Culture Assessment

Download your complementary copy of "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" and go through the assessment either individually or with your team. Review the assessment with two central questions in mind. "Where are we today on the 5-1-5 scale?" And using the same scale, "Where do we need to be?"

Consider, which descriptor best describes where your organisation is today? Score (X) to capture your level of agreement with that statement (5, 4, 3, 2, or 1). A "5" suggests you strongly agree. Repeat to describe where you believe you need to be (✓). How far you look into the future is a factor of the business sector you are in. A good default assumption, however, would be 24 months. It is quite possible, that on any single question, where you are is where you need to be.

In thinking through "Where do we need to be?" consider the following:

  • What did you learn from the Covid crisis?
  • What is special about your business that you must retain?
  • What do tomorrow's customers want to buy and how do they want to buy it?
  • What would it take to attract the customers that are currently out of reach?
  • What would it take to attract and retain the very best people?
  • Digitalisation isn't simply a matter of investing in technology. How are you going to "rewire" the organisation in order that you optimize the return on investment from that technology?
  • What do you need to do to become more agile?
  • What will it take to move faster?

It is also important to ask: "Do we have the leadership in place to make this happen?" "Are all of those in pivotal roles totally committed to this degree of change?" After going through the assessment (including any "From What to What?" dimensions you may have added) identify:

  1. What elements of today's culture are critical to tomorrow's success (Roots); and
  2. The five to seven key changes demanded if we are to start to create tomorrow's culture, today (Wings). More than seven will make the challenge overwhelming.

Joining the points that describe where we are and, similarly, joining the points that describe where we need to be, will give a very helpful, visual "map" of the cultural journey.

Download your complementary copy of "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" today.

Who "Owns" The Culture?

Is the organisation in question currently "managing its culture"?

The simple answer to that lies in the degree to which people from across the organisation can answer five central questions:

  1. Where is the organisation heading (critical, strategic priorities)?
  2. Why do we do what we do (compelling purpose)?
  3. What are the organisation's values and can you give an example of a recent decision that was shaped by those values?
  4. What makes the organisation special (unique capability)?
  5. How does the organisation make a difference in society (giving back, the environment, building bridges to the local community)?

The five questions posed are just as meaningful to a small consulting firm as they are to a multinational. Who to ask? Clearly you want the top team to be in agreement. The acid test, however, is how middle managers respond. If they are not all on the same page, culture is, at best, an afterthought.

Who "feeds" the bulk of the workforce? The answer: middle management. Which group is the most important to the organisation when it comes to actually delivering the needed culture? The answer: middle management.

The dilemma here is that engagement scores from both sides of the Atlantic show middle management as the group that is least engaged. It's a group that, taken overall, is disappointed, disengaged, disheartened and discouraged. And when it comes to culture, if you don't get middle managers on board then no one is on board.

Why have middle managers become disconnected? Top leaders have forgotten the basic law of gravity: effluent flows downhill. And after the best part of a generation of downsizing, rightsizing and upside-down–sizing - where the "Middle Kingdom" is constantly asked to do more with less - the typical supervisor is standing knee deep in it.

There is a simple message here. "Invest your next dollar, euro, pound, whatever, in the training, education and coaching of the one group that 'owns' the culture."

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".

Tomorrow's Leaders Are Culture Savvy

Culture is a complex system that is only as strong as its weakest parts. Moreover, if a piece is missing it doesn't work. An engaged workforce doesn't mean you are heading in the right direction. Organisation values are essential but on their own they are not enough.

Conventional wisdom suggests that culture follows strategy. The dilemma is that in a world where strategy is persistently under attack, "the plan" has to be constantly revisited. The new dictum is culture enables strategy. What endures, what provides the platform for growth, what shapes future performance, what enables different strategic scenarios to unfold … is the organisation's culture.

The challenge, of course, is not merely to possess a strong culture but to build a business environment that shapes how people act and, at the same time, supports emerging strategic scenarios. This speaks to changing the patterns of play, measurement, the ability to shape the culture conversation, bringing middle managers on board and inspirational leadership.

Even where all the building blocks of culture are in place, if the leader in question lacks the ability to take people places they otherwise would not go, you still don't have much!

Our own research - and that of others - suggests that only 20% of organisations manage their culture. Power moves into a vacuum. If you are not managing your culture someone else is! And if those at the helm lack culture savvy take it as a given - the future of the business lies in the wrong hands.

And the difference that makes a difference: Recognise that culture is managed from the outside-in but demands leadership from the inside-out; provide structure and guidance into how to have the culture conversation; become a storyteller; measure culture and work diligently to uncover (global) best practice - then improve on it. Our species are, above all else, copying machines with an inherent desire to be better than all the rest.

Insights from "Tomorrow's Leadership Will Be Different".

Five Essential Building Blocks of Your Organisation's Story

Tomorrow's successful leader is someone who can slalom through the white water of unanticipated disruption and culture change. To that end, little is more important as a navigation aid than the organisation's story. That story has five essential building blocks:

1) Where are we headed?
2) What do we believe in?
3) What makes us special?
4) What is our brand promise?
5) How do we make a difference in people's lives?

Story is culture and culture is story. Yesterday, strategy informed culture. Moving forward, culture enables strategy. If you're not measuring culture … you're not managing it.

Insights from "Speed of Learning: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage".

Three Essential TRANSEARCH Orxestra® Webinars You Can Watch Right Now
drive.google.com (PDF)

TRANSEARCH International recently invited organisational change and culture guru Dr John O. Burdett to present a series of global webinars on the following themes:

  1. The Culture Conversation
  2. Coming Down the Mountain - It's all mindset
  3. Organization Design

For those who have already watched the webinars or participated in the live sessions, thank you for your ongoing interest in our TRANSEARCH Orxestra® series. If you haven't been able to join us or missed one of the sessions, you can read more about the webinars using the links above and watch the videos at your leisure.

Insights from "Three essential TRANSEARCH Orxestra® webinars you can watch right now" by Vladimír Polomský, Sr. Consultant, TRANSEARCH International Czech Republic & Slovakia.

Read "Three Essential TRANSEARCH Orxestra® Webinars You Can Watch Right Now" leadership insights

Do You Spend As Much Quality Time On Culture As You Do On Strategy?

Traditional business school thinking is that strategy drives culture. Figure out the strategy and then make the culture fit. In a steady state world, that model makes perfect sense. Except we don't live in a safe, predictable environment. In a world of uncertainty the only thing that is predictable is that your strategy will be "subject to correction". Long after the strategy has been shredded, what will endure is the culture. The new reality - culture enables strategy.

It's become popular to use the expression "culture eats strategy for breakfast." It's colourful, catchy, engaging, provocative … and wrong! We need both strategy and culture. The conundrum with a good metaphor is that logic doesn't unseat it. We need a better metaphor.

Consider...

"Strategy is a bicycle, culture is a bus."

It's a mistake of epic proportions to assume the bicycle can pull the bus. Difficult when the road is flat; impossible on a steep incline. Know also that if the bicycle has to swerve - if, for example, a black swan runs into the road (a black swan event describes unpredictable, sweeping and highly disruptive change, e.g., the 2008 financial meltdown) - the bus will just keep on going .. and going. And in the collision that follows … no prize for knowing the winner!

We need to get strategy on the bus … recognising that culture has primacy at the back of the bus! What does that mean in practical terms? The next time your team meets to discuss strategy make sure that culture is front and centre. In an uncertain and unpredictable world, to be a successful leader is to breathe life into the culture every single day. The problem? Intent and intestinal fortitude aren't always aligned. What's important gets in the way of what is essential. Early resolve is not the same as a successful outcome.

The evidence from our own research, and that of others, is that only 20% of organisations are managing their culture. The Culture Imperative: If you are not managing your culture someone else is! The union; a dominant customer; a predatory supplier; the local press; government regulators; and/or a function or sub-business that, because of past success, have undue influence and will be pleased to move into the vacuum.

Insights from "The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture".

Does Your Team Regularly Have A Vibrant Culture Conversation?

Culture is the often overlooked, all-pervasive, enterprise-wide, organisational DNA that dictates whether your strategy lands or if your brand sustains. It's "a way to be" shaped by the past but continuously honed by the emerging business, social, economic, political and customer context. Culture is managed from the outside-in but demands leadership from the inside-out. The four essential, supporting pillars of culture are:

  1. Mission (why do we do what we do?)
  2. Diversity (diversity fuels innovation)
  3. Brand (why buy from us?)
  4. Speed (Focus - Anticipation - Simplicity - Technology)

The four pillars act like the foundation of a house. If they are poorly constructed nothing will stand for very long. Those four pillars are braced by the organisation's values. The organisation's values must hold meaning for all of the stakeholders, especially the customer.

Bringing the intended culture to life means also working on:

  • Structure;
  • Core processes;
  • The nature and degree of freedom to act (how decisions get made and who makes them); and
  • How people learn (learning how to learn, speed of learning)

All of the elements described come together to shape the organisation's story. Culture is story and story is culture. When top talent is evermore difficult to find and attract, a winning story is essential. Talent isn't attracted to your balance sheet; they want to join your firm because they love your story. And they stay, not because they swoon over your strategy but, because they are a happy captive of your culture.

Insights from "The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture".