Other parts of this series:
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Last time we introduced some core ‘beliefs’ that are key to successful culture change. Now we’re going to look at these beliefs in a bit more detail: In particular, what’s the role of the individual in culture change?
To gauge how successfully their change programmes are progressing, organisations need to understand what’s going on enterprise-wide. There are various ways they can do that, from tracking what people are actually doing—their day-to-day functions—through to in-depth behavioural analytics. All of that provides a good basis for benchmarking the maturity level of the organisation, deciding how to measure success and, of course, how to move the dial.
Those insights inform how organisations prioritise the design of change programmes around structure, people and behaviours. Crucially, it helps them think about designing the appropriate structure for driving the change the organisation needs.
It’s only with the right structure that people’s behaviours—including decision-making, empowerment and lowering the centre of gravity—will start to change. Once people have more empowerment through the new structure, they need to learn how to use this to behave more productively.
This is where small, incremental changes come into their own. As people begin to do things differently, this becomes a form of habit. And as that happens, new behaviours start to permeate the enterprise and become embedded. Think about this as a cycle—from understanding to design to structures—all geared to enabling people to behave differently and make changes to how they operate.
To bring this to life, think about the incremental changes that an organisation might want to set in motion. A great example? The number of people that typically attend meetings. This can easily be changed so only people with the opportunity to make a decision actually go along.
If a staff member and their direct superior are both scheduled to attend, they need to make sure that only one of them goes. Otherwise, it sends out the signal that there’s a lack of delegation. It also shows that people are not sufficiently empowered.
The follow-on? Whoever does attend must make a decision. That’s more efficient for everyone. There’s no need for a follow-up meeting. Incremental changes like these help to encourage a culture where people have more confidence in their own judgement.
Other focuses for incremental change could be the time it takes to get new products or services to customers—or introducing greater customer-centricity. Whatever the objective, it’s all about being able to continuously rework an organisation’s structure in pursuit of a particular goal, rather than having to do a major restructuring once every five years.
One priority will be the creation of agile, multi-disciplinary teams formed to solve specific customer problems with a scrum-style approach. This too comes back to analytics, of course. For these teams to come together with the right capabilities, organisations need to know what’s going on enterprise-wide.
Using analytics, they can get those insights and use them to carry out the workforce planning that’ll ensure they get the right skills through the door for those teams and rapidly pivot the organisation to adapt to new situations.
Also, a connected point, individuals need to take more responsibility for their own skills so they can continue to be relevant. The emphasis is on people planning their own careers, rather than relying on management to do that for them. If employees have universal skills, then they’ve got applicability to a whole range of situations, not just a single role.
A good way forward is for the business to think about developing an internal consultancy function, which can be hired on a project-by-project basis. Designing in that kind of flexibility puts the emphasis on individuals to really understand their worth, short and long term. This new kind of enterprise is less paternalistic than what went before. And it’s much more dynamic.
Employees actively want a gig career, where they evolve a portfolio of skills and keep on learning new ones. And older people within the organisation are often, perhaps counterintuitively, more receptive to this new way of working. They acknowledge that they’re not digital natives, and as a result may feel disconnected, from their co-workers and quite possibly their children. The moral? Don’t make assumptions about the workforce.
Circling back to where we started, it’s all about setting the direction for change, making sure everyone in the organisation knows they have a role to play in that change, and crucially, continuously tracking progress towards clearly defined objectives.
Thanks for reading.
Dear Helen, As a relatively recently retired banker and regulator I greatly enjoyed your comments on changing Bank culture. My sense is like you I think the true change to culture can only come from within starting with Institutional Shareholders, Chair & Board. Would greatly appreciate any more thoughts you have about how to achieve this change in a realistic way so that it actually happens. It will take years however an intensively focused 12 months would be a great start. Kind regards Michael