The most important question you can ask yourself is, “What does a successful digital culture look like?” Your answer shouldn’t just be a number. Where culture is concerned, success can be measured as the extent to which workers embody organizational values in their work and in their daily lives.
In our experience, here are the most important things you can consider.
Power Cultural Change By Empowering Worker
Remember that workers will not embrace projects they feel to be threatening.
Leaders need to realize, however, that threat to job security isn’t the only reason workers won’t use new technologies. At times, workers will ignore new technologies because they, a.) believe the old ways worked better, b.) don’t want to invest the time and energy to learn the new system, c.) aren’t included enough in the success of the project or company to break their status quo.
There’s a simple way around this.
When technology empowers workers, they’re exponentially more likely to buy into new projects.
Empowering workers is the best way to create successful digital strategies.
It serves to clarify what we mean by “empower.” Empowerment is not just about making workers feel included. It’s about considering them–their perspectives, their needs, their input–from the planning stage. Empowerment assumes a fundamental respect for people at all levels, and trusts that when given opportunity and incentive, they’ll rise to the occasion.
So before implementing a digital initiative, hold consistent, open conversations between stakeholders and workers. Ask front line workers the following set of questions. What are your challenges? What tools do you have? What would you like to have? What features would let you do your job better.
And always keep and open mind. More often than not, you’ll be surprised by what you hear.
Building a digital culture that prioritizes empowerment requires that leaders understand the individual human strengths of their organization enough to factor them into strategic projects.
Think From the Bottom Up
Many digital projects are the result of executive initiatives. But just as many move from the bottom up. In these types of digital transformations, workers realize the value of a particular technology or solution before the c-suite, and advocate up the chain of command for its implementation.
Many of these have a higher than average success rate. It’s not surprising why this is true: Those closest to manufacturing problems understand them best. Workers facing specific manufacturing challenges day-in, day-out will naturally have an eye for promising solutions. And workers are far more likely to stick with projects that they brought to the table.
When it comes to digital culture, this means that leadership should create an atmosphere where workers feel comfortable recommending, advocating, and staking their advancement on digital projects.
For leadership, this means listening. Fostering a digital culture that encourages bottom up transformation is an exercise in empathy and communication.
The results are clear, though. Higher success rate, longer term success, and an empowering culture durable across projects.
Digital Culture is Data-First Culture
Arguably, the biggest difference between digital and analog technologies is the quantity and quality of data they make available.
Digital technologies have made manufacturing data of a staggering variety available on an unprecedented scale. Indeed, manufacturing produces more data than any other industry.
It’s easy, however, for workers to mistake increased data collection with increased surveillance. While one could (and managers might want to) use digital technologies to track worker performance, it’s important to consider workers’ perception, and their legitimate concerns that visibility might jeopardize their job security.
Instead, a healthy digital culture is a data-first in which data is the starting point for process improvements. It’s a source of truth that all can reference and use to guide improvements. If data is used as a foundation for learning, growth, and dialogue, then projects can grow and succeed organically.
Build Consensus Throughout The Organization
Whether a project is top-down or bottom-up, it’s still going to involve coordination and alignment across levels. In short, there needs to be consensus about what kinds of projects will be prioritized, why, and to what end.
Aligning on vision across organizational hierarchy for digital culture.
This involves conversations with workers on the shop floor–that’s simply an extension of empowerment. But it also means that shift, plant, and regional managers understand and, crucially, buy into the broader vision.
When the different levels of an organization agree on vision and direction, it’s much easier to find ways of getting there.
Think About What This Technology Looks Like at Scale
For digital transformation to be truly successful, it needs to be replicable across lines, plants, and geographies.
How to scale a program is usually framed as an operational or financial question. It’s equally one of culture.
This is because scaling projects requires sharing knowledge, best practices, and experience. It requires workers training other workers, representatives from one plant training another, and collaborating as the organization explores new territory together.
So, ultimately, the competence, attitude, and behaviors of those on the ground are essential to scaling projects.
This is where culture becomes a ripple effect. When the way people act across and organization produces outcomes that would not have been possible without this high-level coordination.