The average lifespan of a top 500 company is shorter than ever. Despite this damning evidence of the inertia of big organisations, we surely must assume it is possible to change company culture.

Arguably there are some organisations that have done it, with Government Digital Services the current poster child for digital transformation. There are many more that have failed.

So, how is it done?

Recently, Econsultancy held another of its digital transformation roundtable discussion events. Culture and content were the two topics for discussion.

Ash Roots, Director of Digital at Direct Line Group, presented some insights into DLG’s journey of digital transformation, specifically on engendering a culture for change and innovation. I also spoke to delegates about experiences in their respective companies.

Churn is good

Staff turnover is not necessarily a bad thing. Whilst long-serving staff can have tons of expertise and company knowledge, they can also be the most reluctant to change.

Losing staff with skills obviously hurts, but some pointed to a wider picture…

Will, not skill

This was one of Ash’s philosophies at Direct Line Group.

The will to change and to get things done is the most important factor. When recruiting or reviewing, of course skills are going to be important. But arguably more important is whether a team is up for the fight.

Soft skills form part of the same philosophy. Having good communicators, people who are calm under pressure, problem solvers – these are often innate strengths and should be sought out.

Changing rooms

A working environment should attract and inspire employees. It should focus on the customer, too.

Even without a budget, Direct Line Group’s digital team used posters and vinyl stickers, to transformed an office and reflect customer personas and team values.

Ash went a step further, too, and moved the team to an adjacent building on site.

nice office

Changing buildings

Digital teams may have to physically separate themselves from the rest of the company. Some felt this tactic doesn’t exactly encourage good communication, however, space to create something different and then present it back to the company as a successful venture is one approach that can be taken, as the digital team at DLG shows.

Prototype not business case

Often the best way to prove the value of a new product or technology is not by creating a business case. By quickly prototyping and then presenting the rough article to stakeholders, one stands a greater chance of proving the value of a product or service that may represent a change from the status quo.

Email can be disruptive

Ash talked about his decision to remove email apps from his phone, to get a healthier approach to communication.

Tools can help in changing culture. DLG has used Yammer to Trello. The important part of using tools is that they encourage working as a team.

The reality of people that don’t fit

It’s a hard thing to say, but successful businesses haven’t transformed their services and culture without taking tough decisions. If people don’t see the vision, they may be better off elsewhere.

Get the CEO involved

Make sure he or she is invited to visit your team regularly. Paul Geddes, CEO at Direct Line Group, offered valuable business insight to the digital team, as well as keeping himself abreast of change. It’s incumbent on you to convince the CEO of new developments in digital and their impact on your market.

Agencies used to offer fresh thinking

Some companies have brought everything in-house. This is an attempt to get rid of the black box of services and allow staff to have operational transparency and to work and iterate quicker.

However, many people I spoke to were sceptical about in-housing. Disciplines such as PPC were considered as good candidates for bringing back into the team, due to the improvement in tools, literature and training. On the other hand, creative agencies, design and build agencies, these were thought of as providers of fresh thinking that can help to change culture.

No magic bullets here, as you can see, but if you have further suggestions, let us know in the comments. More pay is probably the obvious one I have missed.