"OUR CULTURE IS KILLING OUR BUSINESS"
This a story about a company that desperately needed to innovate, to grow and hold onto their fast dwindling market share.
They had invested in everything - the right equipment, tools, and technology. When it came to compensation and benefits, they led the pack across several industries. The reality though, was that they were losing ground in the market, and fast. They were not even losing skills, no one was poaching from them. They had a bloated structure that had no movement in it. People stayed and didn’t grow. The competitor that was taking massive chunks out of their market share was a start up with - as far as they were concerned - little to no industry experience, a young workforce, a nimble structure and by comparison significantly fewer fixed costs.
The question begged - if they had done ‘everything’ where was the problem?
So we started with a series of conversations across the organisation. These conversations simply revolved around asking a set of questions that helped reveal the organisation's habits, who was the custodian of these habits, how it made them feel and how connected or disconnected they were from their purpose in the organisation.
What we quickly discovered is that they didn’t have a ‘do better, do different’ habit. They had a habit of following paths, processes and ideas laid down generations before them. They had a habit of directly or indirectly knocking innovation out of people. Ideas were dangerous in this place. You kept your head down and stayed in line. But this was literally killing their business. Their culture was choking them to death.
We developed a culture transformation programme that involved every single person within the organisation. It involved structural and process changes. It even included induced staff churn. This transformation would only succeed if everyone made a real commitment to change. Gaining this type of commitment is what culture transformation is about. The solution included specific:
- Leadership work at a deep emotional and professional level
- People work - employees went through a vast number of conversational, professional and emotional opportunities to self connect with the purpose of the change
- Organisation work - we designed a culture transformation blueprint that spelt out the new set of habits the organisation was going to develop and how this would be done, including and most especially the tools for doing this.
- Strategy work - we helped them chart a new path in the market. By refining their value proposition, they reworked and restructured themselves around delivering value to employees and customers.
Over the course of several months, the organisation first experienced an upheaval - welcomed by some and disliked by others. For a time everyone wondered if things would ever be the same. However gradually, faster in some parts than others, no one want things to be the same. Teams began spontaneously innovating products. Leaders stepped behind, not in front of their teams. New talent was attracted to their organisation. The bottom line reflected growth. The workforce was simply happier. And so where their customers.
This organisation came back from the brink. Many others may not. Without the understanding that everything is about culture, efforts will continue to be misdirected and value shall be lost.