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Culture First

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Categories: agility, culture, people

Organizations are ramping up investment in AI, data and analytics initiatives to accelerate business agility, but a vast majority of them are struggling with business transformation in general, and cultural challenges are by far their biggest obstacle to adoption. Those are key conclusions from the 2019 New Vantage Partners Big Data and AI Executive survey.

In the survey, executives from Fortune 1000 companies cited multiple factors impeding their transformation efforts, including organizational alignment, agility and resistance. The common denominator? A whopping 95 percent of their issues stemmed from cultural challenges! Only 5 percent related to technology.

"If companies hope to transform, they must begin to address the cultural obstacles," the report states. And later it concludes, "Firms need to adopt a long-term approach, focusing on the complex cultural challenges as a starting point."

It's a brand new report but its findings are not news — not to people who have been managing strategic projects for a while. Organizations don't want to get left behind in the rush to leverage emerging technologies to execute strategy, deliver value and stay relevant. But the technology can't get ahead of the culture. And that's an old, stubborn truth that can't be automated or analyzed away.

How can companies address these cultural challenges to transformation and strategic implementation?

According to the report, while 92 percent of the companies highlighted the “need for agility” as the primary driver of Big Data/AI investment, 40 percent of these same companies identified “lack of agility” as the principle challenge to business adoption.

So they have to be more agile in their journey to agility? That might remind some of the classic "chicken or the egg" question. But for this dilemma, we know which comes first. Culture.

Project-driven organizations can't fix their culture without meaningful change in how their project teams operate. That starts with a commitment to collaboration, to learning, to autonomy, to trust.

Easier said than done? Of course. There is no simple template to follow or process to plug in. Organizations need people (and not just executives) who acknowledge the issues holding them back; who advocate for the needed changes; who represent the desired future in their day-to-day actions. When they get enough of those people, the culture is already changing for the better. Perhaps you're one of those people!

Posted on: February 13, 2019 06:45 PM | Permalink

Comments (20)

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Aaron, thanks for sharing good article indeed culture is playing big part.

Wonderful perspective of organisational journey towards embracing New technology and facing cultural challenges in this journey. As you told it is difficult but possible.

Thanks for sharing Aaron !!

Thank you for sharing. There are big mistakes in the reports and analysis. Not because I am saying that just because lot of people that are working in real initiatives to transform the organization (I am doing that from 1995) could talk about that: First, what to transform? The whole enterprise must to transform taking into account the enterprise architecture. Second, culture is one component inside the business layer that belongs to the enterprise architecture. Just one and only one. But all the others must be transformed to because they are closely related. Is not, the initiative will fail. Thrid, thinking that AI o what today is called big data (other big mistake to take it by isolation) will give the organization agility is a big mistake. By the way, the first thing to ask is: do you know as organization what agility really mean? They do not know. The answer is inside the formal definition of Agile and agility that took place inside the USA DoD/NSF Agility Forum in 1990 (I was part).

I don't remember where I first heard the term, but I am reminded of what has been called "organizational gravity." The term refers to the combination of culture and organizational alignment that acts in resistance to change. It seems to me that the larger and more established an organization is, the more gravity it has. Therefore, in order to overcome this gravitational pull the transformation would have to have the full backing of the highest levels of the organization. This is where I am in agreement with Sergio. Change must happen to the entire organization, or it will fail.

It seems that 95% of the issues stemmed from cultural challenges.
I fully agree
Thanks you for sharing

Great points, Aaron. And great inputs from community members. Indeed, there are many pieces to support a transition. We can all agree, culture is one of them.

Thank you Aaron for highlighting culture awareness.

All cultures have strong points and weaknesses. The key to successful transformation is to leverage the strong parts of the existing culture around the specific issues that the organization faces.

Too many project and program managers approach culture as "something to fix." That's just not the right worldview.

Thanks for interesting article.

Good Information

Hello Aaron, what you have stated is very true about organizations "are ramping up investment in AI, data and analytics initiatives to accelerate business agility, but a vast majority of them are struggling with business transformation in general, and cultural challenges are by far their biggest obstacle to adoption" because in my project management training with undergraduates I faced issues of what you are relating, including my own organisation ramping about Artificial Intelligence and how project leaders in the business arena need to use them etc and pushing for disruptive changes caused by management where staff themselves are not ready for transformation.

Interesting. Thank you.

Personally, I think your last paragraph sums it up nicely... Its about the people right? Not necessarily the executives but someone higher up in the organization(H.R most likely) has to set the precedence of the companies culture and the future of said company! As project managers and program managers its much easier ( I think) for us to be able to see this from the outside looking in. Its up to the organization, starting with the CEO or CIO to make these changes for the better of their organizations culture.

Good article

Thanks for the stats, very useful information. Balance is key particularly for the management not to lose sight and ensuring the most-resistant team(s) are not dragging everyone else down. Thanks for sharing!

Culture is the bridge to understanding and efficient collaboration !

Thanks for sharing !

No question - culture is everything. You have to have a good foundation to build on.

Dear Aaron
Interesting perspective on the topic: "Culture First"
Thanks for sharing

Important point to keep in mind: "Project-oriented organizations cannot fix their culture without significant changes in the way their project teams operate. This starts with a commitment to collaboration, learning, autonomy, trust"

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