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  • Jim Gavigan

The Missing Ingredient In Digital Transformation - Company Culture

I have written extensively on what it takes to be successful in the digital transformation/IIoT space, but one topic that I really haven't touched on is likely the most important for success, and that is company culture.

What I am finding is that if I find a company or plant within a company that is data-driven hungry to optimize and get the very last drop of productivity out of their plant that they can, they are much more likely to succeed in this space. Those that are running from fire to fire are going to struggle because of the daily distractions they face. However, I am a big believer in working with those that I see who are struggling or who will struggle, as they will still get value and they will find that the tools I deliver for them will actually keep them out of a fair number of fires.

I remember sending the cartoon at left to one of my clients when I got the "we are too busy to be proactive" response to one of my inquiries. I sent him this cartoon and a smiley face (if I didn't know him well, I wouldn't have done that). I will never forget his response and it is so true today in many companies' ranks. With all of the cutbacks in manpower, very few people have the time to be proactive these days. He told me (paraphrased) "Yeah, Jim, you are right, but the issue is that someone has to help us put that round wheel on while we are still pushing the wheelbarrow with the square wheels - it can't stop to have it done." My response was simply that you need someone to come alongside of you and help hold that axle up and get the round wheel installed while you are pushing. I see very few companies that have the staff or knowledge to do a lot of this themselves. If they did, I would have never started Industrial Insight.

Please don't take that as a sales pitch, but if you are not in my business in the consulting/integration space, then you will very likely need help. Whether you ask our company, or someone else, please find knowledgeable help in this space.

But I digress, the reality is that a company culture that strives to get out of a reactive, "fire-fighting" mode is the one who will succeed with a digital transformation. I am finding those companies with significant pain and ones who are striving not to repeat past failures are often the ones who are best poised to use the technology available, even if they are fire fighting now. The pain to want to change will drive behavior.

I am not a huge fan of this analogy, but it is likely true. You know the ones who are most successful with a diet/exercise program? The ones who have been told by their doctor that they better get their weight under control "or else;" or the ones who have known issues and just don't want to live on tons of medications. That doesn't mean that we all couldn't stand to lose a few pounds, but the ones most motivated are done so by life or death cause. I believe this is true for manufacturers looking at digital transformation. Those that see that if they don't get healthy, then they are giving themselves a death sentence. Those will be the successful ones with digital transformation.

I have also learned that although it helps, it doesn't have to be executive management that drives this culture change. People in engineering, operations, or maintenance can be the catalyst of change by starting with a project or known issue and delivering great value to their company. From there, others, including management will catch on that the company needs to be proactive in transforming themselves. So, no matter where you are position-wise in your company, you can have a dramatic affect on your company's long term viability if you can begin the culture change.

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