Modifying the Peter Drucker quote, I would like to discuss several questions about culture, transformation and change that we of ActioGlobal are repeatedly asked by clients as well as by the media.
Let’s get started with the questions on the most valuable asset of the companies – their people.
Well, no, why is it supposed to? Let me give you a topical example. Before the pandemic began, very few companies had embraced remote work. They were afraid of poor communication, disengagement, stalled advancement etc. Then most have had to give in and have their people working from home.
However, there is a difference in wording, precisely, the difference between remote work and working from home. It is about the conscious action to introduce remote work in your organization, not about being forced by external causes, to develop the culture to make remote work effective and sustainable for people and the organization. And both parties learned and also understood the advantages: Not working in an on-site office 9-5 means e. g. lower workplace distraction, increased flexibility, reduced operational costs, reduced expenses for employees…
Forbes already published in May 2020 that a California-based company has measured an increase in worker productivity by 47%. According to a study by indeed for employers (HR services) already 2018 done in states that 75% of the people asked said that working remotely has improved their work-life balance.
Therefore, we do not have to ask ourselves how to manage changes/transformations so that they do not affect the corporate culture. If a company wants to adopt remote work it´s due to a conscious decision that it wants to develop its corporate culture for it.
Finally, corporate culture is the set of principles and values that are shared and that also generate expectations in the way people interact, work and collaborate with each other. Therefore, adopting remote work implies developing the elements that cause the culture, for example, what skills people need, what work processes and systems should be like, how information should be accessed, what the organizational design should be and how decisions are made, among many other aspects. Responsibility is the keyword.
True, right now we are experiencing such a Brittle Anxious Non-linear Incomprehensible world up close and personal. But the new challenges of the BANI environment have already started earlier in terms of global warming, unreliable politics and accelerating change of what we got temporarily used to. New approaches have to be developed and this is what we of ActioGlobal are doing continuously in 24 very different business sectors ranging from Consumer Goods over Tech to Finance.
People will understand – and „understand“ is one of the major prerequisite for them to delve into a cultural change – that they have to develop competencies based on four main areas:
In the first block of problem solving and analytical skills, creativity and the pronounced human perception that distinguishes us from machines will be increasingly required. It is the ability to analyze data and make decisions in complex environments and from their different contexts and realities. This is an aspect that technology cannot yet comprehend, but that we can bring to mastery together with it, contributing sensitivity, empathy, and an eye for context, situation, and experience.
There is a great deal of trust in each other. Put the problems on the table, analyze and solve them together, everyone puts his skills “Thanks to ActioGlobal we have discovered that the building and development of self-organizing teams is the core of Agile. It allows us to place the customer at the center and make everyone work towards a common goal. It’s about breaking with the historic linear process and working in a way that makes every project and every objective a moonshot.”Farnés Linares, Hava Media
It´s self-organization, the ability to learn, to self-learning and to promote collective learning within teams that is essential. The freedom to work and innovate autonomously without the direction of a manager, with the aptitude and attitude of a team that works towards objectives and improves iteratively to achieve them. Self-organization also involves the freedom to experiment and fail – learn from this and develop – then it´s no drama.
Third, it’s about the ability to work with other people and all that is connected with being able to empathize with the other person as well as being able to co-create not only from one’s own vision but also by integrating the experience that the other brings in. Achieving better because joint solutions are essential. Cross-sector and cross-functional – we are all rowing the same boat.
And on the last point, we are going to have to collaborate more and more with Artificial Intelligence. The democratization of technology is going to allow us to be more creative and to collaborate with technology for practically everything we develop and decide every day.
After an intensive and elaborate hiring process, the organization and the person are a perfect match, a perfect match that can change over time. So, when a person feels that he/she is no longer committed to the values and the way of working of the company, the best decision to make is to look for another organization where he/she will feel happy again.
In that sense, continuous learning helps people embrace new professional challenges when they feel they have to. No one deserves to be stuck in a company with which there is no longer that perfect match.
We refer here to the concept of New Work. Among others, it states that Gen Y does not only decide to join a company because they are offered a high salary but because they want to sense a meaning in their job, want to work in smaller entities like teams where they can feel the success of their contribution. This is a new culture that hits the companies from outside and requires them to respond. ActioGlobal is really shaping this new culture in the best companies around the world. We are proud to present one of our concepts here:
First of all, we have to clarify wording: Culture cannot be managed because it is not static. Right to the contrary, culture develops and improves because it evolves the relationships and shared principles of a living organism, which is the organization of human beings as well as of companies.
However, the development of a culture implies the evolution of all the organizational systems connected with the life cycle of employees.
The life cycle that begins with the process by which we attract talent from outside our organization to join, and continues with how we select the people we want to incorporate, how we incorporate those people into the organization, how we develop them, and how we facilitate them in the different phases of their professional career so that they can contribute with their talent to making the organization’s purpose and priorities a reality. Hire the best is one option some great companies like Google choose, hire those who seek a meaning in their job, is what we recommend since they will bring your company forward and help change the company´s culture, maybe according to he principles of New Work, to make your company fit for the future. And they are here to stay for a considerable period of time.
The development of culture, consequently, is to a large extent the development of the employee lifecycle. Any development of culture that does not include a review of these measures to promote, attract, and retain talent could be considered more of a make-up of culture, focusing on the visible effects and artifacts rather than the real causes of a culture.
What we observe over and over again is that what most hampers employee productivity is working on things that do not make any sense: unnecessary PowerPoint presentations, projects that are going to end up in a folder in the Cloud, reporting meetings to protect the status quo, and so on. In other words, jobs that are a waste of time.
In our view, one of the most important roles the company has is to ensure that people are working on objectives that really create value, have a meaning and are transparent to everyone. It´s work the employees want to do, not just jobs.
Radical transparency is a good antidote to time wasting in companies. This is the new and most unfamiliar role for many Management Teams in the new culture. No silos, no secrecy, but communication.
Another key element is the elimination of unnecessary meetings and events. There is redundancy and waste in both meetings and meeting attendees (see, we do not call them participants). In companies, there are forums over and over again where the same thing is reported, where more people than necessary spend their time, and this is really a problem that greatly hampers people’s productivity and morale.
See also our answer to question 1).
We don’t believe there is any way to prevent corporate culture failure from impacting the results any organization is aiming at, since there is a direct link (see 1 -5).
The only question is whether that impact will happen in the short term. Often it won’t, but we are convinced that, in the medium to long term, culture has a direct influence on business results, for better or worse.
What is the responsibility of the company and the employees? Well, it´s overall, because, in the end, when we talk about culture we are talking about what happens in the company every day, about those shared values and principles that we could see in the relationship between people. And the company plays the very important part of in ensuring that these relationships are healthy, that people can work together to achieve a common purpose, that communication is transparent, and many other aspects. Therefore, both parties have to take overall responsibility.
But I repeat, there is no way to prevent the failure of a culture from impacting results, the only question is in what time frame.
Solution: One feature of the culture change is implementing the OKR-system. The whole company follows a common purpose cut in Objectives and Key Results to measure the progress of the self-organized teams and consequently the whole company on a quarterly basis. looming failures can be recognized early on and countermeasures can be taken quickly.
Companies play to win, definitely. Business life is not a fairy tale. The only thing that matters is survival.
However, as outlined in the previous questions, if we have people who feel content with themselves, who identify themselves with the purpose of the organization and who feel fulfilled by working on something that really matters, we will ultimately witness a positive impact on the company’s result. If the companies will not undergo the transformation and change their culture, they will dramatically experience the negative impact.
The issue is that many companies in sectors that are still stable live from inertia and do not immediately feel the negative impact that a culture that neglects the well-being of their teams can have. There are many companies that are developing cultures that will impact their survival in the next three, five or ten years.
Bottom line: better culture, better people and teams lead to better business results. There is no doubt about it.