Hire With Tomorrow's Culture In Mind

There are four kinds of change:

1) Transactional change – do what we have always done, better.
2) Transitional change – significant change but we have time to evolve.
3) Transformational change – significant change now.
4) Exponential change – increasingly impactful and unrelenting, continuous step change enacted in a compressed period of time.

Transitional and even transformational change have, for a brief period of time at least, a potential end-state. Exponential change is like compound interest, each step is significantly greater than the one that went before. Success leaves its own fingerprint (or not).

Any form of change that moves beyond improving "what is" implies working on the organisation's culture. Here we have to face the harsh reality: the so-called, "modern organisation" – perhaps the 20th century's greatest innovation – is ill-equipped to deal with the scope, complexity and speed of change we now face.

Good intentions and/or edict won't turn a hierarchical, bureaucratic, head and hand way of thinking into an innovative, entrepreneurial, first to market, breakthrough business. Think reinvention … not rework.

In a world where agility, ideas, collaboration and global reach dictate who wins and who fails, tomorrow's organisation will, of necessity, be fast, flat, flexible, focused and structured as a network of networks.

Think of a team of teams … not traditional top-down leadership. Think jazz ensemble … not a marching band. Think work … not employment. Think community … not tribe. Think contribution … not title. Think collaboration … not cooperation. Think ideas … not ideology. Think values … not rules.

As for leadership, the market for talent will put a premium on software savvy, the capacity to leverage big numbers, speed of learning, comfort with ambiguity, personal resilience and the capacity to build community. The dilemma: top talent is going to be more difficult to find than ever.

Think hiring with tomorrow's culture in mind … not hierarchy. Think leading the charge … not being in charge. Recognise that we will need super teams more than we need superstars.

Insights from "If It Can Be Digitalised, It Will Be Digitalised (PDF)".

Will Your Organisation Stand Proudly Amongst The Winners?

If you want to thrive as a leader, grow your business, or leave a legacy … you have to first recognise that tomorrow will not be a continuation of today. Not remotely. Exponential shifts in technology will change the job landscape forever. Continued disruption and uncertainty demand new thinking about organisation design. A new generation entering the workplace redefines past assumptions about what it means to be a leader.

Will your organisation stand proudly amongst the winners? To even stay in the game you will almost certainly have to:

1) Be unwavering in meeting your commitments to the capital markets.
2) Make organisation culture the centrepiece of your approach to competitive advantage.
3) Develop the capacity to create tomorrow, today.
4) Fully engage those in the middle of the organisation.
5) Make your organisation values come to life in everything you do.
6) Consistently change (learn) faster than the competition.
7) Find ways to unlock the innovative talent both inside and outside (e.g., crowdsourcing) of the business.

No doubt your organisation has faced significant challenges in the past. Take it as a given, those difficulties were merely the hors d'oeuvres. The main course is coming up. Moreover, if you are not working to reinvent yourself the market/competition will (painfully) do it for you.

It's all-too-easy to push concerns about the future to one side. In 1907 that's what a buggy-whip maker in Detroit did. "That damn fangled Ford machine ain't going to affect us much."

A hundred years later, it's why a driver in New York spent a million dollars buying a taxi medallion (owning his own cab). "I now have security for life!"

It's what Nokia did. "We've got a really great phone; let's move production to China in order that we can make it cheaper."

It's what BlackBerry did. "Why would anyone want a camera in their phone?"

It's what Kodak did. "Photography will always be about chemical processing." To make matters worse, Kodak actually invented digital photography.

These businesses were run by really smart people. Unfortunately, if you drive the bus by constantly looking out the back window a crash is guaranteed. In the meantime, "Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress." Alfred A. Montapert.

Insights from "The 4th Industrial Revolution".

When Business Goals And Company Culture Clash

Business growth and profitability is the stuff of legends. Companies that astound investors, employees and the business media with sustained or unprecedented expansion become the darlings of the global financial markets and the spotlight grows on the careers of the executive officers, non-executive directors and innovators who made it all happen.

It is not surprising, then, that we are all chasing the same dreams. Growth leads to new opportunities. New opportunities present the potential to change the things around us. And recognition enables influence on a scale sometimes unimagined.

Yet there comes a time in the development of any company - large or small, public or private - when the risk of significant imbalance between corporate objectives and company culture escalates and begins to threaten continued business growth.

It is time like those that define companies. It is in such instances when the owners of a company reveal their true intentions, inhibitions and fears. And this is precisely when high performing executives begin to ask themselves whether it makes sense to work "all out" for the growth of their business when the reality is that corporate culture or fears about how growth may change it is holding them - and their organisations - back like an anchor.

Particularly for companies with long legacies or foreign owners, the stakes are very high when it comes to aligning business growth objectives with the corporate culture insiders see as the key, unifying force that has positioned the organisation for success in the first place.

The simple truth when it comes right down to it, is that even the most ambitious corporate plans for growth may collapse under the weight of questions about retaining company culture. That is why it is essential for executives already in a key leadership role, or contemplating a move to a new company and management opportunity, to probe considerably on the state of balance between business goals and company culture.

Questions one might ask could include:

  • "What elements of the culture are the owners willing to sacrifice in order to achieve business growth?"
  • "How much growth would the owners need to realise to be convinced that the culture needs to change?" and,
  • "Am I being compensated to preserve company culture, achieve business growth, or both?" And in the very likely case the response from company owners is "both", how are the financial incentives and rewards balanced to recognise both sides of the coin?

The pursuit of big dreams forces these tough questions and requires thoughtful answers. There is a natural conflict between ambition and identity. On a human scale, it is a question of knowing one's self. In corporate terms, it is a matter of sacrifice versus comfort and the willingness to confront one's fears.

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.

Culture: You Can't Manage What You Don't Measure

Levels of change

Historically, there have been three levels of change:

  1. Transactional - do more of what we have always done, better.
  2. Transitional - significant change but we have time to evolve.
  3. Transformational - reinvention and do it now.

A fourth - exponential change - is knocking loudly on the door.

Exponential change is a series of continuous step changes, where each step is significantly greater in scope and intensity than the one that went before. Any successful change agenda that moves beyond being better at what you have always done is, literally, about changing the culture. The engine of that change? A leader who first knows how to successfully introduce the culture conversation.

How important is culture measurement?

You can't manage what you don't measure. If you don't know where you're going … don't be surprised if you don't get there. No less problematical, it's difficult to raise the bar if you don't know how high it is. Think of it this way - not measuring culture is to buy something online with the assumed belief that if you didn't choose the size it will, nevertheless, fit you when it arrives. Without measurement, culture drift can be assumed.

In the culture conversation, it's important to relatively quickly capture the culture the organisation has today (roots) and the culture that is needed (wings) for the firm to be successful in the future (two years out being a meaningful time-frame). A measure of culture that identifies today's culture but doesn't clearly capture where you need to be is just another way to say, "We know where we are, but other than that, we are pretty well lost."

Intellectually appealing as many of the sociological, linguistic and approaches focusing on values congruency may be, if the cultural journey isn't described in business terms, the top team - keeping in mind that most senior teams have a notoriously short attention span -will quickly move on to the next topic. To wit, language that sounds as if it belongs in a third-year psychology class belongs in a third-year psychology class.


Today's level of unprecedented uncertainty demands a culture that is both strong and agile (StrAgility). Strong enough to build commitment to the culture the organisation needs moving forward. Agile enough to "enable" the right change scenarios to unfold.

In addition to measurement, a "strong" culture draws on: a compelling purpose; the organisation's values; ensuring that "the customer" sits in every meeting; a sense of urgency; middle managers who connect strategy with action; tough-mindedness when demanded; and clear goals supported by the discipline of delivery.

"Agility," meanwhile, draws on: trust; diversity; inclusion; the right organisation design; an ethos of innovation; psychological safety of the team; ongoing coaching; appropriate freedom to act; a risk-orientation; and leaders who know how to work at the level of mindset.

As to the future, only an optimist standing on stilts would dare to even imagine that things are going to slow down any time soon. It's not a matter of one-size-fits-all.

Shaping the organisation's culture

A conversation with the Board benefits from its own way to shape the conversation - and thus measure - the organisation's culture. Working with the top team, similarly, must be approached differently. Assessing culture as central to talent acquisition? Here we are describing a third type of measurement. And when it comes to company-wide assessment of culture - again, its own measurement approach is necessary.

The challenge implicit in any approach to measurement is to steer the conversation away from a discussion/assessment around an aspirational culture (what those involved would like to see … an easy trap to fall into) to one where the future being described is both pragmatic and meaningful. We need to make this change. Is the change outlined attainable? Are the priorities clear? Are the timelines outlined practical? Do we have the team to do this?

Key question(s): Movement without measurement is momentum without meaning. How do you measure culture?

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".

The Case For The Global Compliance Function

Whatever the case, particularly when red flags escalate into a full-blown crisis, hindsight always serves up important management insights and, occasionally, even some humble pie. In the best of cases, hard lessons are learned and leaders evolve. In the worst, people can get hurt, reputations can be damaged and profits can really get squeezed.

This is why it is important never to underestimate the value of the corporate compliance function.

Read "The Case For The Global Compliance Function" leadership insights

What Makes A Business Endure?

A business exists primarily to create tomorrow's customer. Profit is obviously important but it's ultimately an outcome of delivering a winning value proposition. Culture is real, practical and central to what makes a business endure. The organisation's culture delivers both the outward-looking (why buy from us?) and the inward-facing (why work for us?) value propositions. For the business to sustain, today and tomorrow, the culture has to:

  • Attract top talent.
  • Retain outstanding leaders.
  • Provide the agility needed for different strategic scenarios to be realised.
  • Create the space for innovation.
  • Move best practice across the organisation.
  • Accelerate learning.
  • Nurture risk.
  • Empower those closest to the customer to make key decisions.
  • Ensure that the environment is a priority.
  • Align the organisation's resources with why the customer buys.

If you don't know what makes the business successful – assuming it's central to future success - you can't protect it. Why do people buy what we deliver? Why do our best people stay? What is our core competency? What has made us successful to this point? What is our distinct point of differentiation? What do we do that the competition doesn't? What is sacrosanct? How do we make money?

As you move forward on your culture journey ask yourself:

  • What attributes of past success are we working to retain?
  • How have we identified what those key attributes are?
  • What are we doing to nurture/protect/evolve what it is that makes us special?

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".

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".

The Culture Carriers

Lest we forget - the environment; breakthrough technology; robotics; cobotics; new materials; a reshaping of the global economic order; sluggish organisations that, by way of design, are out of step with our emerging reality; the unprecedented manipulation and mental health issues associated with social media; social justice; and a host of other issues will only become more pressing concerns.

The implications are profound. A linear, unidimensional approach to planning - one that limits future options - is clearly dysfunctional. When agility and responsiveness are demanded, a strategic "straitjacket" is to hand the baton of future competitiveness to the competition. Conversely, a scenario approach must, of necessity, embrace both the best and worst of times.

Meanwhile, a plan that can't be implemented is just another … plan. Supporting the organisation's emerging value proposition, making the strategy come to life, marshalling the forces that combine or create a winning performance platform is why now, more than ever, the culture conversation must be front and centre. And it starts with coming to terms with what the key players - the culture carriers (those who have historically refereed how things get done) - think about the organisation's culture.

There is often a marked reluctance on the part of culture carriers to challenge the culture they created/supported or challenge the culture that made them successful. Considering the echo chamber that exists at the top of many organisations, pushing back too directly is likely to derail the conversation.

The best way forward with reluctant culture carriers?

  • Ask … don't assume.
  • Challenge … don't confront.
  • Prompt … don't provoke.

Explore the scope and nature of change that society in general and business overall is facing. It's an undeniable reality that tomorrow will be different! Very different. A business can't thrive in a vacuum; it can't survive if a philosophy of managing from the inside-out dominates the firm's thinking; if the status quo prevails.

The Culture Conversation

Culture isn't an end in itself. It's the engine that enables the business to win in the marketplace. In a successful organisation, it also shapes every aspect of the leadership conversation. And, if you get it right, it's the one thing the competition can't copy.

Moving beyond today's crisis isn't simply about having a better plan. To come out of this stronger means thinking differently about the business that will emerge. Some aspects, those that make the business special, must be protected. Other elements will have to be transformed. Elsewhere, the challenge means initiating "a new beginning".

Pulling everything together; the container that allows diversity to flourish; the system that provides meaning and supports momentum; the performance platform that enables a winning value proposition - are described by one simple term: "Culture". The challenge? The culture conversation we have now will determine not only what is possible but, more importantly … what becomes possible!

When tomorrow will be different, it's not enough to continuously improve on what you have always done. Two things are clear:

  1. Today's leaders see culture as essential to future success.
  2. Though it may be important, top teams don't spend much meaningful time on it.

The central question becomes "why?"

That culture is perceived as a slippery and esoteric concept is the start of it. That measurement is largely ignored is also clearly part of it. But the heart of it? Top teams struggle in knowing how to have the culture conversation.

"The Culture Conversation" explores critical issues:

  1. The Culture Carriers
  2. Look, Listen, Learn
  3. The Building Blocks
  4. Is the Organization Managing Its Culture?
  5. What Makes the Business Special?
  6. One Culture or Many?
  7. Measurement
  8. Strategy Versus Culture
  9. A Team of Teams
  10. Without Leadership You Ain't Got Much
  11. The Orxestra Change Model

Download "The Culture Conversation" today » https://www.transearch.com/orxestra/downloads

Why Culture Matters

Measuring culture, using business terms aligned with the emerging context and pragmatic enough for middle management to fully contribute, is essential but, like a well worn sock, you need to pull the organisation's culture on to truly know the way things really happen, where the holes are, and what it is that makes your business strong.

As you walk through an organisation, you have to "feel" the culture, work your observation gene, interpret not only what you see but what you don't and become the alter ego of the middle manager as the needed culture can only come to life with their full support.

There are two cultures; formal and informal. The latter is, ultimately, the more important. In moving forward, it's not enough to connect with those who shape the strategy. You have to inspire the organisation's informal leaders, a new generation who now make up the majority of the workforce and, no less important, those who do work for you but choose to do so remotely.

How decisions are made often happens outside of the discipline and rigour suggested by the organisation structure. This is especially true if the team works remotely or in different locations. This merely goes to endorse that the ideal organisation, by way of design, would:

  1. Reflect how, given the opportunity, people would choose to work together.
  2. Assume that the team leader works for the team and not the other way around.

In charting a course for a different future it's essential to:

  1. Be informed by the emerging social, political, economic and competitive environment; as both what's demanded and what's possible lies within.
  2. Recognise that developing strategic scenarios are essential.
  3. Understand that you can't sprinkle agility onto the organisation; it has to be fully embedded in the culture.

As we seek to "reinvent possibility", technology clearly makes an enduring contribution. Here we need to recognise that, although not an end in and of itself (as many suggest), if it can be digitalised, it will be digitalised.

Why the compelling need for digitalisation? Speed, simplicity and service are characteristics of competitive success that, more often than not, determines who wins and who goes home. If dissatisfied, customers are rarely without easy-to-access other options.

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".

The Organisation Of Tomorrow?

Although much still needs to be done around organisation design the way forward is clear. The organisation we need to have top of mind as we come down the mountain - enabling us to come out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger - must display five qualities:

  • Fast
  • Flat
  • Focused
  • Flexible
  • Fertile (to new ideas)

We need to add "strong" because agility without strength is fragility - to break easily. "Strength" also implies a strong balance sheet, strong values, a strong brand, strength drawn out of diversity & inclusion and a strong team at the top. Being strong also speaks to the ability, especially in the most chaotic times, to make tough decisions.

Leaders, faced with a new challenge, all too often default into what worked in the past. Our brain is wired to save energy. Faced with a new problem or challenge, the default response is to replay a past behavioural repertoire that was assumed to be successful. We have to train ourselves or be coached to see new issues in a new way (mindset), starting with letting go of what worked in the past.

The need for agility clearly isn't limited to the organisation. And leadership clearly can't simply amount to more of the same. The behaviour we celebrated in the past has to give way to a very different sense of what it means to be a leader.

Optimism, hard work and passion (PASS-Inspiration-ON) as always, are the start of it - in that the more things change, the more some things stay the same. Comfort with ambiguity, tech savvy, resilience, coaching mystery, the capacity to build great teams and cultural adaptability (work concurrently in different cultures) are clearly part of it. But leadership agility (conceptual, practical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and learning agility) is at the heart of it.

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".