Culture is what a drone that can roam about freely in an organization would capture as it follows all conversations, meetings and decisions.
What is the culture of the world's top organizations like?
Our first answer is: Agile organizations are not all alike. And that is for the simple reason that they never take shortcuts.
There is no company in the world that has been transformed by massive Scrum, Agile or Agile HR certifications (just kidding).
There is no organization in the world that has been transformed by the nice graphics that many storytelling, desk and board gurus post on Linkedin. Enough of the show. Companies are too important players in society to keep on fooling around with them.
The sole truth is that the top organizations in the world are the best because they have experimented on their own and have refined their cultures and ways of working over the years.
In today's world there are organizations where leaders improve excels and there are others where leaders improve cultures. You already know who the winners are.
However, we cannot specify what they look like for all of them individually, our almost two decades of experience building these organizations allows us to define 8 cultural features that can be recognized when working and living in these companies. Our colleague David Hanna likes to define cultures in organizations that way:
Culture is what would be captured by a drone that could move freely throughout our organization and follow all conversations, meetings and decisions.
this is what it would capture in any leading organization:
- 1. Leaders in the Gemba, the place where things happen.
- 2. Teams (in)validating their ideas with customers
- 3. Obsession with learning at top speed
- 4. Problems always come first
- 5. Leaders who humanize, not robotize
- 6. A love affair with impact, not activity
- 7. Shared purpose through OKR that unite and inspire
- 8. Maximum self-organization and accountability
1. Leaders in the Gemba, the place where things happen
This contrasts to the unfortunately common image of executives in their meeting rooms, disconnected from their customer-facing teams, pondering over products and services that they think people might consume (and often don’t).
2. Teams (in)validating their ideas with customers
Customer in the middle, teams in front
3. Obsession with learning at top speed
Just use this simple algorithm:
Every time faster.
as an organizational learning cycle for continuous improvement based on data and provided evidence.
4. Problems always come first
In leading organizations, problems are made visible in order to turn them into opportunities as quickly as possible.
One of the leaders who has inspired us most over the past 12 months told his organization when our transformation was launched:
We will not spend one more minute looking at scorecards with "green" indicators. Meetings, on the few occasions when they are really necessary, will be about turning problems into opportunities.
5. Leaders who humanize, not robotize.
Respect is neither robotizing people nor protecting the mediocre and abandoning those who always respond in a productive way.
True respect is shown in the commitment to develop people so that they can always go another step further.
Challenging people's intellect so they dare to evolve, even if it causes them discomfort, and take steps to become the best version of themselves.
Not blaming people for problems that are systemic and require direct intervention from leadership.
Making sure that people don't waste time on automated tasks that can be handled by robots as well.
What can we do to help people grow by innovating and developing better products for our customers?
6. A love affair with impact, not activity
Stopping the "hierarchical factory of doing too much"
Setting in motion “the netarchy of impact”.
7. Shared purpose through OKR that unite and inspire
We've proven that massive impact can be achieved without a single PowerPoint.
8. Maximum self-organization and accountability
Autonomy is the result of in-depth technical expertise. This mastery of technology empowers individuals and teams to deliver value and achieve the common purpose reflected in the OKR.
Accountability is easily identified by a “Think like an owner” mentality. It is evident in those day-to-day decisions that are made “behind closed doors,” where individual interests are secondary to customer interests. Always.