Traditional pre-digital organizations reward production and a focus on hierarchy. Digital organizations reward consumption, and a focus on the customer and the network.
Why? Because digital is a bridge between production and consumption. So much consumption occurs digitally today. Big data is consumption data. Secondly, digital greatly empowers the consumer with information, tools and networks, making them more independent, more skeptical and less loyal.
“My customer is my boss,” a digital manager once told me. “I try to focus on the real customer as much as I can, but you have to be careful around here. Being too customer-centric can be a career-limiting move.”
“Why exactly would I want to put metadata on this?” another employee said to me. “If I make it more findable, more people will contact me, and that’s more work. I have enough work already.”
“I know that reviewing, improving and deleting out-of-date content is important,” another employee told me. “But look at it this way. If I meet my boss on a Friday and she asks me what I did this week, and I tell her I deleted 50 pages, she’ll look at me and say: 'But what did you do? What new content did you produce?'"
In 2017, most organizations still reward employees based on how much they produce and how long they spend producing it. We also reward them based on how much they please their managers. When that ‘pleasing’ relates to digital, it often involves the production and publishing of stuff the manager wants published. (Or the manager’s manager.)
When it comes to government, for example, civil servants must focus first and foremost on their bosses’ and politicians’ priorities. As an election approaches, the need to publish political propaganda becomes almost irresistible. If you try to resist and focus on citizen needs, you can get yourself in serious trouble.
A culture that rewards production and pleasing managers faces severe stress today. Digital is not the transformation. It is the transformation agent. Simply making analog things digital is a process of digitizing — like turning print books into PDFs. It can serve a purpose but a very limited one.
Digital transformation, on the other hand, is essentially cultural and societal. It is the process of transforming from an organization-centric culture to a customer-centric one.
Microsoft gets it. It has changed how it rewards employees to a model something like the following:
- One third for what you’ve produced
- One third for what you’ve shared
- One third for what you’ve used of what other people have produced
With the above type of model, employees want their stuff to be found and used. They will care about findability and quality. They will want to collaborate and reuse the stuff that other people have created.
Before digital it was really difficult to measure use. Digital opens up the goldmine of use. We must understand use, measure use, reward use because that’s where value in digital lies. If we don’t measure and reward use and instead measure and reward production, we will end up producing more and more of what is useless.