Accelerating Your Organisation’s Cultural Evolution
Part 1: When to put the pedal to the metal
A client we have been working with for around 12 months has been so enthused and energised by their culture evolution journey that they are dramatically upping the activity, pace and breadth of change.
Yet other clients who have been on the journey for so much longer, don’t yet have sufficient mandate within the organisation to accelerate their work.
As leaders and culture influencers, it can be a challenge to identify when to speed up and when to slow down. In Part 1 of this series of 3 blogs, we share some tips for identifying when to put the peddle to the metal to accelerate culture evolution.
What are the signs that the organisation is truly ready to tear down the runway of cultural evolution and soar into the skies of possibility?
Signals for acceleration:
1. The stories people tell about the organisation have changed
When the organisation is ready to accelerate change, the stories have become much more empowering with a greater emphasis on enabling experiences which focus on learning and progress.
2. The early adopters and champions of change are joined by a larger coalition of the willing
A beauty of culture change is its infectious impact. When sufficient people in the organisation start behaving in a new way, congruent with the aspirational culture, it becomes contagious.
Who can you engage to do meaningful work in the organisation which brings to life the new culture?
An example of this might be a cross-functional and cross-hierarchical group who come together to understand how to better serve the customer and do this in a way which brings to life new ways of working together.
3. The Board and key stakeholders close to the business notice significant difference in the energy and intent
People are more alive, more hopeful, more imbued with a sense that change is possible, as they live the every-day experience of it. There is a shift in the energy from heavily defended around past ways of thinking and acting, to open and alive to new possibilities.
We often hear of signals and stories from the board, customers or other stakeholders that they are noticing a change. As an external consultant, it can feel like you are walking into a different organisation.
How do you harness this energy?
1. Create Unambiguous alignment
The organisation is clearly moving in the same direction, with a common purpose that engages people in understanding what their contribution is. This does not need to be a highly regimented approach where every colour is beige. It does need, however, a unifying theme or purpose that each person and unit, in their own way, contribute towards.
This unambiguous alignment enables energy and momentum towards the aspirational direction to accelerate.
2. Embed the behaviours and language of the aspirational culture
As energy shifts from defending the “why we are like this” towards “this is what we can be”, people start seeing the roles they can play in enabling the emergence of the new organisational system.
Cynicism or an evangelical attachment to the past is replaced with realistic optimism. People begin to behave and speak in a way that embodies the organisations’ aspiration.
To accelerate the culture as this occurs includes drawing attention to the new behaviours and language, ensuring the communications and celebrations reflect the emerging reality.
3. Place greater emphasis on the learning and development required for the emerging culture
As the new way starts to become the norm, people begin to deepen awareness of particular skill, knowledge or mindset needs of their people. There becomes a greater pull for learning and development to support this, and to further embed these new learnings into the new ways of working.
To accelerate culture evolution as this emerges requires close attention to where the different pockets of the business are on the journey, and partnering with them on designing a developmental pathway for their part of the organisation and their people.
Culture change is an adaptive challenge. It is complex, it requires much probing, testing and learning. It can be messy, imperfect, and at the same time profoundly impactful. Thank you to our clients who have inspired us with their willingness to dig deep and truly stay the journey!
Our next blog will explore when to take stock – slowing down to speed up the culture journey.