4 Steps to Cultural Transformation

Why is organizational culture so important? What are the true costs? Check this out ...



The term “culture” means many things to many people, but within the business world it generally speaks to the connectedness between people, the central mission/goal of the organization and how the people within the organization accomplish their work each and every day.

All too often, culture is marginalized or perceived as a non-essential concern – something that can be easily remedied with the occasional happy hour or the availability of free snacks in the lunch room. But in point of fact, culture runs much deeper than that, and it’s much more critical to the organization’s success than most executives realize. Just think about these four statistics:

  • 7 out of 10 workers in the US are either activity disengaged or not engaged in their work, according to a recent study by Gallup.
  • The Bureau of National Affairs estimates that US businesses lose $11B annually as a result of employee turnover
  • A study by Dale Carnegie Training found that companies with engaged employees outperform those without them by up to 202%.
  • Companies with a higher sense of purpose outperformed others by 400% (Jim Stengel, 2012).
  • Transforming an organizational culture is a dynamic and continuous process that is very dependent on understanding the voice of the people. That’s why continuous feedback in an open forum creates a greater sense of connection, collaboration, and alignment across the organization, facilitating forward momentum and growth.

In order to be successful in an environment of constant change and disruption, it's important to have your finger on the pulse continually, in order to gather quick and real time feedback from your people on a variety of issues. And with headlines like “Smart companies now survey employee satisfaction daily, not annually,” it is clear that quicker, more frequent pulse surveys have an advantage over the “traditional” annual survey approach.

New trends in pulse technology have created many options for generating real-time feedback. But without direction, this can lead to a lot of interesting data with little long-term impact or understanding about what to do differently.

Clockspeed for culture transformation isn’t tracked in nanoseconds – it takes staying power, and a clear focus on the dynamics of the system to drive enterprise-level change. That’s why the best approaches combine the power of real-time and more frequent data within an action-oriented methodology that is grounded in what is going to matter most for your organization. This approach creates both breadth and agility that will keep the organization focused on a process that drives real change. So what should an organization do if it wants to change its culture?

Follow these 4 steps to a successful cultural transformation:


  1. Clarify how the culture of the organization is influencing the performance of the business. All successful transformations start with a thoughtful discovery process. Interview key stakeholders and utilize technology that gathers and shares real-time input to involve everyone in the organization.
  2. Establish an accurate and comprehensive baseline. Creating a baseline helps to capture a breadth of understanding around key aspects of organizational effectiveness, which are critically important to long-term success and are often closely linked to strategy implementation.
  3. Crowd-source perspective on key priorities. Disseminate results from the enterprise-wide analysis and use a real-time feedback platform to surface ideas for taking action on those key priorities.
  4. Pulse the organization quarterly. Identify key action indicators to ensure that the right actions are being taken, allowing for course correction as needed.
Creating adaptive change requires a proven transformation process, not just the application of assessment technologies. In order to make a successful transformation, it’s crucial to begin with a comprehensive culture assessment that provides a holistic picture, sets an enterprise level baseline, and focuses attention on the longer-term strategic priorities. From there, real-time feedback is a valuable way to feed an action-planning process that is grounded in those priorities. Continuous feedback in an open forum creates connection and collaboration, and when pointed at the key priorities, creates alignment across the organization.

Pulse surveys can help provide perspective on timely issues as they arise (e.g., What is most important for leadership to clarify during our upcoming all staff?), but the real value comes from harnessing the power of this technology to facilitate a thoughtful action planning process that is grounded in what matters for managing the business.



With most other metrics, organizations have long recognized the power of harnessing both breadth and agility for a long time. For example, CFOs don’t just report financials once a year, and conversely, they also know it’s not realistic to think you can manage your business with only real-time data. Today’s people metrics are no different. Utilizing a fully integrated approach, with a targeted, high impact process is the approach that will truly drive culture transformation.

Developing a winning culture requires the involvement and commitment of top executives. Ultimately the buck stops with the CEO around culture and culture should be the CEO’s top priority.

As phrased by leadership and culture guru John Mattone, all CEOs should understand and embrace that the most important job is to create, lead and sustain a positive culture that supports the organization’s operating imperatives. Getting culture “right” is the hardest work that a CEO can do, and also yields by far the greatest reward for all.

Learn how the Denison+Waggl partnership can help your organization navigate cultural transformation.
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Authors: Michael Papay and Dan Denison
Originally Posted January 23, 2017, by Business 2 Community

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