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.