You may have heard us eagerly discussing the diagnosis, design and development of better organisational culture.
What we really relish is not just the talk but helping to map the current state and plan what needs to be done to reach a desired future culture.
Susan had the pleasure of working with the CHOICE team on their journey. Check out what they did, as told by Jessica Hill, Director, People & Culture at CHOICE:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” a phrase attributed to management guru Peter Drucker.
Organisational culture is so very important, it’s one of the main reasons that people leave an organisation and why they’re drawn to a new one. Culture is often hard to describe, although when it’s not quite right it becomes clear very quickly.
At CHOICE we’ve spent a number of years focusing on employee engagement. This has been a comprehensive approach with feedback loops and dedicated action that’s led to a highly engaged workforce. But engagement isn’t all-encompassing. There are aspects within an organisation’s culture that don’t typically surface when looking solely at employee engagement. It was this realisation that led us to focus on our culture in 2016.
How do you define culture?
Initially we loosely defined culture as the “way we do things around here”, recognising that this takes into account the values and beliefs that shape our organisation. There are some other good definitions:
“Organisational culture is defined as the shared values, norms and expectations that govern the way people approach their work and interact with each other. In other words it’s “what am I expected to do in order to fit in and get ahead here.” Mike Gourlay, Director, Human Synergistics
“Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.” Frances Hesselbein
To identify and map our culture we found a simple and effective tool in Dave Gray’s culture map.
This map allowed us to take stock of the behaviours we were seeing and the enablers and blockers that were influencing those behaviours. It also highlighted the outcomes that they all contributed to.
Mapping culture while balancing rigour
The CHOICE culture is built on rigour, so these culture workshops with post-it notes did seem a little vague to some of our teams. We looked to validate some of the behaviours that we collectively agreed were present in our culture. We then asked leaders to complete a Harrison Assessment facilitated and debriefed by Susan Rochester from Balance at Work . We analysed the group’s collective Harrison data and compared it with what we identified in the workshops. This gave us a mark-in-time view of our current culture.
Mapping our aspirational or future culture
With a new strategy underway, we wanted to understand what our future or aspirational culture looked like. This is the culture that would allow us to deliver our strategy. We again used a collaborative approach to define our future culture using Dave Gray’s culture map. We came away with an agreed future state, with three key aspirations:
1. A collective understanding of the strategic direction
2. A learning organisation
3. An improving organisation
What does the future hold for culture at CHOICE?
Culture is constantly moving while we’ve mapped our current and future culture, they’ll be forever evolving.
What did this achieve?
- A common language around culture
- Culture now measured at points in time
- Less focus on employee engagement numbers and more focus on qualitative measures
- We identified gaps in our current culture vs where we want to be (future culture)
- Taking stock of and leveraging the strengths in our culture (mutual respect, flexible thinking, collaboration, information sharing, motivation to making a difference)
We’ve also worked with fantastic coaches Susan Rochester and Dr Sean Richardson to help us shift to where we need to be. We’ve started with organisational communication and looked at ‘possibility’ conversations. While we have a united organisational purpose, this focus has shown us that individual team purposes haven’t yet been clearly articulated.
Where to next?
We’re moving into another strategic planning process. As part of this process, we’ve embedded a focus on culture as a key determinant in the success of the new strategy.
CEB/Gartner research from 2017 found organisations with strong cultures do two things really well:
- They know where they want their culture to go and;
- they measure it at regular intervals.
Have you thought about mapping or measuring your culture?