‘If your workplace culture were a dog, what breed would it be?’
A few years ago, an executive of one of the four big banks was asked what he thought organisational culture meant. He gave the same answer that a Supreme Court judge once gave when attempting to define pornography: “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”
Culture is demonstrated by the ideas, customs, rituals, stories, social behaviour, norms and standards of a group of people.
But back to the question, ‘If your workplace culture were a dog, what breed would it be?’ Hopefully you’ve picked a fun, energetic and friendly breed that you can trust and not a breed that bites or creates mess or doesn’t come when it’s called or defecates on…well, you get the picture.
When working with clients we often see a set of values that the business supposedly stands for, framed on walls throughout the premises. I recall in one business, ‘Honesty’ was one of six core values.
I asked the management team if they had, in the past few days, lied to a client or colleague, and just like you and me they all had. And, based on the staff engagement survey we conducted, their six core values were just words on a wall.
(Research in this area suggests that on average we tell at least four lies a day. And, furthermore, if we were 100 percent honest with 100 percent of people we interact with, none of us would be in a relationship!)
Setting agreed and realistic values is important to help a group become a team that delivers consentient and predictable value to team members and clients. This creates trust. What determines a team’s culture is not what that team stands for. Culture is set by what the team won’t stand for.
A cast study: an ag business had several branches and just over 100 staff. This business’s pain point was not sales -it was efficiency and profitability. Staff reported that they each undertook seven hours of rework each week. This business was going broke being busy!
Part of our improvement intervention was discussing and setting agreed structures, which included setting values. We also asked them what type of dog they liked.
The values staff agreed on were;
Any gaps between what you team is actually doing/behaving and what everyone believes the team should be doing, will be due to inadequate:
The first team members to undertake a peer review were managers. Resentment and cynicism results from managers not demonstrating the behaviours they expect of others.
We can’t demand what we don’t demonstrate.
We also made rework an agenda item in their new weekly toolbox meetings. In addition, everyone had to report on the amount of rework they did for the month at each monthly meeting. When discussing the root cause of the rework they asked themselves, “Is the rework due to poor structures, resources, competencies or commitment?”
As a result, collaboration and cooperation improved, which in turn reduced internally generated rework by 80 percent. Their dog turned from an out of control mutt to a fun, energetic, friendly, predictable and loyal dog.
So back to the question, what type of dog is your business?
Are the values at your workplace just words?
Do you measure alignment and give feedback?
Setting values is the easy part of the process. Getting alignment is the challenging part. If you don’t model, measure, provide feedback and challenge, then don’t bother going through the expense of setting values because they’ll end up being just words on a wall.