Every organization has a culture, whether the leadership team has tried to build it intentionally or not. That culture sets the tone for everything that happens within the organization, from who is hired and how people are rewarded and retained to customer satisfaction and ultimately, profit. The good news is you do have a choice to build yours intentionally.
Something isn’t quite right in your organization. Maybe revenue isn’t where you’d like it to be despite a significant increase in your marketing spend, or voluntary turnover is a lot higher than it used to be. You may not yet know for sure what is “off,” but you know something is up.
It might be tempting to scrutinize the activities of your sales team or human resources, but the truth is what’s off could be any number of things.
Two of the things CEOs struggle with the most are how to get employees to be more innovative, and how to build a diverse and inclusive culture. On the surface, innovation and DEI seem unrelated, but they’re not.
I recently read an article in HBR about what’s needed for a successful agile transformation in organizations. The research the authors conducted found that “many large agile initiatives not only miss their goals but also cause organizational disruption—including staff burnout, the loss of key talent, and infighting among teams.”
What’s going wrong? With the help of organizational network analysis—a methodology for mapping how people collaborate—the authors have identified where unforeseen barriers undermine agile initiatives. The main problem they found: Traditional practices for executing agile projects are ineffective.
If you had a successful business in 2019, you likely experienced some tough setbacks or in other cases, unique opportunities for growth during 2020. Fast forward to 2021, and we’re still working in a very different context than we were before. Most of us are now working either partly or entirely online. Many organizations are either launching or attempting to reinvigorate their DEI initiatives. So, how can we be effective and change-positive stewards for our organizational culture now?
We make decisions all the time—both minor (what brand of milk should I buy?) to major (which strategy will give us the biggest ROI?). If we want better outcomes from our decisions, we could use a tool to help us first narrow down our options. And we could clearly identify when there is only one viable path forward so we don’t waste time chasing dead ends.
We fielded a lot of inquiries in 2020 from leaders who said, “We want to become an anti-racist organization. Can you help us?”
Our first response is curiosity. What does that mean to you? Why do you want to become an anti-racist organization? What would be better at your organization if you did this work? How would you know you’d succeeded? That last one is a loaded question because the work never ends. However, there are measurable indicators of success along the way.
Let’s just say that 2020 has been a “notable” year.
When conducting year-in-reviews while preparing for the coming year, try a visual approach—one that you can apply to your personal or professional life. You may even want to share this with someone you manage or a colleague on your team.
Grab a pencil and take a deep breath
Allow yourself about 20-45 minutes for the initial activity. It’s a great way to gather your thoughts when preparing a more in-depth reporting for your year-end and a great visual to accompany a presentation if you are reporting up or out.
In September 2016, Wells Fargo made headlines when allegations surfaced that its employees created more than 1.5 million fake deposit accounts and half a million fake credit cards while under pressure to increase sales numbers. Then in March 2017, it came out that the actual number of fake accounts was nearly twice what was originally reported.
How did this happen? Employees at Wells Fargo were strongly incentivized to grow their numbers regardless of how that impacted their customers and the customer experience. The organization as a whole became overly focused on a single, narrow metric (this many new accounts). People didn’t stop and think about the unintended consequences of having such a narrow focus.
It’s rare that leaders get the feedback they need the most from their teams. Team members are reluctant to speak up, no matter how open the leader (you) say you are. Enter the formal 360 feedback process.
Think about the last time a direct report approached you and said, “I noticed you didn’t react when Janet started crying in the meeting. You may not be aware of this, but it made the rest of us uncomfortable because you seemed cold and uncaring. I think this is something I can help you with. Are you open to talking about this and may I make some suggestions?”
Subordinates rarely, if ever, will come to their managers to offer their observations and their help, especially when it comes to their manager’s behavior. Most managers say they want feedback in their team meetings, so they assume that if people have any actual feedback to offer they will share it. Unfortunately, declaring an open door policy does not guarantee anyone will walk through it.
Often the fall season brings new goals as we prepare for the new year. It’s a great time to wrap up projects, reflect on where we’ve been and look forward to the future. I personally find fourth quarter to be energizing and full of ideas and planning.
But as we’re planning out new goals for ourselves and our organizations, it’s important to look at them in a more strategic, systematic way to ensure we’re truly moving forward toward our long-term vision.
Depending on your industry or the size of your organization, you will want to intentionally, strategically plan ahead for a year, three years, five years or even more. Considerations during that planning process include looking at what’s going on in the economy, what’s working well, what needs to be improved on and more.