Culture change

An inspiring chat with Esko, Philippa and Rob got me thinking about culture change.  It started with me saying I felt a bit cynical about our new company values and behaviours document.

Me:  “Why do we need to publish values and behaviours for staff to aspire to,  isn’t that patronising?  Don’t we all know that we should be decent human beings towards one another?  I know I should collaborate, innovate etc. without being told by The Company.

The answer convinced me that we do need to be explicit:

  • We can’t assume that behaviours and values are universally shared.
  • By having an explicit statement, we can identify behaviours that are counter to what we want.
  • By being able to identify ‘counter-productive’ behaviours, we then have the opportunity to do something about them.

Next question:  “OK, if we are clear about what we want, how do we achieve culture change (assuming that the desired values/behaviours aren’t already widely embedded)?

  • What you don’t do is give everyone the piece of paper and tell them to comply (obvs).
  • I think the difficult part is dealing with clear cases of ‘counter-productive‘ behaviour.  One approach for managing this behaviour is to have a quiet word with the exhibitor of said behaviour.  It’s never going to be an easy conversation, so some skilful crucial-conversations-style work is needed.
  • What you can’t do is let toxic, damaging behaviours continue, unchallenged.  If you do, your values and behaviours document is not worth the paper it’s written on.

2 Replies to “Culture change”

  1. Good stuff.

    Though, for myself, I think statements of values are less useful than statements of principles or behaviours. A value is pretty abstract, it’s not always obvious how it might apply to behaviour in this context. Principles or behaviours tend to be less abstract and consequently more useful.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Ben. Must admit, I’m not really clear on the difference between a Value and a Principle, but I do respond to words like: Authentic; Transparency; Fair; Honest; Support each other; Flexible; Pragmatic; Customer focused; Innovative; Collaborative; Thoughtful; Respectful; Working In The Open; A culture of friendly challenge (psychological safety); Sharing learning experiences; Open minded; Approachable; Kind.

    These are the kinds of things I aspire to, and I think it’s useful to have them written down (after a little persuasion!).

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