Developing Digital-Driven Culture For A Disruptive World Of Work

“When reviewing organizations that have undergone or are going through ‘Digital Transformation’ (DT/DX), far less attention is observed to have been dedicated to addressing the people and cultural aspects of change management and change leadership than the processes and technology behind the transformation. Businesses must adopt the “PPT” mantra, which is putting People ahead of Process and Technology. That said, conversations about managing employee experience as a core component of DT/DX have risen in recent years.”

– Sattar Bawany, Author, Leadership In Disruptive Times (Business Expert Press, 2020)

Introduction To Digital Transformation (DT/DX)

Digitalization is rapidly changing the way companies operate and create value in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The emergence of technology-centred business models is also challenging established organizations to reimagine and reinvent themselves to remain relevant to the marketplace.

Digital readiness is of importance as it seems that while many organizations are either experiencing or expect to experience some form of significant digital disruption, few appear genuinely prepared.

Digital Transformation (DT/DX) is the process of integration and leveraging of digital technologies (including but not limited to artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet-of-Things (IoT), Internet-of- Systems (IoS), big data, cloud computing, and blockchain technologies) into all aspects of an organization. It transcends traditional roles like sales, marketing, operations, finance, strategy, IT, and customer services to create new or enhance existing business processes, culture, and customer experience (CX) to meet changing market requirements.

DT/DX is not just about disruption or technology. It’s about creating and delivering a compelling value proposition and a digital-drive culture that focuses on the integration of three pillars of strategy: people, process, and technology (PPT) as seen in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 – The People, Process, And Technology (PPT) Framework

Reference: Sattar Bawany (2020) Leadership in Disruptive Times(2020). Business Expert Press (BEP) LLC. New York, NY.

It is the reimagining of the business in the digital era with an obsession with the customers and with everyone adopting a customer-centric mindset (which begins and ends with how the organization thinks about and engages with its customers). DT/DX also focuses on delivering value for various stakeholders (particularly its customers) and continuously innovating and acquiring the relevant digital capabilities in response to the rapidly

The Digital-Driven Organization Culture

As organizations embark on DT/DX at the workplace, it’s critical to create a culture in which everyone is digitally savvy and demonstrate a set of values, competencies and practices where they could continuously seek to redefine how they create and deliver value for customers by leveraging on digital technologies. These would include including customer-centricity, innovation-driven, datadriven decision making, intra & inter-team collaboration, an open and trust-based partnership, disruptive mentality and agility and flexibility in managing challenges (see Figure 2).

But DT/DX calls for more than just updating technology or redesigning products. Failure to align the effort with employee values and behaviors can create additional risks to an organization’s culture if not managed properly, whereas a comprehensive and collaborative effort can help shift the culture to understand, embrace, and advance DT/DX.

DT/DX demands vision, leadership and process change alongside powering core operations with technology. Therefore, DT/DX requires introducing change at the most fundamental level, addressing how things get done everywhere in the organization. DT/DX affects the company culture itself. Without addressing culture change, DT/DX is bound to be a superficial attempt.

From the Centre of Executive Education’s (CEE’s) consulting engagements in partnering with clients on driving DT/DX agenda, and drawing on CEE executive coaches’ discussions with C-suite clients, various factors, elaborated on below, have been consistently identified and validated by other research, as notable barriers to a successful DT/DX within their organizations.

Figure 2 – The Elements Of The Digital-Driven Organizational Culture

Reference: Sattar Bawany (2021) Leadership in Disruptive Times(2020). Business Expert Press (BEP) LLC. New York, NY.

The lack of buy-in and involvement of the CEO and senior leadership team may reflect on their underestimating or misunderstanding of the strategic importance of culture in the DT/DX journey of their organization. As with any transformation, leaders who guide a DT/DX are often preoccupied with structural and process changes and overlook the people’s side, only to wonder why the effort faltered.

It’s well established that cultural change is a crucial determinant of a successful transformation, especially for DT/DXs. The behaviors that embody a digital culture represent a significant shift from long-standing norms and particularly challenge traditional power structures, decision-making authority, and fundamental views of competition and cooperation among employees. The People ahead of Process and Technology (PPT) mantra is a major imperative.

The Centre for Executive Education (CEE) digital transformation consulting engagements over the years validated by the recent research by the Disruptive Leadership Institute (DLI) as published in the book, Leadership in Disruptive Times (2020) have identified several best practices, all of which make a digital transformation more likely to succeed as seen in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3 – The Key Success Factors For Digital Transformation At The Workplace

Reference: Sattar Bawany (2021) Leadership in Disruptive Times(2020). Business Expert Press (BEP) LLC. New York, NY.

These characteristics fall into six categories:

  • Having a clear digital vision & transformation agenda
  • Create a culture of obsession of the customer (customer-centricity)
  • Develop a digital-driven organization culture that is ‘fit for purpose’
  • Ensuring a clear communication strategy of the digital-driven culture
  • Adopting a data-driven approach to problem-solving & decision-making
  • Deploy the right talent (leader and team members) with the digital skills set


MIT Sloan Management Review (SMR) released a profound leadership resource that illuminates what it takes to lead in 2020. The New Leadership Playbook for the Digital Age report summarizes findings from the comprehensive SMR–Cognizant’s “2020 Future of Leadership Global Executive Study and Research Project,” Douglas A. Ready, et al. (2020), making the case that organizations must empower leaders to change their ways of working to succeed in a new digital economy of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This objective of the research is straightforward: to explore how the changing nature of competition, work, and society is influencing the future of leadership. The authors surveyed 4,394 global leaders from more than 120 countries, conducted 27 executive interviews, and facilitated focus-group exchanges with next-gen leaders worldwide. The findings are as sobering as they are inspiring. They serve as a warning for today’s leaders—as well as an invitation to reimagine leadership for the new economy. Reliance on antiquated and ineffective leadership approaches by the current generation of leaders is undermining organizational performance. Today’s trailblazing leaders increasingly recognize that to transform their organizations credibly, they must transform themselves first and then their teams (Ready et al. 2020).


Bawany S. (2021). “Coaching Next Generation of Leaders for a Digital-Driven Workplace: A Case study on developing the readiness of future leaders in Talent Management Excellence (TME), May 2021 Issue.

Bawany S. (2020a). “Talent Management for a Digital-Centric Future Workplace: Competencybased selection of future ‘disruptive digital leaders’ in Talent Management Excellence (TME), December 2020 Issue.

Bawany S. (2020b). “Developing ‘Disruptive Digital Leaders’ for the Post Pandemic Era: Ensuring leadership readiness for a digital-centric future workplace in the ‘new normal in Leadership Excellence (LE), November 2020 Issue.

Bawany S. (2020c). “Driving Performance Management in Digitally-Driven Organizations: Coaching for the performance of ‘disruptive digital leaders’ in the post-pandemic new normal in Human Capital Management (HCM) Excellence (APAC and the Middle East). September 2020 Issue.

Bawany S. (2020d). Leadership in Disruptive Times. New York, NY: Business Express Press (BEP) Inc., LLC. July 2020

Bawany S. (2020e). “The Future Role of HR in the Aftermath of COVID-19 Crisis: Transformation of the Digital-driven Workplace in the ‘New Normal’.” HR Strategy and Planning (HRSP) Excellence, May 2020 Issue.

Bawany S. (2020f) “Forum: Government Taking Decisive Action to Fight Pandemic The Straits Times (date accessed May 30, 2020).

Bawany S. (2019). Transforming the Next Generation of Leaders: Developing Future Leaders for a Disruptive, Digital-Driven Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). New York, NY: Business Express Press (BEP) Inc., LLC. July 2019

Bawany S. (2019). “Leadership 4.0: How Ready Are You to Be a Digital Leader? Leadership Excellence (LE) Essentials. February 2019 Issue.

Douglas A. Ready, et al. (2020). “The New Leadership Playbook for the Digital Age. Findings from the 2020 Future of Leadership Global Executive Study and Research Project MIT Sloan Management Review.


“My congratulations to Professor Bawany for the launch of his new publication, “Leadership in Disruptive Times”. This is a significant book, and its theme is overdue, particularly when severe disruptions are brought about by the recent Covid-19 pandemic.

When times are good, solutions often come straightforward. However, when rapid changes are brought about by unexpected disruption, it is not clear if a solution even exists, let alone a good one. It takes an exceptional leader who has experienced disruptive times before to offer us insights and visions to move forward, and quality to be an effective leader.

Readers will benefit enormously from Professor Bawany’s latest publication, and it is my firm belief that this pioneering book will be acknowledged as classic textbook/reference in leadership in disruptive times.”

“All of a sudden, a deadly pandemic is at the centre of unprecedented worldwide disruptions. Inadvertently, the COVID-19 has left organisations with little or no choice but to take the big leap towards digitalization.

Prof. Sattar Bawany’s latest book on ‘Leadership in Disruptive Times’ is a timely sequel to his first publication, ‘Transforming the Next Generation of Leaders: Developing Future Leaders for a Disruptive, Digital‐Driven Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0)’.

In his latest publication, Prof. Bawany recognised the need for organisations to include digital leadership competencies for them to successfully implement transformative initiatives in a highly disruptive environment. He also examines the attributes and competencies of disruptive leadership as they manoeuvre through the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 and the post-pandemic digital transformation in meeting the needs of the new normal. In developing successful organizational leadership in the new world order, this book provides valuable guidance and direction on the future way forward.”