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Why culture now? Why culture at this particular point in time?
It can be argued there are 3 stages to a crisis:
Stage 1: Shock, denial, coming to terms with the new reality.
Stage 2: Simply surviving. Pulling the needed resources together and navigating through the crisis.
Stage 3: Reinvention. Thinking about the business differently. Asking, "How do we come out of this crisis stronger?"
Some organisations will come out of this stronger. Some will be winners. And I'm going to suggest that the question we need to ask, perhaps the question you need to have in your organisation… "Is tomorrow's organisation agile enough to both navigate and take advantage of heightened uncertainty?" That question moves you into the culture space and the culture conversation.
But, let me segue just for a minute. There is a good deal written, and being written right now, about 'Distance Employment', 'Remote Employment'. There is no doubt that Covid-19 has accelerated the platform around digitalisation, and a whole lot of what is happening now will continue. But, I would like to step back and recognise that there is something about work that is very special.
People don't come to work just to work. The workplace gives a sense of belonging. It creates a sense of meaning in peoples' lives. It's a place where people share stories. Yes, it's a place for people to gossip, and gossip is as common to homo sapiens as grooming is to apes.
It is also the case that if you look at organisation structure and start to think for a minute that that is how the organisation actually works, you are sadly mistaken. The organisation works as a result of ongoing, informal, collaborative networks. It works in terms of people accidentally bumping into each other. What Alam Mumford used to call "Accidental Learning". The workplace isn't just a place to do work. It's a social experience. It is part of how people find meaning in their lives.
As a reference point, IBM, Reddit, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard and Best Buy, all went through the notion of having a good deal of their employment 'remote employees'. And, they pulled many of those employees back. The reason being that it stripped out a wad of what they called "innovation".
Why culture now?
3 stages to a crisis.
Is tomorrow's organisation agile enough to both navigate and take advantage of heightened uncertainty?
That leads you naturally into a conversation around culture. And indeed it leads you into what we would suggest is a very different conversation.
Culture isn't an end in itself. It is a container for diversity. It both frames and supports the organisation's value proposition. It is the bedrock of a great brand. It is 'the engine' that drives change. It's what separates a great company from the rest of the pack. The greater the change, the more an organisation's culture has to reflect the new reality. Simply put, organisation culture and the leadership challenge implied, is more relevant at this moment than ever.
Leading the webinar was John O. Burdett, who has worked in over 40 countries as an executive and as a consultant for businesses that are household names. He has worked on and continues to work on leadership development and organization culture for some of the world's largest corporations.