“Hey James, can you send us a proposal? We have a culture problem that needs fixing.” If I had a $100 for every time I have fielded this request…
At CulturAlchemy our first response is to ask two primary questions:
1) How do you know that you have a ‘culture problem’?
2) Why does it even matter?
These two questions unfold a rich process for explorative dialogue that is learning and begins to diagnose the underlying issues. This process can take days, weeks and even months to unfold.
Most, if not all the time these two questions lead to:
- New awareness of the underlying system (complex social system) of culture
- Understanding why the business needs to collectively focus on culture – (both fixing issues and prospering people)
- Clarity about what could be done for change to stick, and
- The clear first few steps to take to gain momentum
Yet, even with the two questions explored and the above points covered the organisation may not be ready for ‘culture change’! So, how can you know that your organisation is ready for culture change? To assist in processing this question for your organisation, we have created the Culture Change Readiness Landscape:
The Readiness Landscape
The system is visible for all to see and experience. We use the word system to describe all types of organised processes for example – governance procedures, org structure, how customers are engaged, meeting cycles, actual business systems etc… We recently experienced a barrier to change in the system at the board level of an organisation with the Chairperson and key people being investigated for corrupt practices – needless to say, we haven’t progressed culture change work, yet! Rather, we have supported key people with methods to build resilience in preparation for change.
Capability pays attention to the key people within the organisation and their ability to comprehend, shape and lead sustainable change. Examples of required capabilities include systems thinking, change leadership skills and story telling as craft for communications. As a precursor to culture change, we recently invested time with an Executive Team to hone their skills in the art and science of story telling. This led to new understanding and empathy for members in the team and an enhanced confidence to lead the organisational narrative.
The individual and collective beliefs that senior influencers in the organisation hold about culture cannot be understated. For example, recently we have been working with an organisation in which the CFO believes that culture is a fluffy concept that P&C need to take care of. Can you imagine the consequences of this belief? As a result, our work with this CFO has been to educate through experience as to the hard data and importance of culture on the bottom line. In our 1:1 work together we coined the phrase – “Culture: The invisible line on our balance sheet!”
Morale is like the vibe of an organisation. You can feel it when you walk into a business or even when you call on the phone. It is impacted by all sorts of things from COVID-19 to someone not washing up in the kitchenette! Seriously though, morale needs to be in an ‘ok’ place in order to embark on a successful culture change program. After 3x CEO’s in 18 months, we agreed that the fragmented Senior Leadership Team were not in a place to shift organisational culture. So, we decided to focus specifically on them as an SLT. It took 6 weeks of 1:1 and collective work to lift their morale in preparedness for the culture change conversation.
So, are you culture change ready?
Why not ask the questions and find out – together. Keep in mind that properly answering the Culture Change Readiness Landscape questions can take months, and sometime longer. Use it as a guide rather than prescription. Also, remember, there is never a ‘good’ or perfect time to launch into culture change. However, by simply processing the landscape questions, you will be well on your way.
After working closely with a CE and her team of a large government organisation across the last 24-month period of significant change externally and internally, we sat down to reflect. One of the gold nuggets that I took from our reflections was a sentence that could only be forged in the crucible of leadership, “If our culture is not on my agenda, I’m not doing my job.”
At CulturAlchemy our purpose is found at the centre of yours. To co-adventure with you – enabling your people to prosper in service of your organisations purpose.
Please reach out, if you’d like support in answering these questions on behalf of your people.
Written by James Koch – CulturAlchemist
Thanks for reading.
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