Change an Org Culture vs understanding Org Culture?

Over the past few months there has been a variety of discussions, threads, blogs and articles on organizational culture. There is a strong theme in many of them that suggests that they need to change their respective culture? I question this because I am a strong believer in needing to understand the “As Is” before one sets off to the “To Be”…

A few random definitions of “Culture”
  • The collective values and beliefs of a group of people
  • The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society
  • The behavior exhibited by people in the absence of authority (i.e. when no one is around how do people behave?)

If these definitions ring true then could it be a case that a given group of people are simply misunderstood and it isn’t culture at all its the person interpreting the culture? Could the behaviors being exhibited be symptom of a deficiency in the leadership, direction or simple communication from management?

A key attribute of a good leader is empathy…So why not start with understanding culture in an organization before setting out to change it? Who knows by actually engaging and seeking to learn more about different cultures and sub cultures within an organization may be the secret catalyst to other things like process (eg Communication) which in turn could aid surfacing the true or complete culture and not just part of it?

Lead with your weakness

Have you ever been in a workshop or meeting and there is that awkward moment because you realize that the manager doesn’t understand the topic at all. Does the manager choke? Do they try to demonstrate their limited knowledge with a few key words or ideas? Does the manager ask a question in such a way that provides them with enough idea to bluff their way forward?

This week I was assigned a temporary role in the organisation that was new to me. It is on a short term basis and while I have an idea of what goes on I am in no way an expert! I made the conscious decision to declare my lack of knowledge to the team up front but at the same time countered this with my enthusiasm and optimism to deliver the short term deliverable. (over the Christmas break as well)

I held extra workshops for people who were also in the team (some remote) as they too were relatively new to this temporary role. I am please to say that at the end of the first week everyone is on the same page, we have all shared our strengths and weaknesses and had a laugh along the way…

Goes to prove that honesty is the best policy. I have also learned that my weakness can also empower people.

Converting Negative Energy into a Positive Alignment

I sat in a meeting today where 3 parties debated (argued) over why they needed to do something “their way”. It was one of those meetings I wish there was a blackboard to run my fingernails down! I drew 3 circles on the whiteboard representing each of the issues highlighted. I checked for reasoning that I had captured them correctly. Going around the room one person thought I should make their circle larger than the others. I reiterated that it was to capture the core issue not the impact we thought it created…

To claw my way out of the “hole of despair” I quoted a few of the organisational strategies that were commonly known. I treated this as an exercise so the room felt I was weighing into which issue was the biggest detractor from a named strategy. After writing the strategies on the whiteboard I asked which issue “wouldn’t” impact one of the strategies and everyone agreed they all would impact them in some degree.

At this time I drew a Venn diagram linking the strategies to the issues. (Strategies was the middle circle with the outer circles representing the issues) It was at this moment the room started to see that we are all in this together and it was all connected. It was a tough 90 minutes but the perseverance paid off.

Morale of the story…”Don’t fight the negative, channel it”

Facilitation begins before the meeting invite?

I  observed a workshop that was meant to be attended by 20 people but only a handful had turned up. This is not only a waste of time for an organization, but also sends many silent messages. Communication breakdown, incompetency, lack of interest, weak leadership and the list goes on and on. The old “first impressions last forever” is irreversible…

If you have ever facilitated a workshop you know your “sleep at night factor (SANF)” the evening before. If you have planned everything well you are in a position to steer the workshop on the front foot. If you haven’t planned well you can often fall into the trap of reacting (on the back foot) or even worse defending yourself which completely undermines the workshop and erodes your credibility as a facilitator
I have met both introvert and extrovert facilitators but the thing that the successful ones have in common is “early engagement“. If you had a choice of receiving an invite to a workshop via email vs a phone call from someone explaining the need to have the workshop first, I’m pretty sure most people would appreciate a phone call first then the email invite.
Early engagement sends a message of care, consideration, respect and gives the attendee a sense of belonging. It also provides a facilitator another level of engagement during the session…for example…”Thats a great point Mary. Peter had a similar view when I spoke to him during the set up of the workshop. lets explore how we can take that further” This simple technique has allowed me to build the “collective intent” before I start my sessions…
Where do you start to build the “collective intent”? At the start of your workshop or before?