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Posted by on Oct 28, 2016

Top Insights from the Ultimate Culture Conference: How to Nurture, Measure, and Shape Organizational Culture

Top Insights from the Ultimate Culture Conference: How to Nurture, Measure, and Shape Organizational Culture

Highlighting organizational culture.I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference and the Schein Culture DNA Seminar on October 18-19 in the great city of San Francisco, CA.

Many diverse viewpoints on culture and leadership were shared by an impressive lineup of innovative practitioners (from Zappos, Lyft, Inkling, Google, Intel) and thought leaders (including Edgar Schein, Robert Cooke, Josh Bersin, James Rodgers, Daryl Conner, and Bill Parsons).

I, like many others in the room, engaged throughout each day in spirited culture conversations and left with a variety of valuable insights on how to nurture, measure, and shape organizational culture as we look ahead.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from the conference.

  1. Your culture DNA drives daily behavior. It is the underlying assumptions and beliefs you have learned and take for granted. It is the shared experience of survival, success, and growth. When you hit barriers at work, it really is resistance to the culture DNA.
  1. Organizational cultures are nested in other cultures that influence behaviors and actions. Some examples of nested cultures are: founding organizational values and historical experience; changes in core technology underlying the work; functional subcultures like the executive function, managerial function, design and engineering; geographic subcultures; occupational cultures, and national culture.
  1. Before you attempt to measure anything in the culture, you need to be clear about the problem you are trying to solve. Involve senior leadership in identifying the business problem and owning the next steps of culture assessment.
  1. It is most effective to use quantitative and qualitative culture measures that help you identify the elements of culture DNA that help or hinder the problem you want to solve. It is good to get a pulse from 10 miles out as well as a more detailed look from 10 yards out.
  1. An internal research project can be a door opener for understanding values and associated behaviors that are serving or not serving an organization.
  1. Accept culture for what it is, then face the facts to change it to what you desire it to be. Diversity management is necessary to influence behavior, and it includes learning about diversity (human conditions) at all levels, building cognitive skills of managers, and taking a culture scan (how people respond).
  1. According to a Deloitte study, 92% of organizations are not organized properly to get their work done. A shift is needed from an industrial, hierarchical model to collaborative management through networks of teams. Such a shift requires shared values and culture, transparent goals and projects, rewards for people based on skills and abilities rather than position, and employees being viewed by senior leaders as a little more important than customers.
  1. Organizations that are systems of self-organization (rather than hierarchies) get better at what management of culture change is all about. Why? Because individuals own the decisions for their work, they have more clarity on what change is needed, and they know how the culture helps or hinders the change effort.
  1. Some effective culture change practices that can help to nurture and shape organizational culture include senior leadership team coaching, built-in feedback loops, and insight-based learning using short 2-to-30-minute applied learning situations.
  1. Culture starts with leadership and is owned by everyone. You can’t transform a culture if you don’t transform yourself as a leader. It is about shifting your mindset from intellectual, outside-in learning to inside-out learning to stimulate the desired change—meaningful organizational change begins with individual change.

What culture insights have made the biggest difference in how you nurture and shape your ever-changing organization?

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