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// 23.07.2018

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation- How do cultures and values need to change?

In the first article of our change series (see below) you read about six steps to transform an organization, step 3 lists the adaption of the company`s culture and values as critical (“Adapt values and culture – you need the right mindset, `look and feel`”). In a recent survey by McKinsey (2016 McKinsey Digital survey of 2135 respondents) Cultural and behavioral challenges are even listed as the most significant challenge to meeting digital priorities. This step often proofs to be the most “fluffy” but yet the hardest to take. It doesn`t have to be that difficult – or that fluffy.

Company culture via Copy-and-Paste?

A lot of companies look toward Silicon Valley to gain an impression of an agile culture.  That might be inspiring, however, it needs critical reflection. Silicon Valley`s companies and others (e. g. Zalando or Spotify) we like to look at, have a culture which is not only embossed by agility. We have country specific influences as well as characteristics of the employees. In spite the call for diversity, the employees aren`t exactly very divers – just having a look at the age for example. An organization with about exclusively employees under the age of forty might have a different culture compared to a company with a broader range in age. Then there is likemindedness. A startup attracts a specific type of employee, often even intentionally. Spotify hires music lovers, sporting goods manufactures attract athletes. This automatically leads to an effective integration of the customer`s perspective. However, it reduces the diversity of the staff.

Regardless, copy paste your company culture is neither recommended nor possible. To impose a culture top down will not only fail, it also suffocates the individual potential of your team and organization.  

Per definition culture is a grown state – a pattern of ways to act and react, which has been proven successful in the past and became a norm. „That`s how we work here.” Just changing it won`t work. Developing it, though, will. What does that mean exactly?  

Changing your culture – here is how to start

If you gain the impression, a change in your culture could benefit the performance of your team or organization, then start right there.

Reflect together with your employees what you appreciate about your culture. This should be the base of a new culture as it is tied to your company`s identity and is what makes you strong.

Reflect on and analyze what agility means to you. Where can agility make a difference for the productivity? How, for instance, would your team benefit from more autonomy?

Think in a scenario: Assuming we became an agile team/ area/ company over night, and we

1. work more efficient, more creative and take decisions autonomously,

2. make mistakes and learn,

3. take end-to-end responsibility,

4. react more flexible to changes in customer needs and the market,

5. work is more fulfilling, more fun.

How does this lived agility feel? What is different in how we interact (e. g. regarding trust and transparency)? What is different regarding structures, hierarchies, and processes (e.g. less bureaucracy, more willingness to take risks, more equal footing)? What is different in leadership? What do we need from the leadership (e. g. less control, more vision)?  How would we describe a friend how it is to work in this team? 

Analyze your current way of working and your current culture. Where do they block or hinder Agility? What could alternatives look like?

Brainstorm about how your dream culture looks like and how you get there. How can you clear obstacles? What has to be build? What can each of us do differently each day to contribute to the new culture? Keep in mind: You don`t have to have all the answers. A few good ideas are enough to just get started.

And last: Try, experiment, reflect, modify, learn. And back to the start.

A good culture allows employees to grow. And culture grows with them. Culture serves the purpose to realize the full potential within a company. It should foster high performance. The right culture is a necessary condition to truly work the agile way. How could such a culture look like in your organization? You and your employees know best, maybe your customers.

What characterizes the typical agile culture?

To provide some orientation: An agile organizational culture is mainly characterized by the following attributes:

There is no strongly hierarchic thinking, no fear of making mistakes or focus on risk avoidance, no fixed structures, no pure profit- or pure product-orientation.

A strong purpose and a strong vision, which is about the difference your company and the work of each employee wants to make in the world (the world of your customer, usually).

Entrepreneurial thinking and acting by everyone`s own initiative instead of following orders.

Self-organization, empowerment to take decisions and master your own work in wholistic, end-to-end processes.

Learning-orientation and thriving to continuously improve.

Team-orientation and trust play an important role.

Achieving more with empowerment and inspiration. How could it work for you?



This is the fourth part of a five-part series about change management in times of digital transformation.

Part 1: The agile organization - how to get there

Part 2: What is new for organizational change: a check

Part 3: The actors within change processes

Part 4: Digital transformation – how do culture & values need to change?

Part 5: Finally, what really worked for us – Change @metaBeratung


metaBeratung GmbH
Nicole Neubauer
Phone: +49 211 4155 959-36
E-Mail: nicole.neubauer(at)