IT departments are a source of constant change, and this is a serious source of stress, so how can culture hacks help to drive growth?

“All this change is stressing employees out,” said Gartner research and advisory executive vice president Mike Harris. “Their first reaction to a system might not be excitement, it might be fatigue.”

But an underlying assumption based on previous results is that digital and technological improvements will drive growth and ultimately improve productivity.

To that end, Harris, speaking at Gartner’s Symposium — a conference focused on the emerging trends shaping IT and business — in Barcelona, said that businesses need to understand their culture and create dynamism, which is the drive for progress.

Gartner’s research shows that dynamism is “the strongest determinant of success”.

Culture hacks are “low effort but high courage”

Jenny Sussin, Gartner’s Managing Vice President for Sales and Customer Experience research, discussed how to change company culture with nine culture hacks.

A show of agreement, or a room of nodding executives, does not mean everyone understands or agrees with a digital strategy, she said. What is needed is a shared culture, the mindset and practices that shape behaviour.

“Think of it as the stuff you and your people do every day,” she explained.

Some 46% of chief information officers report culture as the biggest barrier holding their companies back, according to Gartner research. The good news is that people adapt, according to Sussin.

“The way we use technology adapts, the way we work as teams,” she said.

How to turn culture from a barrier to an accelerator?

A culture hack is “about finding vulnerable points in your culture and changing them into real points of change that stick”.

At the Barcelona symposium, Sussin gave CIOs these nine pearls of wisdom:

  1. Redefine recognition: Frame recognition as more than saying thank you. Sussin gave the example of a Scandinavian chief executive giving fish, a nod to wider cultural values, to employees that were performing well.
  2. 48-hour decision rule: Executives should encourage decisiveness by putting in a limit of 48 hours for employees to make decisions. This still gives them plenty of time to “sleep on it”.
  3. Reward decisions – As well as rewarding good decisions, reward the act of making decisions.
  4. Get business oriented – Record or track achievement of business goals. Sussin suggests using a simple post-it note to decorate an office wall every time a team member completes a task.
  5. Invite hard questions – “Hack your team’s courage. Don’t end a meeting until you’ve encouraged your team to ask you three really hard questions. The ones they ask each other in the hall,” says Sussin.
  6. Create a culture of “Yes” – When an employee says no, help them work out how they could have said yes. “This creates an agile mindset,” Sussin said.
  7. Cancel status meetings – Save time and replace these meetings with brief updates.
  8. The innovator as CEO – Make the person who came up with the idea the head of the project.
  9. Run a culture hackathon – Encourage employees to come up with more company-focused hacks.