Start with snowflakes to design your digital workplace strategy

January 11, 2017 Updated: February 15, 2023 by

Every organization is different. Let me qualify that.

Every organization – even those businesses that produce or provide similar things – are culturally different. What on earth does this have to do with designing successful digital workplaces though?

Well, it turns out, everything.
Like a snowflake, your organization’s current digital workplace is a complex, subtle and individual phenomenon. It’s how you communicate and work across digital platforms and devices.

And, whether you want it to or not, your organization’s culture plays a very big part in shaping what that organization looks like and how it works.

Culture as the starting point for digital workplace strategy

When we at DWG work with clients to develop a digital workplace strategy, our first step is to understand the unique culture of their organization, by conducting what we call a Cultural Appraisal. This formal assessment provides much-needed insights into the unique cultural facilitators or blockers that exist within any organization.

  • Cultural facilitators are those attributes that make implementing digital strategies easier. Think: an organization whose culture values teamwork is already primed to share information and work more openly.   
  • Cultural blockers, on the other hand, are those attributes that can make it harder or at least more challenging. Think about an organization with very high levels of control – perhaps a financial or healthcare organization – that for very good reasons has built up cultural norms to support regulation and risk management. Too high levels of control can make implementing some elements of digital workplace strategy more difficult.

Facilitators and blockers are neither inherently good nor bad. That’s very important to understand. You have to love your unique culture! Instead, these unique attributes need to be understood and then harnessed as part of implementing the right digital adoption strategies.

Creating a Playbook for change

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for digital adoption. And, frankly, we like it that way. (Because your organization is unique, like a snowflake… remember.) We’ve found that the best way to approach snowflakes – errr, digital workplace adoption – is to create a Playbook, rather like an instruction manual, which does several things:

  1. It takes the recommendations from the Cultural Appraisal and turns them into actions. It’s not unusual for a Cultural Appraisal to uncover more than 50 recommendations. Within the Playbook, “plays” are reactions or methods that can be used to either counter or support known weaknesses or strengths within the organization’s culture.   
  1. A Playbook can help you visualize the change and communication efforts needed, creating clarity for the work ahead. It can present a shared vision of the complex change processes required, which can be shared with different stakeholders. IT, HR, Corporate Communications and Operations need a visualization so that they can come together and see how their efforts are connected.  
  2. Finally, the Playbook recognizes that in all work there are limited resources. Playbooks place bets – steering you toward the actions that are most likely to drive success based on your situation, best practices and DWG expertise.
  • As an example, based on a recent Cultural Appraisal, a Playbook may, for example, address how and when to approach senior management (i.e. Are management hands-on and want/need to be the first to know? Or is the culture more grass-roots driven, with change needing to start in the field?).

In summary

A digital workplace is a reflection of more than just an organization’s technical choices, it’s deeply reflective of the culture of that organization. In order to drive change, it is necessary to leverage culture, take strategic choices and plan. Every organization is different in its own unique and wonderful way. The best digital workplaces maximize what is special about their organizations.

If you’re interested to know more about this theme, see our free report on understanding organizational culture and the digital workplace.


For more: Thinking points

You can continue the conversation and reflection about your company’s culture with Beth in the Comments section below. She would be very interested to hear your thoughts including:

  • How would you describe your organization’s culture?
  • Is there one overarching “personality”, with pockets within it? Or is it more a case of multiple personalities existing side-by-side?
  • How do the values and practices that make up your organization’s culture help or hinder your digital workplace initiatives?
  • To what extent would you say that an effective digital workplace mirrors the organization’s culture?
  • And to what extent would you say that there is no one distinct culture that is more conducive to an effective digital workplace programme?

Categorised in: Digital workplace, Strategy & governance

Beth Gleba

Beth is a senior internal information professional, specializing in intranets and internal digital channels. Beth works with DWG as an independent facilitator, researcher and consultant. Previously, Beth spent several years at one of the world’s most innovative companies, IKEA. There she started up the US Internal Information department, leading the team to receive several awards, including the prestigious NN/g “Top Ten Intranets”. Later, she joined the IKEA global team which implemented a digital workplace strategy and played key roles in launching both internal social collaboration and a global HR portal.

Don't journey alone

Why choose DWG?

Learn more about DWG and our history, and the benefits of working with us.

Read More
Your digital journey starts here

Book a free one-to-one consultation to discuss the current status of your digital workplace. Each consultation is followed up with a bundle of useful resources to help get you started.

Book your consultation