating the workplace. We recognized that using technology for administrative tasks required people to think differently about mundane elements of their work. I engaged the CEO’s assistant. Once Mindy put the word out that she would only use this new system to communicate with others in the organization, our participation grew rapidly. We signed up more than 2,000 employees in a few months. We calculated that the system delivered about $90 million in cost avoidance as people began to interact more productively.
Even though this wasn’t a complex system – it provided basic messaging and calendaring functions – this change was more about culture than technology. We can talk until we are blue in the face about the benefits of the technology change, but until we recognize and act upon it as a cultural shift, we receive lackluster results.
Herein lies the premise for my Culture Change Trifecta. We’ve seen plenty of diagrams that display the need for focus in all three areas of people, process, and technology. My perspective, though, is to focus the people aspects on the culture changes required to affect successful innovative technology.
When you focus only on the technology, or even on the process and technology, you miss out on thinking through how the new system requires employees to work and interact differently. This is the essence of cultural change, and without considering its impacts, you end up with:
• Disengaged employees who don’t understand what is required of them.
• Middle managers caught in the middle – trying to keep the business running while helping employees through change they don’t understand.
• Leaders who are disenchanted with the results of their new system.
Instead, when leaders recognize that technology change induces cultural transformation, and put adequate attention to lead through this change, the results are quite different.
• Employees have input to how the change will impact them, and how they will now need to work together across departments.
• Middle managers will lead more effectively, supporting employees who are now actively driving the change.
• Leaders will achieve, and likely exceed the profitability targets they established for the new system.
Dedicated to your profitable transformation,