Inside Supply Management Magazine

How a Company Makes Decisions Can Drive Its Digital Culture

May 20, 2019

There’s been a lot of talk about company culture and the impact it can have on employee behavior. Given the expansion and advancement in technology, companies are tasked with developing a digital culture that will help them move forward.

Culture centers around how a company does things, said Ken Chadwick, a Gartner vice president and analyst at Gartner, the Stamford, Connecticut-based global research and advisory firm. “And when we get good at developing core cultures within our organizations, it helps us to scale the type of behavior we’re looking for,” he said. “Strategy and process are nice, but — how many of us have done process training and then go back to work to find that the company doesn’t do it that way, here’s how we do it. That’s culture. It’s the behaviors the company has said it wants or will establish over time.”

Because of technological revolutions, the broader social culture is changing, which is impacting the business culture, Chadwick said: “It’s important to start thinking about which cultures we want within our supply chains to drive the behaviors that we need, to help us adapt to these new technologies so that we can serve customers better.”

To better understand how to form culture, companies need to look at how they make decisions, said Chadwick, who presented a session, “Developing a Digital Culture,” at last week’s Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference 2019 in Phoenix. Companies need to consider:

1) Their decision filters. One could be focusing on the customer. Others could be cost, safety, quality or sustainability. All could be important — but they might be more important in certain environments or at certain levels.

2) How they decide on the decision filters. Is the company siloed? Does it empower people to make decisions? Many companies are focused on collaboration — but how collaboration is defined can differ by organization.

3) Data. “Data-driven decision-making is becoming more important,” he said. But all too often, companies look at the data and make entirely different decisions, he notes: Instead, companies need to be able to use the data to make decisions that make sense.

4) How quickly they respond. Companies need to be proactive, not reactive, in their decision-making and respond quickly to events.

When looking at their decision culture, companies must consider two types of decision-making: (1) below-the-water-line decisions, so called because they could “sink the ship,” Chadwick says, and (2) everyday decisions, which make up the bulk of the decisions.

How a company accepts and drives change is another consideration when determining digital culture. It must define how it will bring technologies into the organization — and how it will embrace that change. A company’s definition of digital culture may center around innovation, curiosity and learning, Chadwick says. He adds that organizations need to define how it will change, whether over a long-term process or a quicker process that could be subject to more risk.