I wish I had a pound for every time I heard ‘culture’ come up in meetings, as a potential
barrier or hurdle for doing things.
The truth is, I use it just as much as the next person – but what does it mean and why is it such a common issue for business? If we take a step back and break the meaning of culture down, it’s actually more straightforward than we think…
Go ahead - Google the meaning of culture. What you’ll find are lots of definitions, but the one that stands out for me is:
A model or style of business operations within a company. The business culture determines how different levels of staff communicate with one another as well as how employees deal with clients and customers
In summary, culture is about the way in which we allow our people to think, behave and believe within our business. People are influenced, provoked and driven by other people. We all know how spending time around negative or cynical views can rub off. Similarly, the first person on the dance floor is usually closely followed, because behaviour is infectious - something I usually refer to as 'the Pied Piper effect'.
Simple, right? Maybe to some, but layer in the additional challenges of change or transformation in your business, and things start to get more complex.
"Culture eats strategy for breakfast" - P.Drucker
As much as Drucker's view on culture may send shivers down spines, it's a fair point. Any change, no matter how big or small will struggle to succeed unless you encourage and win buy-in from your people.
A type of change that continues to struggle with adoption is digital. Many people see digital as 'automation' and translate it into 'removal of people'. Now although in some cases this is a harsh reality, the main basis of any digital transformation is about making an organisation fit for the future.
The digital world is moving fast and as we've seen with so many famous brands, it's 'do or die' in the race for digital excellence. The drivers and core benefits should be sold within your business in this way, rather than hard cash and stats. Moving from being vulnerable to disruptive in your industry is vital, and you need a fast, reliable digital footprint to attract and retain custom. As I wrote in my previous blog, customers expect nothing less.
Employees are reluctant to change because they fear it. Change creates anxiety for some of us. Venturing into the unknown, or being expected to adopt a new technology that isn't native is daunting - all of which is typically down to education.
I often refer to a workshop I held many years back, which was aimed at tackling the business divide in digital perception - and boy it was interesting! Having a mix of adopters in the room simulates a great debate.
"I hate digital things and avoid it where possible. I just don't find it safe."
One attendee passed comment that she hated digital 'things' and that she didn't believe the internet was safe. After prodding further, the same lady mentioned that she has a Facebook account, uses a Satnav and uses self serve check-outs at supermarkets... I rest my case.
People fear what they don't fully understand, but when you invest time educating them and reminding them that they use digital in every day life, that nervousness or argument starts to waiver. Internet of Thing (IoT) touches many aspects of our lives, whether people realise and accept it or not.
So what am I getting at?
KNOWLEDGE develops PEOPLE
PEOPLE drive CULTURE
CULTURE generates RESULTS
By investing, educating and hand-holding your business through transformation, the culture, productivity, energy and results look after themselves.
Here are some useful tips:
Create a clear, inspiring vision for your business. Make sure it's briefed to everyone and regularly promote and refer to it in your business - i.e. in meetings, on walls, screen savers, free-standing banners etc.
Engage with the business right from the offset. Invite cross-department teams together to outline the purpose and tease out any concerns or pain-points early doors.
Look for those 'Fire Starters' in the business. people who have a creative, influencing and communicating flare about them. They will be great champions for your programme.
Invest in office space and facilities that allow your business to think creatively. It's well known that forward thinking organisations have dedicated lab space for research, design and validation to take place. Afford your people the head space and tools to create some magic!
Test and validate your sketches and designs with the business. Let them feel like they are included and part of building the solution. Having something dropped on you without any input is never going to go down well.
Ensure you keep all levels of the business engaged in what you're doing. When building your communication strategy, ensure you hold regular catch-ups with 'the people' - not just your stakeholders.
Get everyone involved in testing the solution. No doubt most of you have products and services which are offered to employees, as part of the benefits package. Don't forget that they are end-users as well as SMEs.
Set clear business goals that are achievable and SHARE THEM. If you keep targets secret, people will start to loose faith. Treat them as company wide milestones and celebrate them when they happen.
Ask people how they want to launch the change. Make it different, fun and engaging, so that people feel almost excited about what's coming.
Don't define the 'what next' in isolation. Repeat steps 1 > 9 and invite the business to share their ideas in a free, open & nonjudgmental way. Let them feel like they've made a contribution and importantly - thank and reward them.
The above may seem straightforward and you may feel like you do some of it already - which is great.
These are the things that I've found really work in various Organisations and Industries, so I'd encourage you to tick off every step for every programme or change you deliver.
Put in a bit of hard work upfront to embed these principles and it will stick.