Culture: What’s Your Story?
Every organization creates stories. Whether intended or not, these stories reflect who you are. These stories tell the tale of your organizational culture and what others inside and outside your organization think, feel, or accept as true about you.
Does your culture inspire connection, innovation, energy, or agility? Does it incite uncertainty, confusion, negativity, or frustration? Or is it a mix of these attributes?
We all have a unique lens through which we see and experience organizations. When individuals share stories with others about your organization, these stories become “your organizational story. ” If you want to change the stories that are shared, it may be time to look inside your organization to better understand what is going on.
The good news is, whatever your current story may be, you can consciously create the organizational culture you desire.
Consciously Creating Your Culture Alignment Story
Consciously creating a desired culture is about aligning the expressions of culture (mission, vision, values, and every day habits) with the work of the organization to create the story you want shared.
Organizations that achieve the strongest alignment between the work and expected behaviors and the mission, vision, and values of the organization make it a priority to focus on culture in two distinct ways:
EXAMINING the impact of culture. At the heart of examining the impact of culture is identifying and measuring how culture supports the organization over time. Both quantitative and qualitative tools and techniques are needed to answer such questions as:
- How do we know and feel what is really going on?
- How does the current culture enable or restrain the work of individuals or groups?
- What is our common language and way of communicating about our culture?
- Is there clarity on the desired culture? How wide is the gap between the current and desired culture?
- What do we do if something goes wrong or does not go as planned?
- Is there willingness and ability to change as needed?
CHANGING the impact of culture. Once there is an honest and true accounting for who and why your culture is the way it is and what you want it to be, the focus turns to changing the impact of it by defining and shifting cultural attributes. It is important to note that:
- Attention should be given to cultural attributes that have the most immediate impact on performance
- The hardest work will be internalizing the expected behaviors for each cultural attribute across the organization. Culture change is real when new behaviors are successful after working for a while and become a “norm” in the organization
- Individuals change when they want to. It happens on an emotional level through new insights that shift thinking and prompt a change in behavior
- Role models in the organization can help others learn and change more quickly. When shared learning and experience are valued, others in the organization are there to support, encourage, reinforce, and show empathy through the change and beyond so it lasts
- It takes reinforcement and results for expected behaviors to become real. When behavior issues are not addressed, it slows down, or prevents the behavior change process from working as intended.
Engaging individuals, teams, and the collective organization is critical to examining and changing the impact of culture because of the shared and emergent learning experience. It is the real change in mindset and action that creates culture alignment.
The Culture Alignment Methodology embraces a holistic and integrated approach to aligning culture. Specific consideration is given to identifying expected behaviors and supporting the needed behavior change to consciously create the desired culture. It takes a big-picture view of organizational functions, involving all levels as needed, from senior executive to individual contributor. They work together as they normally would on a priority initiative to establish a rhythm and way of working together. Working in this way makes it easier to replicate and transfer learning of expected behaviors to other places in the organization.
Culture alignment begins with understanding an organization’s current reality. With this starting point, the methodology is designed around six stages that are critical to culture alignment work for a single priority. Each stage represents an aspect of culture alignment and addresses key actions important to experiencing, sharing, and adopting new behaviors and practices.
Culture Alignment in Action
- Select Highest Priority
- Clarify Vision
- Engage Others
- Manage Change
- Build Capability
- Sustain Performance
Key features of the Culture Alignment Methodology include:
- The top priority selected can be a problem, challenge, or goal from anywhere in the organization
- Continuous behavior change happens through practice, shared learning, and experience
- Individuals and teams are able to wrestle with issues, try new things, and practice new behaviors in a safe environment
- Role models, especially senior leaders, reduce barriers to learning new expected behaviors
- The word spreads across the organization through experienced culture ambassadors
When this methodology is used across an organization, the outcome is organizational culture alignment. In other words, your story matches the story others are sharing.
If you are interested in learning more about how to create an aligned culture, download our whitepaper “Making Change Real: Aligning Your Culture for Greater Collective Impact.”