Running an organization requires the management of certain functions. Take financial management, for example—no one gets a pass on that. Sure, larger, more complex organizations may have larger, more complex financial management systems and processes in place, but we all accept that financial management is a requirement for successful organizations of all shapes and sizes.
It is now time that we take the same approach with workplace culture. Culture is a part of every organization (like finance), and there is increasing agreement that it has a direct and powerful impact on competitiveness, performance, and bottom-line results. It’s even critical to your ability to attract top talent, particularly millennials. So let’s stop treating culture management like it’s optional or something you’ll do when you can find the time. Let’s be as disciplined and focused with culture as we have been with finance. To get started, here’s a quick definition of culture management:
Culture management is the collection of activities, processes, and systems an organization uses to understand, shape, and change its workplace culture on an ongoing basis.
That’s it. You’ve got a culture, so what are you doing to understand, shape, and change it?
This is the first step, and it’s where most organizations fall down. You’re not going to truly understand your culture by going to an off-site and drafting up some core values. And you won’t get real understanding from an engagement survey, either. Culture is not about how happy your people are. It’s about what is truly valued internally. To do culture management right, you need to get serious about your culture analytics. How are you measuring, on a regular basis, the real experience of your employees and what they think is valued inside the culture?
Culture is not an end in itself—the purpose of culture is to drive the success of your enterprise. So once you understand it, you need to be shaping it. Constantly. Do you have a backlog of activities you’re doing to shape the culture? Have you planned any training programs to introduce skills that will reinforce parts of your culture that make you more successful? Do you have teams refining some internal processes to ensure people across departments share information or collaborate more effectively? Remember, if you’re not doing anything to shape your culture, then the culture is shaping itself, and that rarely ends well. By the way, you’ll probably want a separate set of metrics in your culture management system for tracking progress in this area.
Culture change might be the scariest part of culture management, but I don’t think it has to be. Here’s the truth we need to confront: if your environment changes, then your culture should change. It’s as simple as that, and you KNOW that your environment is either changing or will change soon, so let’s make sure we get some processes in place for changing culture. The work is similar to shaping culture, but you’ll need to build in work to show people why the old way isn’t cutting it anymore (because otherwise they’ll hold onto it). This, by the way, is where good culture analytics can really help. When you can show people exactly what your culture is AND why it’s not working any more, people will get it, and they will likely be less resistant to the change.
Culture management is a thing, folks, and the organizations that do it well are going to rise to the top. So start building your system today.
This post was contributed by long-time Talent Anarchy friend, Jamie Notter. Jamie is a founding partner at WorkXO Solutions, a culture management firm that uses culture analytics to drive company growth. He brings 25 years of experience in conflict resolution, generational differences, leadership, and culture change to his work with leaders around the world. Author of When Millennials Take Over, and Humanize, Jamie has graduate degrees in conflict resolution and organization development, and serves as adjunct faculty at Georgetown University.