For many years now it’s been an accepted truism that technology is rarely the means of change in an organisation, it’s merely an enabler. And yet despite this being common wisdom, organisations still tend to put a great deal more focus on changing technology than they do changing behaviours or culture.

As Tom Peters puts it, this is probably because soft is hard, hard is soft. Ultimately it’s easier to conceptualise the tangible things that come about from managing technology projects rather than the nebulous concepts that are the sociology and psychology of people and the way in which they act.

If you want to make change happen, though, you’ve got to make people do things differently, not just provide them with complex tools. And so for some CIOs the issue of culture and culture change is now on the agenda. In many cases this will be because the challenges of new technologies, rather than enablers, have become the catalysts for the need for change. The Internet. Social Networks. AI. Big Data… they are are putting pressure onto established organisations to make change happen that goes against those bodies’ cultural norms. Openness, decentralisation, customer-centricity.

The challenge is that the pace of change in technology outstrips that of culture or behaviour by many, many times. And as a result the answer is often not to change culture, but to present changes in behaviour that are sensitive and in harmony with the prevailing culture.

Either way, just bunging in new technology without account for such matters only works through luck, not judgement. The evidence for that is overwhelming.


I’ve recently launched Stamp London’s first physical product – a set of playing cards called CIO Priorities. You can find out more about them here, and order a set for yourself here (or simply download the PDF and print them out).

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