Artificial Intelligence is a buzz word these days, and many believe that companies are using AI to automate customer service, recruiting, store data, and perform other functions. However, the buzz has run into a buzz saw.

After surveying thousands of executives about how their companies use and organize for artificial intelligence and advanced analytics, McKinsey found 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 Group (BCG) in 2018 discovered that companies that invested in their cultures  were much better at implementing AI. The Boston Consulting Group 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.”

Is your culture and structure getting in the way of your essential AI projects?

We have worked with dozens of companies that either need to ignite their innovation or implement digital technologies to improve products, services and processes or control costs. They know they have to do something to fight off 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 begins with the goal to have AI do what it does well and have the workers do what they do well. In addition, AI and humans need to work hand-in-hand.  From there, we tell them to build relationships, streamline their structures, and improve their cultures.

Here are nine tips to align your company culture, structure, and ways of working to adapt AI.

  1. Relentlessly articulate the strategy of using AI and invite your employees to participate in AI project implementation. Without employee support, your projects will fail.
  2. Change your strategic planning to more action and less 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 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. Don’t dwell on the past.
  8. Measure and manage your projects and set up a data management system to house your learning and data.
  9. Change your 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.

Are your AI strategies failing because you have not aligned your culture and organization to adopt new AI technologies?

We can assess your culture to see how open it is to change, innovation, and AI, and with you, put in place an action orientated plan to adapt to AI and new ways of doing business.

Learn more about our empirically based cultural assessment and workshops. Contact us at 707-331-6740 or

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and is a Managing Partner of InnovationOne. He consults and provides hands-on support to improve recruiting and retention, cultures of innovation, and train agile leaders and teams.