• Why creating a more agile organisation must focus on culture as well as technology

Why creating a more agile organisation must focus on culture as well as technology

"Making sure a housing association is fit for the future is not just about technology. Engaging staff and getting the culture right is more important."

Chan Kataria, Group Chief Executive

chan kataria

Our wellbeing team recently provided me and my colleagues with a pedometer. This is part of their latest campaign to encourage us to measure our steps and move around more. The theory is that what gets measured is more likely to get done. Such a simple device - such a huge impact!

The individual wellbeing of colleagues has parallels with the steps we are taking to ensure the future wellbeing of our organisation – and is particularly relevant now as we embark on our business transformation journey at emh group.

Business transformation is not something that should happen in response to a crisis or serious problems that need to be resolved at a point in time. It is something that businesses should do periodically to future-proof the organisation.

The drivers are strong.

Customer expectations continue to change, particularly in terms of their digital interactions with the business. Increasingly, people do their shopping, banking, socialising and other activities through digital media and we need to reflect this in the way we provide services.

Martec’s Law says that technological advances are increasing exponentially, but organisations are increasing at a logarithmic rate. The longer this continues, the bigger the gap and the greater the degree of reset and disruption required.

Clearly, housing organisations are not in the same boat as Apple or IBM, who have to keep right up to date with technological advancements simply to survive. However, we cannot ignore these trends.

It does not mean that all customers prefer to engage with us in this way, nor would some have the ability to do so. In such cases, we must absolutely tailor our offer to provide more personalised services.

Another driver is that staff expectations are changing. Our people increasingly need to work in a flexible way, away from fixed offices, desks and equipment. They need the right support and equipment to work in an agile way and be closer to customers.

So what does transformation mean in practice?

For a start, we are making significant investment in new ICT infrastructure. This includes cloud-based solutions, digital tools and business systems connected to a CRM database to give us one version of the truth.

However, transformation is not just about technology. Yes, technology is important as a platform for wider changes in the organisation, but successful transformations are much more about changes in our culture, systems and processes that together enable us to achieve our mission more effectively.

By far the most important element is culture. The need to engage staff in the whole process is paramount. Staff engagement starts with an understanding of our people and the extent to which their values are aligned to those of the organisation. The greater the degree of alignment the more engaged they will be.

A good engagement tool is the Barrett Values Model. Having piloted this approach, I was impressed by the fact that cultural alignment between the values of individuals and those of the organisation can be measured and tracked. Crucially, we can identify issues that act as blockages for staff. One of the great outcomes from this is that people are empowered to agree steps necessary to achieve greater engagement and contribute to the culture they want to see.

Leadership is clearly an important element of this and our leadership development programme has shifted focus to areas such as coaching for performance and managing by outcomes, which is particularly important when employees are working remotely from multiple locations.

Reviewing processes is also important and begins with the customer journey. Strong, seamless end-to-end processes can encourage greater collaboration between staff, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Changing the way we capture and analyse data is also necessary. The more we know about the business and our customers the more we will be able to tailor our services and continuously improve.

At the root of all these changes are our ambitious five year business plan metrics. The changes we are making will enable us to achieve these indicators and deliver our mission to create opportunities for people.

I won’t pretend we’ve got all the answers and we are learning along the way. But using the pedometer analogy, we are developing confident strides towards a fitter and more agile organisation for the future.