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Gartner Symposium 2018: 10 culture hacks for CIOs to spur DX

Culture is a barrier to digital transformation, and it's the CIO's job to help change it, said analyst Kristin Moyer at Gartner Symposium 2018.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Let's imagine for a minute that CIOs have as big a role to play in corporate culture change as HR execs do. No need to think too long, said Kristin Moyer, distinguished vice president and analyst at Gartner.

According to the research firm, by 2021, CIOs will be as responsible for culture change as chief human resources officers.

How will they meet that responsibility?

Not through 100-page slide decks or big, generic speeches about change, Moyer said. And not by devoting large chunks of meeting time to mega-plans for changing corporate culture.

The solution is culture hacking -- simple, small things CIOs can do to make a big difference in changing company culture and, in the process, enabling a digital strategy.

"By culture hacking, we don't mean finding a vulnerable point to break into a system illegally, but close," Moyer said during the opening keynote at the Gartner Symposium 2018. "It's about finding vulnerable points in your culture and turning that into real change that sticks."

Changing a culture is hard -- the CIOs Gartner talked to identified it as one of the biggest barriers to realizing the promise of digital business. But the culture hacks are meant to be easy, according to Moyer. Unlike the big, gnarly, long-term projects CIOs are used to, these culture hacks are designed  to be carried out in less than 48 hours. The hacks are also emotional, immediate and visible -- characteristics Moyer said gives them a better chance of succeeding.

Ten culture hacks for CIOs driving organizational change

Here are the 10 culture hacks Moyer revealed to the IT crowd at Gartner Symposium 2018.

1. Make sure all meetings support the new digital strategy

Moyer started with a real-life example of a CIO who, after implementing a digital strategy, started randomly walking into conference rooms where his staff was having meetings and asking, "How does this meeting advance our new digital strategy?" When no one had an answer, he would cancel the meeting on the spot and tell them not to meet again until their meeting supported the company's new digital strategy.

"This simple act sends a clear message: We are changing," Moyer said, adding that culture hacks may be "low-effort," but they are not "low-courage."

2. Celebrate failure

The second culture hack is one most IT professionals have heard before: Failure is an option -- in fact, CIOs need to celebrate it.

Mike Benson, CIO at DirectTV, based in El Segundo, Calif., did this by sharing his own personal failures with his team. Celebrating failure helps IT organizations increase risk tolerance -- and that's one important culture change in any digital strategy, Moyer said.

3. Make quicker decisions

Hack your culture by changing the terms of accountability, Moyer said. Make a rule that all decisions need to be made within 48 hours.

4. Reward decisions

Steve Tedder, CIO at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services in Raleigh, N.C., changed the rules around decision-making for his managers and staff by implementing a rewards-based system.

The team members get two points for making a decision and lose one point if it's a bad one, but they're still ahead just by making the decision. It isn't about keeping score; it's about creating a new mindset among the managers.

As a result of this culture hack, Tedder's employees are stepping up and actually enjoying their jobs more, Moyer said. On top of that, Tedder has gone from spending 70% of his time on internal issues to just 40%.

gartner symposium, culture hacking, culture hacks, Kristin Moyer, keynote
Kristin Moyer, distinguished vice president and analyst at Gartner, takes the stage during the opening keynote of the Gartner Symposium 2018.

5. 'Let it go' workshops

Moyer cited retail company Lowe's use of what it calls "let it go" workshops to help employees let go of old mindsets and old practices that get in the way of company goals.

6. Invite hard questions

Let the person with the great idea become the CEO of their idea.
Kristin Moyerdistinguished vice president and analyst, Gartner

Don't end a meeting until you've encouraged your team to ask you three really hard questions, Moyer said. "You know, the ones they ask each other after the meeting is over," she quipped.

7. Don't have all the answers

CIOs must reject the mindset that they need to have all the answers -- they don't and, realistically, won't. This culture hack helps CIOs create a growth mindset and an environment that's focused on learning.

8. Cancel status meetings

As Moyer noted, some CIOs are spending 70% of their time in meetings and checking and responding to email messages. They can free up time by cancelling status meetings altogether and replacing them with brief written updates.

9. Innovator 'CEO'

CIOs should also shift decision-making authority so others can take action, Moyer said.

"Let the person with the great idea become the CEO of their idea," she said, allowing them to own the process.

10. Run a culture hackathon

CIOs are sharing the culture journey by running culture hackathons, Moyer said.

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