CTO Priorities:+ Culture Transformation


Marcus Daley,
CTO at S&P Global Ratings

It was a little over a year ago that we started systemizing our transformation as a technology organization. We had already made successful improvements to our processes, product quality and had transitioned to the cloud. So, our transformation was well underway. But something still wasn’t connecting.

In mid-June 2019, I visited BBVA in Mexico City and was impressed with their technology transformation as a global bank. While I walked through one of their floors, I noticed a diagram on the wall of an iceberg, illustrating different modes of communication. That image stuck with me for the rest of the day and it started to crystalize what wasn’t connecting for our technology organization. We had a culture that we said was guiding our values and behaviors, but we were operating in a sub-culture that was built from decades of history.

That evening, I created a draft of the visualization we call the Iceberg Gap:

After feedback sessions with the Ratings Technology leadership team, we refined the Iceberg Gap until we felt it solved the cognitive dissonance between what we said we did (Visible Organizational Culture) and what we were doing (Invisible Organizational Culture). The diagram was powerful because it also emphasized what was happening below the iceberg reduced our capacity. Capacity to innovate better technology, be good leaders and be employees other people wanted to be around. The reduced capacity represented an Opportunity Cost we were unwilling to accept.

We published the Iceberg Gap to the rest of the Ratings Technology organization and let everyone know, we only wanted to operate as a group of people swimming above the waterline. This was followed by many one-on-one discussions, roundtables and healthy debates in several forums. We also tied the Iceberg Gap to organizational changes, all aimed at moving the organization to the top of the iceberg.

Today, we talk a lot less about the Iceberg Gap and a lot more about initiatives we have in-flight to transform our technology portfolio and how to create recognition for our employees. That’s partly because our leadership team is actively engaged in keeping the organization operating above the waterline. Sometimes it’s easy to slip on the ice, but our teammates help all of us stay balanced and continuously improving.

It’s humbling to see a group of highly motivated leaders operate as a team – a lot can be accomplished well beyond business deliverables. That’s what we’re seeing now. Things aren’t perfect, but I feel like we’re swimming in the right direction and at good speed!

If you have technology transformation journeys you would like to share, please comment on this article or share links to other business cases. We are always looking for good material we can learn from and leverage that will accelerate our progress.

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