Stop Cheating at Culture Change

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I’ve been involved in some way or another in shifting cultures in large and small organizations for my entire career either from the core at the edge of the organization. This has provided me with the opportunity to be able to present at events and discuss culture shifting with many organizations both in my local area and around the globe and I’ve noticed that it doesn’t matter what industry everyone is talking about shifting their culture to enable exponential change.


However, I keep running into the same issue…when leaders are asked how much they are spending on maintaining their people to enable this mindset shift…the answer is almost always the same…near zero. This is something that is a systemic problem across the globe. Organizations spend millions on maintaining their equipment but when it comes to their most costly and important asset, their people, organizations try to take shortcuts. Shifting a culture is not easy and it’s not quick and it’s not cheap. You must do it with purpose.


Now, I’m just guessing the cause of this but there’s been a lot of experts promoting “grass roots” culture change initiatives and that a culture shift can’t be mandated. I totally agree that it can’t be mandated and that all parts of the organization must be involved but it seems that many leaders have mistaken “grass roots” to mean they shouldn’t lead the change.


Organizations are doing things like creating committees of volunteers working off the side of their desk to “change the organizational culture” thinking that this is a grass roots movement. These committees aren’t given any direction or leadership and it is believed that through some sort of magic this will work because it’s lead by the grass roots. What really happens is that the hyper engaged people join up to try to find meaning in their day to day and the bullied or disengaged sign up to get away from their day to day. The rest of the organization believes the program to be just another #fakeculturechange and generally ignore it.


You wouldn’t ask for volunteers in your organization to maintain your physical equipment would you…so why would you do it to maintain your people.


So how do you shift your culture with purpose….
It all starts with a Massive Transformational Purpose (MTP). You need to seek out people from all over your organization to lead the change and include them in the development of the why of your organization. Don’t leave your culture team to chance, make sure you choose people that will truly believe in your why and are bold enough to make it happen. Work together to really understand why your organization exists and create a powerful MTP that your internal and external community can stand behind and become emotionally attached to.


A lot of traditional organizational change management initiatives are built as a one time thing or temporary program but that just won’t work to maintain your culture in the exponential change coming at us. Exponential change requires new tools to monitor and adapt quickly to disruption. It requires a different organizational structure that creates opportunity to move quickly without impacting your core business. It requires new business models that focus on abundance rather than scarcity. It requires a new way of working that enables and embraces constant change and adaption. It requires the autonomy to experiment without fear. It requires a new way of thinking throughout the organization.


We really need to start maintaining our people like we maintain our machines. We should have an ongoing budget to monitor and maintain the engagement and culture of the organization. We should have algorithms and dashboards that look for areas of excellence and areas of concern. We should have regular coaching and education processing in place that maintain the culture before problems occur. And finally, we should be very purposeful about the why of our organization and promote a culture that regularly checks they are acting in accordance with why the organization exists.


In order to keep up with the pace of change required of today’s organizations we need to start thinking differently about culture shifting. It’s not about shifting a culture, it’s about creating and maintaining an adaptive and agile culture as a core function of your business. If you look at some of the most exponential organizations in the world I think you will find that they invest a significant amount on doing this and the return is worth far more than the investment.


Check out some of these tools I use to build and maintain a culture.


OpenExO – An open framework for creating an Exponential Organization based on 11 attributes of existing exponential organizations such as AirBnB, Waze, Google, etc…


ExO Execute – coach your organization to apply the Exponential Organization model. Don’t go it alone, ExO Execute can teach you how to monitor and maintain your culture towards an Exponential Organization.


Primal Management – An instruction manual for motivating your people based on the science of human nature.


HorsePowerMetrics – monitor and report on your culture and engagement regularly. Open, honest and transparent process for monitoring how your organization feels.

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