By Drew Ianni
March 31, 2021
“All of a sudden March 2020 came along, and oh my goodness, we do need to change and change needs to happen fast.” That was Carol Fitzgerald Tyler, global head of organizational change at Wipro’s Appirio division, at the recent CDX Accelerate conference, explaining how cultural transformation forced itself on just about every company’s digital transformation efforts last year, whether they liked it or not.
Before the pandemic, she said, the need for culture transformation was generally not seen as urgent. But now it certainly is. She also said that while attempts at cultural change historically tended to come out of HR, now it’s coming from elsewhere in organizations, particularly from CIOs and Chief Digital Officers. “CIOs are traditionally very technical and often have felt that they have to stay in their technical lane, right?” she pointed out. “Not anymore. One of my customers who is a CIO said to me ‘You need to help us shift this culture and you need to help us do it fast’.”
Culture Change and The Future of Work
The exercise of cultural transformation is often difficult enough with most employees consistently coming into the office. But extra complexity has been added as every company faces the unknowns of the future workplace. Will we all eventually return to working 4 or 5 days in the office? Will most of us have “flex” work options where we may be in the office 1 or 2 days per week, or as needed? Will some never go to an office again? And in any case, how do you actually execute on culture transformation when so many of those who make up the culture are now remote?
Fitzgerald Tyler said that “the future of the workplace is going to be hybrid and much more of a robust, ‘collective’ space where people can come and go as needed…You’ll still need to have somebody at the helm that can steer a vision…Anytime I’ve worked on a program that has had visible leadership, it has been successful.”
Removing Road Blocks to Change
Human beings are inherently resistant to change. Add in the dynamics of corporate culture – including entrenched power centers and office politics – and the resistance to fundamental change can be substantial. When asked how an organization or leader can work on removing such roadblocks to change, Fitzgerald Tyler offered this advice: “When I find a resister, I typically find somebody who wants to do something different, but just doesn’t know how…and I just come to them privately and say, ‘What hurts? Why don’t you want to do this?’ And it’s amazing that when you sit and listen to people, you get their story and why they don’t want to change.”
View the full video below for Fitzgerald Tyler’s thoughts on how hiring new talent can mesh with ongoing culture transformation, plus frameworks for a digital transformation-focused culture change.