Spray and pray is not an option
If you think of culture like a living being fighting to stay alive, then it becomes clear that shaping culture is not about communicating or convincing, and that training people will not help very much. Shaping culture is about managing the everyday behaviours and about sending positive, concrete and credible signals of the new behaviours in action (for more on this read the article: « your culture is watching you »).
If you add to that the fact that culture reacts to its environment much much faster than top management, then you will need a very careful orchestration and be clever about the type of signals you are sending it. If you send the wrong signals (a formal leader not in line with the right behaviours, someone promoted that is well known for not supporting or living the new culture, lack of recognition for people displaying the right behaviours etc…), your culture will read the sign and revert back to the previous “safe” behaviour, which had proven efficient in staying alive up until now.
Equally important, the sequence of signals is key. Don’t trust serendipidity. The conjunction of simultaneous signals can have a very powerful impact on your culture. The concomittant visibility of symbols coming from top management together with formal leaders showing true humility and committment, as well as stories of informal influencers living the behaviours, can have a huge impact on our culture. But the secret is it needs to be concomittant. Either because it is carefully thought through and planned, or because you were agile anough to pick up events in your organization and leverage them intentionally.
I you are serious about shaping the culture of your organization, and are convinced that you can’t leave it to chance, the first thing you will need to do is to have an orchestration team in place. Depending on the size of your organization, that team can go from 2 to 10 people. Ideally dedicated to the task (work needs to be done…), people in that team will need to be very well connected into the organization, be diverse and have the right mindset.
If you work with us at humanize, we will take this team through a carefully designed « wash-out » period for onboarding, insights gathering, clarification of intent, definition of desired behaviours and measurements, and planning. After this period of wash-out, in order to be intentional and have impact, they will need well distributed accountabilities by lever. Each lever will have its a particular focus: formal leaders evolution, informal influencers caring, engagement and measures, process consistency etc… We will guide them in each of those steps.
Respect the flow
Shaping culture is not only about delivering a carefully designed plan. If it was only about that, it would be easy, like a standard programme / project. Shaping culture is not a project. Culture is an ever changing beast, so shaping it is a continuous effort that never really stops. Unlike a project, culture is never « achieved ».
Beyond the initial « ignition » phase, your orchestration team will need to have a plan, but the key will be to revisit this plan constantly, and revisit it again and again. The goal is to surf on the wave of unexpected events at the same speed as your culture takes to adapt to them. These events go from change of public policies, significant market opportunities, change of strategy, change in top management, reorg, merger etc… Be ready to rely on your « growth mindset », be « organic » and « go with the flow ». This attitude will be essential for your success, so that the signals sent to your culture are well in tune with the life of the organization and picked up instantly.
Slightly disoriented by what you just read? Very curious to know more about how we do that? Reach out we will show you the way.