Implementing Artificial Intelligence Successfully

Hedley Lawson
Hedley Lawson | Global Managing Partner | Aligned Growth Partners, LLC

Artificial Intelligence is a common-place strategy these days, and many believe that companies are using AI to automate customer service, recruiting, store data, and perform other functions.

After surveying thousands of executives about how their companies use and organize for artificial intelligence and advanced analytics, McKinseyfound that only eight percent of firms engage in core practices that support the widespread adoption of AI.

McKinsey reports that AI faces formidable cultural and organizational barriers. Many executives view AI as a plug-and-play technology with immediate returns. While some companies have success with individual projects after investing millions of dollars, other companies have struggled to move the pilot initiatives into companywide programs.

The problem is that executives fail to align the company’s culture, structure, and ways of working to support broad AI adoption.

Other research consulting firms are finding similar issues for companies that implement AI. 

The Boston Consulting Group2 (BCG) in 2018 discovered that companies that invested in their cultures were much better at implementing AI. BCG assessed roughly 40 digital transformations and found that the proportion of companies reporting breakthrough or strong financial performance was five times greater (90%) among those that focused on culture than among those that neglected culture (17%).

According to the BCG report, “The case for fostering a digital culture is even more powerful if we look at sustained performance: nearly 80% of the companies that focused on culture sustained strong or breakthrough performance. Not one of the companies that neglected to focus on culture achieved such performance.” 

As we continue to move rapidly through 2021, companies need to ignite their innovation and implement digital technologies to improve products, services and processes or control costs. They know they have to do this to compete in their industries and to fight off their competition. While they often know the competitive landscape and have strategies, they are often unsure about where to begin or how to prioritize their projects.

Our advice to client companies, and to our IERG colleagues who are working with client companies in this arena, begins with the goal to have AI do what it does well and have teams do what they do well. In addition, AI and humans need to work hand-in-hand.  From there, we advise them to build relationships, streamline their structures, and improve their cultures.

Here are nine tips to IERG members working with client companies to align company culture, structure, and ways of working to adapt AI:

1. Articulate the strategy of using AI and invite employees to participate in AI project implementation. Without employee support, projects will fail.

2. Change strategic planning to more action and less paper-based planning.

3. Unleash employee creativity and encourage risk-taking, building on each other’s ideas, failing fast, learning from mistakes and success, continual experimentation, and fast implementation.

4. Encourage employee teams to work with you as external experts, partners, and customers.

5. Delegate authority, resources and decision-making to lower level teams in the organization, aligned to the company’s AI strategies and goals.

6. Train employees for their new technology and roles and align your processes and the workers new tasks with the digital processes.

7. Make fact-based decisions quickly. Do not dwell on the past.

8. Measure and manage projects and set up a data management system to house your learning and data.

9. Change talent and performance management systems to hire, develop, and reward the behaviors needed for an innovative and adaptive culture: questioning, collaboration, trust, teamwork, and speed. In addition, reward progress and success.

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