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.

StrAgility

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".

One Culture Or Many?

Is it possible for an organisation to have only one culture?

In a multidivisional organisation, it can be assumed that the different divisions will have somewhat different cultures. It's also the case that, even within the same division, the likelihood is that there will be subcultures (manufacturing vs. sales). And in the network organisation, different entities that do the same thing may well work (successfully) very differently. An international dimension only complicates things further. Where the businesses are very different there may well be a case to take a portfolio approach.

The assumption that different business entities - regardless of location, history, clock speed, product and/or customer base - should behave/operate in the same way is undesirable and unworkable. That does not mean that a degree of "oneness" cannot be achieved.

A common, compelling purpose, shared values, an overall push for diversity, inclusion, being customer-driven, a mutual philosophy around collaboration, the discipline that goes into talent acquisition, support for the local community, the need for candour, pooled best-practice and leaders who care can all build "sameness" while still recognising the value of "difference".

Conversely, attempts to enforce one approach with regards to, for example, compensation and/or talent management can create a degree of coercive tension that is less than helpful.

"Tight - loose" is a useful metaphor.

Tomorrow will be different. We know we have to organise and approach delivering value for the customer differently but we can't simply throw all the cards up in the air and start again. And how do we move forward if we can't change everything at once?

The answer? The "innovation garage" - a carefully chosen part of the business is parked separately to the rest of the organisation. The goal? With tomorrow's customer in mind, explore and experiment with:

  1. What it means to be customer-driven.
  2. Tomorrow's organisation design.
  3. Future technology.
  4. The most effective way to work.

In other words, create tomorrow's culture, today.

Attempts to build "one culture" may be a forlorn hope but it's important to identify and understand the different cultures involved.

Key question(s): Do you have one culture or many and, if the latter, how do you manage that difference?

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".

Coming Down the Mountain: Coming Out Of This Crisis Stronger

Breakthrough technology, uncertainty and the unprecedented and ever-increasing speed of change demand an organisation that is a fit for the challenges of the 21st century. We are describing not just a better, but a very different kind of way to operate. An organisation built to change; one where disruption, agility and speed of learning dominate the leadership conversation.

Which brings us to the COVID-19 crisis. A crisis has three stages. Stage one: acceptance. Stage two: survival. Stage three: growth. And the winners will be? Those who come out of this crisis stronger.

Amid the veritable avalanche of "me too" advice on how to get through this crisis it is easy to overlook two central questions:

  1. "How will your business come out of this stronger?"
  2. "As a leader, how will you personally come out of this stronger?"

"Part One: Coming Down the Mountain" looks at how to come out of this crisis stronger:

  • The Three Stages of Crisis
  • Letting Go of Our Past
  • Following a Script From a Different Century
  • The New Normal
  • Coming Down the Mountain
  • Why Culture Matters
  • Next Steps
  • Appendix one: 3 X 3: Crisis, Culture and Change
  • Mindset Assessment: Will You come Out of This Crisis Stronger?

Download your complementary copy today »

Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis

"Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" is a complementary book series, specifically aimed at enhancing how leaders respond to times of crisis.

The books cover concepts such as how to come out of this crisis stronger, culture, leadership agility and learning, what makes great teams. Also included are essential skills to enable us to start having conversations about moving forward while taking appropriate actions.

Read on for more information about the book series:

Or, Download Now

Coming Down the Mountain

Part One, Coming Down the Mountain, looks at how to come out of this crisis stronger:

  • The Three Stages of Crisis
  • Letting Go of Our Past
  • Following a Script From a Different Century
  • The New Normal
  • Coming Down the Mountain
  • Why Culture Matters
  • Next Steps
  • Appendix one: 3 X 3: Crisis, Culture and Change
  • Mindset Assessment: Will You come Out of This Crisis Stronger?

The Culture Conversation

Recognising, as we move forward, how important organisation culture is, Part Two outlines the Culture Conversation:

  • The Culture Carriers
  • Look, Listen, Learn
  • The Building Blocks
  • Culture Is A System
  • Is the Organisation Managing Its Culture?
  • What Makes the Business Special?
  • One Culture or Many?
  • Measurement
  • Strategy Versus Culture
  • A Team of Teams
  • Without Leadership You Ain't Got Much
  • The Orxestra Change Model
  • Culture Assessment

Leadership, Learning and Agility: The Way Of The Dolphin

Part Three explores the need for leadership agility and what that implies: Leadership Agility and Learning - The Way of the Dolphin:

  • Agility is a Way to Think
  • Bass and the Shark
  • Agility and Speed of Learning
  • The Way of the Dolphin
  • Conclusion
  • Assessment: How Good a Coach Are You?

Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams

Drawing on the reality that tomorrow's organisation will be a team of teams, Part Four examines what it means to be an outstanding team - Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams:

  • Who We Were is Who We Are
  • It's All About Culture
  • Organisational Lessons from Nature
  • The Organisation of Tomorrow
  • Building a Great Team
  • Team Assessment

When the Trees Get Bigger and the Forest Gets Deeper - It's Time To Sharpen Your Saw

Part Five moves beyond leadership as a philosophy and drills down into essential skills - When the Trees Get Bigger and the Forest Gets Deeper, It's Time to Sharpen Your Saw:

  • Are You The Leader They Need?
  • Assessing Your Organisation's Leadership Balance
  • If Ever There Was a Time to Listen - It’s Now
  • The Listening Tree
  • To Lead Is To Care
  • 50 Ways To Say You Care - In a Covid World
  • If You Are Not Living Your Own Story, You Are Living Someone Else's
  • Resilience Assessment

Download your complementary copy of "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" from TRANSEARCH Downloads.

What Do I Need To Do Today To Make The Business Better Tomorrow?

Talent acquisition is about managing risk. Risk, in turn, is about fit. As disruption, uncertainty and new technology impact how business does business … culture is destined to become evermore important.

Technology, being customer-centric, leveraging big data, agility, reach, responsiveness, innovation, collaboration, coaching, succession, attraction and retention … are all wired into the organisation's culture.

Get culture wrong and many of the building blocks of a successful business amount to little more than a spin of the roulette wheel. Success is about both results (strategy) and people (culture). Both are essential. Both are hard.

All that said, for a leader one question always has primacy, "What do I need to do today to make the business better tomorrow?" No matter the size of your organisation or the sector you operate in, if you really think about that question … culture will figure prominently in the answer.

The tools that TRANSEARCH International (powered by Orxestra®) uses provide a unique perspective regarding culture, performance, leadership and team 'fit'. Visit our website to learn more about our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment https://www.transearch.com/

Do You Hire/Promote With "Tomorrow's" Culture In Mind?

The world of work is changing. And the very definition of "a job" is, perhaps, changing most of all. Structures, processes and tools honed over the last hundred years are starting to fail. Hierarchy and a command and control mindset are out of step with the need for agility. Strategy is an unreliable compass.

A decade from now the workforce will look very different. In that, literally, many of the jobs that companies will seek to fill a decade from now don't currently exist. Even our investment in training and development is open to question.

Into this maelstrom rides talent management. The metaphorical quarterback of talent management … who and how we hire.

Simply replacing a leader who leaves is to reinforce the status quo. External consulting support drawing largely on an expensive address, a nice suit, great marketing and a thick rolodex belongs in the past. A reliance on selection that ignores culture is to build a house on sand. And an executive who lacks mastery in the interview puts the business at risk every time they make a hiring decision.

Little is more important to tomorrow's culture than who the organisation hires and promotes. Go astray and there is no easy fix. Most leaders arrive at work to a full diary. The day-to-day and the immediate have a habit of overwhelming a long-term view. And yet, unless we create tomorrow today, the future will, inevitably, be little more than a replay of what has been. Count on it!

It's easy to find the "best" candidate. But, getting culture on the right track means identifying the "right" candidate. Not every now and then … but every time. Talent acquisition is about managing risk. Risk, in turn, is about fit. There are six critical elements of fit:

  1. Attraction
  2. Culture
  3. Performance
  4. Role-specific, leadership competencies
  5. Team fit
  6. Integration

All six elements of fit are essential but as disruption, uncertainty and new technology impact how business does business … culture is destined to become evermore important.

Culture Imperative: Who you hire determines what's possible. Hiring that has a "replacement bias" is to become more of what you have always been. In determining fit, measurement matters. Especially when it comes to culture and team. Money might attract talent but if you want to keep high performers give them a job that they love.

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

The Benefits of Virtual Employment

"Virtual employment" has been embraced enthusiastically by some. Others have found it to be an unwanted intrusion into their lives. One study in Canada, the "11th Annual Salary Guide," found that two in five employees (43%) believe their companies have failed to provide measures that support their well-being throughout the pandemic. The lack of social interaction (45%), isolation/loneliness (27%) and increased workload (25%) being the main reasons. What can be said for sure is that things will never return to the way they were.

The virtual workplace has four major benefits:

  1. Cost savings. The obvious saving being significantly reduced office costs. Meanwhile, wage and benefit costs - especially if a large number of administrative staff can be recruited from low wage areas of the country or even offshore - can be trimmed. If you are based in a high-cost city such as San Francisco, London or Sydney this is no small thing. There is evidence that remote employees work an additional 1.4 days per month than in-office employees. (Inc. Magazine, October 2019.) The same source suggests that remote workers save over $4,000 per year on travel costs (compared to in-office employees).
  2. Lifestyle. There are an increasing number of city dwellers who - for lifestyle, the cost of housing and family reasons - would love to replace concrete with grass, a high-rise balcony with a garden and a seat on the subway with a quiet cup of coffee at home. Family health is especially impactful. Even after a workable COVID-19 vaccine is available, what will continue to be an emotional burden well into the future is the sense of vulnerability, the feelings of helplessness and the fear that accompanies a pandemic.
  3. Monitoring performance. Remote work is relatively easy to monitor. Tracking ongoing productivity and key outcomes is invaluable. Expect the technology in this respect to advance in leaps and bounds.
  4. Organisation agility. When fixed costs are replaced by variable costs, additions - or reductions - in the workforce become easier to manage. Moreover, having developed the tools to support a virtual workforce - webinars, products, video meetings, distance learning - greater value can be derived from the established training and development budget.

The benefits of remote working as decribed are far from the end of the story. Beyond this crisis lies, what well may be, an even bigger social upheaval. Many of the positions currently being moved away from the traditional office represent exactly the type of work that technology will disrupt/replace tomorrow. While employees work to become proficient in Zoom and other video-based communication tools, an army of technologists are working on Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and alternative ways for "the machine" to make further inroads into routine work.

Extract from "Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All" Orxestra Inc., © 2021

Story is Culture and Culture is Story

Tomorrow's successful leader will be 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 are not measuring culture ... you are not managing it.

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

Six Fundamental Hiring Building Blocks

Uncovering, informing, involving, inspiring and successfully bringing on board great candidates draws on six fundamental hiring building blocks:

  1. A winning hiring value proposition - people don't join your organisation, they connect with your story.
  2. The means to define and measure both the organisation culture you have and the culture you need.
  3. A robust performance scorecard.
  4. The means to define the emerging role-specific leadership competencies.
  5. The tools to measure and assess future team fit.
  6. An integration process that provides the structure, support and tools to enable newly hired executives to take a leadership role in their own integration.

The tools that TRANSEARCH International (powered by Orxestra®) uses provide a unique perspective regarding culture, performance, leadership and team 'fit'. And our integration methodology ensures that new leaders are integrated quickly and successfully without breaking stride.

Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition.

For more on the six building blocks of talent acquisition see The Empty Suit by John O. Burdett (2016).

Insights from "Great Candidates Ask Great Questions" by John Burdett.

Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All
bedfordgroup.com

The COVID-19 crisis has changed, indelibly, our assumptions about leadership, the nature of work, what it means to be an employee, the hiring process and business travel/training. It has also shaken the very pillars of the so-called 'modern organisation'. When large numbers of employees are asked to work remotely we are redefining both the organisation's culture and what it means to be an organisation.

With today's challenge in mind, John Burdett outlines a simple workforce matrix to segment the work population and highlights five central questions that, as you come down the COVID-19 mountain, are worthy of reflection.

Read "Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All" leadership insights

Five TOP leadership competencies

"The shortage of talent"

It's a pretty good bet that, as you read this, somewhere in your competitor's camp there is an ongoing conversation about the qualities that describe tomorrow's leadership. Be it talent acquisition, succession, identifying high potential talent and/or shaping the investment in leadership, one thing is assured … tomorrow will not be a continuation of today.

We commonly see references to "the shortage of talent." Paradoxically, there is no shortage of talent. The growing number of business schools around the world, combined with the billions of dollars spent globally on leadership development means that there is actually a surfeit of candidates. The problem? The vast majority of those candidates are a great fit for a business environment that served us well in the past.

TOP Talent

A more integrated, faster and, by a quantum step, more complex business environment demands not just a new way to think and act but a new definition of "leadership success." Exponential change fuelled by ongoing leaps in technology … exacerbated by unprecedented disruption on a global scale … is, indelibly, redefining what is meant by the term "TOP Talent."

As we move into unchartered territory - where only those organisations that are fast, flat, flexible, focused and fertile (to new ideas) will survive - TOP (Transforming, Outstanding, Performance tested) Talent refers to those fully equipped to excel in a, hitherto unknown, level of business and societal uncertainty.

TOP leadership competencies

Other than know-how in technology, which is a given, leadership competencies differ depending upon the role. This emphasises the need to develop "role-specific" leadership competencies. Generic competencies have value, e.g., the broad leadership development agenda, but they are less than useful, however, when making hiring and succession decisions. That understood, five TOP leadership competencies are emerging as having future primacy:

  • A Passion to Learn
  • Leadership Reach
  • Comfort with Ambiguity
  • Resilience
  • Culture Savvy

In a world dominated by ideas, a move from cooperation to collaboration is essential - and inevitable. The environment and a new generation dominating the workplace mean that tribal loyalty will, of necessity, give way to a stronger sense of community. A community mindset, meanwhile, ushers in the dominance of stakeholder capital. How does your team make a difference in people's lives?

Although many are served by a more defused definition, "employee engagement" is about building a culture where opportunity and capability are aligned. To that end, any falloff in the fit between the speed of change in the business environment and a sense of personal growth - a perceived lack of currency in the job market - will quickly disillusion those the organisation most wants to retain. Why do your best people stay?

Finally, the fallibility of strategy means that, rather than being the by-product of a singular, linear direction, the organisation's culture must enable a range of potential future options to unfold. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable becomes the new norm.

Insights by John Burdett. Orxestra Inc., © 2018.

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