3 Tools To Transform Your Organizational Culture
Katherine Canales/SweetRush

3 Tools To Transform Your Organizational Culture

A common source of workplace dysfunction these days is due to our highly complex times; It’s impossible to deliver everything we said we’d do when we said we’d do it. And when new demands and priorities arise, we’re prompted to do the priority shuffle. Certain commitments inevitably fall down the to-do list or occasionally float off into oblivion—until someone reminds us of them again.

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This cycle, at the minimum, is dangerous to business growth—survival, even—to say nothing of the impact on team morale. But smart companies are tackling this problem head-on. In a recent client engagement where commitment dysfunction was occurring, we utilized Dr. Fernando Flores’s Basic Action Workflow, a tool that has reliably produced dramatic results in dismantling dysfunction, cultivating accountability, and vastly improving team relationships. From there we created a map of team interactions and performed a cultural assessment to gather further insights and set the course anew. These tools combined are very powerful.

If your organization is seeing issues around accountability and communication, this tactical triad might be what you need to transform your culture.

Tool 1: Basic Action Workflow

Dr. Fernando Flores—a leader in the world of business process design, coaching, innovation, cognition, and education—created the Basic Action Workflow to remind us how to manage our commitments [1]. His work laid the foundation for much of the current understanding of action workflow and commitment management theory.

How To Change The Conversation To Change Organizational Culture

The 4 steps of the Basic Action Workflow—which can be used with individuals or groups across all levels, verticals, and roles—are:

1. Preparation

Get clear on the reasons you are making a request. How does it connect to a larger strategy or deeper need? Why are you asking a particular person to make this agreement (or commitment) to accomplish something? Could it be done by anyone else? State your case for why this project, why now, and why this person. Agreements are ultimately made between 2 individuals. More people may be involved in the process to get there, but the commitment rolls up to 2 people. You want full commitment from both people.

2. Negotiation

We are wired to agree with others. Some of you may not believe it because you feel like the salmon swimming upstream, but we likely wouldn’t make it through childhood without going with the flow of the grown-ups around us. Humans are social creatures, pack animals. It has served us to work together to create businesses and societies in which to survive and thrive. We also light up when we can contribute to the well-being of others. These amazing genetic and adaptive qualities to cooperate have served us in many ways. The problem comes when we agree too quickly when we don’t consider the impact of the decision. In our fast-moving culture, we are also rewarded for making decisions quickly. However, stopping to think through the implications and taking the time to negotiate our commitments is critical to true empowerment. We need to own our decisions and also need to speak up when we know that our "yes" isn’t one we can definitely fulfill. We need to respect our hesitancy, listen to it, and discuss it. And, we need to be supported in speaking up.

3. Performance

We do the work and get it done. Many of us have been validated in our focus on action, so it’s common for us to jump to the doing. This is our sweet spot. As we’re doing, we can also think about whether this is the best way to get it done. When we’re done, it’s key to let the person who asked us to complete the task(s) know we have finished it. It sounds obvious, but in our "get ‘er done" culture, we may be on to the next thing without a second thought to what we’ve accomplished.

4. Acceptance

Even the process of accepting the work done by others upon our request benefits from intentional reflection by both parties. Did the person who made the request receive what was expected? How was the process for both of them? One of my favorite consultants in the Flores work, A.J. Pape, asks what would make this work "even better if…"—identifying what would have made the process even better is if X, Y, and Z had happened.

Tool 2: Interaction Mapping

After establishing your new "rules of engagement," it’s vital to bring intention to major significant agreements between the parties. Capture the exact words and interactions of participants. Nothing should stay on the map unless everyone in the room—typically representatives from each role within 2 or more interacting teams—agrees that it is accurate and true. Once the agreement has been fulfilled, teams should explore areas that, in the past, had a murky or an absent process and any dysfunction that may have occurred, and capture that on their maps. Over the course of this process, individuals from the various teams can undergo a considerable transformation, moving from frustration and anger to moods of curiosity and empathy, and a sense of being on one team—part of a much larger system that had been causing ripples between teams.

Over time you will have several maps of interactions and processes. It’s key to invite executives back into the room to explore inefficiencies, dysfunction, and solutions. This can give an emboldened pursuit of holistic fixes to the common perspective. It’s about understanding how people impact one another, and how to advocate for longer-term solutions.

Tool 3: Cultural Assessment

We find it’s beneficial to the process of achieving alignment between teams (and individuals) who are making and fulfilling requests to conduct cultural assessments—usually before this change work but sometimes simultaneously or after—to unearth and understand any obstacles and other dysfunctions within a company’s culture. We sometimes discover that team members’ self-perception differs considerably from the reality. Such an awakening can be starkly eye-opening, providing a line of sight into the demands of departments and roles. It can open new conversations and foster connection.

When Is This The Right Approach?

This approach may be right for you if individuals or teams within your organization seem stressed and overworked, or there’s a sense that balls are being dropped and the system (or requests and fulfillment) is not working smoothly. Some indicators might be people speaking like martyrs, others like embittered slaves, and, perhaps, others who seem to have such a puritanical work ethic that they keep their noses to the grindstone and hardly seem to enjoy life at all. And in general, there is griping that things are not getting done as promised, or on time, or in the right way. These are signs that an unhealthy work request/commitment fulfillment culture and patterns exist.

Let’s untangle our beliefs about saying "yes" at all costs. Let’s find a way to do great work, stay aligned with the larger strategic goals, and care for our souls as we fulfill the company's mission. This is one important key to a healthier, happier, and high-performing workplace.

L&D leaders need innovative, high-performing teams to meet today’s challenges. You need a high-performing team of pros with abundant creativity and a drive to innovate. The solution? Culture change. Download the eBook Secrets Of Effective L&D Leaders: Innovation, Embracing Change, And Cultural Transformation and find out more.

References:

[1] Fernando Flores

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