In our Three@Three web series this week, Al and Steve are joined by Kerry Freeman, the owner of Free Human. Kerry is an expert in FS culture change. Today we are discussing the 3 factors for success in delivering a change road-map.
Al kicks off by asking, what does a healthy culture look like. Kerry suggests that it's important to recognise that there is no one 'cookie-cutter' answer to the question of what makes a great culture. However, Kerry's favourite definition comes from Carolyn Taylor's 'Walking the Talk'.
Carolyn writes 'Culture, is the patterns of behaviour that are encouraged, discouraged and tolerated by people in systems over time.' Kerry suggests that culture is the personality of the organisation and like human personalities, no one is the same. Organisational culture is based on what the organisation has been through in the past, where they currently are and where they aspire to be.
While there is no one size fits all approach to culture, we can identify aspects that can help make the culture and organisation healthier and healthy organisations tend to be more successful.
Key aspects of a healthy culture:
Action + reflection means organisations can grow and encourage experimentation, which is itself a sign of a healthy organisational culture.
Attaining that ideal organisational culture can be difficult to achieve, the same things that hamper an individuals progress, can be the same things that hold an organisation back. Kerry states that as humans, we are built to be resistant to change and organisations are the same.
Kerry suggests concentrating on 1 thing at a time, as multi-tasking change in organisations does not work. You build a healthy culture, step by step and consistency and diligently until it becomes your organisation's pattern. Perfect doesn't exist when it comes to culture.
Steve asks Kerry, where does the culture start from and how do you go about changing that environment to embrace change. Kerry suggests that the leadership team has a huge influence on this, their individual authenticity and their strategy, have a huge influence and argues that there has got to be a compelling narrative for change. One that reflects where the organisation has come from and the teachings of the past otherwise you run the risk of alienating great swathes of your people. If people don't believe the 'noises' coming from the senior team, if it's not authentic and people don't believe it, it won't change a thing.
We ask how can experimentation facilitate that change and help move a culture within an organisation? Kerry suggests avoiding the 'from-too' approach. Instead identify all of your patterns of behaviour that you reinforce, what are your common patterns?
With experimentation, you are looking at your common patterns, either to disrupts unhealthy patterns or reinforce 'virtuous' and desirable ones. Experimentation can take the pressure off, it is not about the right and the wrong, it's about the journey. and requires a lot of observation and reflection. Steve suggests that the drive for organisations to 'get stuff done' (GSD) can interfere with that important observation and reflection piece and because of the 'GSD' mindset, organisations don't feel like they have the time to experiment. Steve suggests that rather than being wasteful, the reflection piece is incredibly important.
Kerry suggests that when you are planning an experiment, you need to let go of your expectations on what is right and wrong and keep your options open. As well as managing your experiment and consider the learning experience, to get the most useful data out of the experiment. The first step is noticing the patterns, which is the most powerful aspect of culture change programs. By identifying and writing down a cultural pattern, you take the power out of that pattern, purely by observing it. Start small with something safe and something that you can easily observe.
Watch the full video here
Jo kicked off the discussion, talking about the importance of senior management commitment to successful change programmes and with it, the need for a certain mindset that embraces mistakes and failures. Allowing individuals to fail while embracing the opportunities and insights, that those failures create, is paramount in helping organisations pivot into something ultimately more successful than what they planned for.
Jo talks about why the F word...failure, is not a dirty word and why, 'Failing fast but learning quickly', should be the mantra for all transformation programs.
We discuss why the method for managing the roll-out of organisational change, and the right change management tools, is so important. Agile working with self-organising teams, help the organisation manage the ensuing chaos in a way that waterfall methodology could never hope to.
The iterative nature of the Agile method and Agile skills generally, embeds 'learning from failure' from the outset. However, the cultural shift required to manage change does not come from the bottom-up and leaders can't underestimate the value of being comfortable with the uncomfortable.
On the question of what does a successful change programme look like and how do you deliver aggressive change programmes without being or becoming aggressive yourself, Jo suggests that from the outset, it is important to bring your employees with you, be clear on the purpose and vision for the change and be clear on the roles that individuals have to play in the project and the company culture post project.
By engaging hearts and minds from the outset during the pre-project stage or what the Lewin's change management model calls, the 'Unfreeze stage', organisations can greatly improve the efficacy of the programme and help pave the way for cultural change post project.
Transformation Lead, This is Milk
The Impact of culture on Digital Transformation
Company culture is a term that is often heard when advertising a business to prospective employees, however the implications of culture run deeper than the perks of a job.
As we move towards a world that adapts and changes at break neck speeds to the needs of the customer, it is essential that the culture of your business matches your transformative qualities. It is no longer enough to strive for fun, friendly & Pizza Tuesdays. Digital transformation requires a level of commitment to change that allows the transformation to progress quickly and naturally.
Research from Boston Consulting Group found that 79% of companies tested that addressed culture change sustained strong performance, this compared to 0% for those that neglected culture change. (40 companies tested)
What inspires your work? A business analyst's reflection on working with This is Milk and it's unique brand of culture
Business Analyst, This is Milk
Our business analyst consultant Angela Bowden, shares her experiences of working as part of our business analysis managed service. People for projects is what we provide - but we put as much emphasis on culture, learning and creating as open an environment as we can, to make sure we keep the best people on our team to deliver the best work for our clients.
Customer Analyst,This is Milk
Sometimes it’s healthy to take time out to reflect on your own achievements, for to quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Once upon a time, two women came together with a shared idea. Looking around, Angela Prentner-Smith didn’t see anyone else in Scotland offering a business transformation service, so she decided to step up and give it a go.
That once upon a time took place just a few years ago and in the subsequent months, a lot has happened. The idea has taken seed and that seed has grown into a business development agency called This Is Milk. Two and a half years and 20 clients later, we’ve surpassed milestones that we could previously only have dreamed of – and this is just the beginning.
Managing Consutant, This is Milk