Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Culture Setting Program - Interesting Exercise with 17 Questions

Sometime earlier this year a friend of mine asked me to do a culture setting exercise in his company. He felt that there were issues of - employees not taking ownership, not being objective about appraising team members, not following policy and bending rules conveniently, not taking initiative etc. It needed a bit of culture resetting.

So we met first - the top management and me. We decided to do an exercise where the top leadership team involves itself and asks some relevant questions and comes up with answers. Simple enough. I realised that the key was to raise the right questions and let the answers evolve from the group. Their team, their future, their lives. I will do my best to facilitate it. There were 13 of them and we decided on a two day program.

There were some assumptions for the group exercise of course. The key assumption was that any culture change has to start at the top simply because people imitate their leaders and role models blindly. You can say all you want but unless you live it, don't expect the team to buy into it. The culture posts or pillars have to be clearly specified and must show in defined behaviors. Any deviations in behavior would be reported or called out in a public forum. Similarly any good has to be appreciated and thus, encouraged. If leaders can change themselves culturally, in words and more importantly deeds and even more importantly beliefs, the changes can percolate pretty quickly down the organisation. It would then be easier to take the same ideas down.

The questions we asked are given below. A copy of this questionnaire was circulated to the team a few days in advance to come up with some ideas. It was titled 'New Horizons'

The first exercise was to sit back and look at the horizon ahead.

Question 1 - What is the purpose of our work? (A 20 year vision)
We started with a 20 year horizon - a horizon beyond the team - to see what they genuinely would like their work to be remembered as, what they would like their work to represent. This would add some real purpose to their work. Their life. As they say, man must find meaning in his work.

The group was split into three groups and they all presented their ideas. Then they came up with their one big idea of what they would want to be remembered as, what they would like to create bit by bit.
The Big Idea that draws us towards it.

Question 2 – 3 New Horizons
What do we want to achieve (SPECIFIC GOALS) as an organization towards fulfilling the purpose?- - 2-years (safeguarding current position)
- 5-years (build momentum for new area of growth)
- 10-years (seed options for potential future growth)
 (Cues - Numbers, segments, turnovers, profits, positions, time frames. Result goals and value goals. What it means to – employees, customers, society, investors, family. What's the IMPACT we want to create?)

Question 3 - Transforming goals into work
        How can we reach the first horizon best as a team?
(Cues – What are the blocks we face now?)

Question 4 
 What are the CORE VALUES that guide us to achieve those goals?

 Question 5
What are the behaviors to CHANGE to strengthen our CULTURAL PILLARS?)
(Behaviors - To enforce)

Building cultural pillars – (Cues - Experts, Ownership, Reliable, High Performance, Best in world people and practices, Open communication (360 degree), Learning mindset, Knowledge sharing, Coaching and mentoring, Processes, Planning, Preparation, Responsive, (Agile, Nimble), Efficient, New initiatives, Talent development …)
Teams to choose 4 pillars and present what it means to have a culture like that and how it helps.

Question 6
What do such cultural pillars reflect in terms of desired behaviors?
-          (Discipline, high delivery against expectations, no excuses, finishing ahead of schedule, totally owning the space, sharing knowledge and information, exposing subs to higher responsibility)

Department-wise (team leads and directors)
      Question 7
What are the EXPECTATIONS from the department / team (role)?
(Cues - what is expected to be delivered, how)

Question 8 
 What is the department GOAL?
(Cues - metrics, timelines)

Question 9
What are the expectations from TEAM LEAD?
 (Cues - targets and delivery, planning, preparation and process development, growth of team members, improvement of efficiencies and new initiatives, as leader and follower)

Question 10
 What are the expectations (role) from SUBS?
(Cues - Are they delivering? If not why? Who is accountable?)

     Question 11
8.       How can I MEASURE PERFORMANCE of my department?
(Cues - Performance metrics, taking higher responsibility, new initiatives, impact to company performance etc)

Question 12
 How can I measure MY (team lead’s) performance?
(Cues - ensuring department performance, ensuring growth, succession plan, manuals, new initiatives to create efficiencies, growing team actively)

Question 13 
 How can I measure the performance of SUB?
(Cues - ensuring role is fulfilled, helping team growth in other ways, taking higher ownership, improving efficiencies, working oneself out of the role)

Question 14
 Who is ACCOUNTABLE for team performance / individual performance/ SUB performance?

Monitor – Reward and reprimand
      Question 15
      How to enforce core values and cultural pillars being strengthened?
 (Cues - Red flags, rewards, feedback mechanisms, when, where, how)

Question 16 

      Are enforcers and subs clear on EXPECTATIONS, DELIVERY AND CONSEQUENCES in verbal and in writing? Have enforcers made it clear that it’s their job to help team and sub succeed?

Question 17 
1  What are the steps to take when performance is not as expected both from department and individual?

(Cues – Consequences, REWARDS / REPRIMANDS / Corrections/ Process of improvement)

As can be seen, it is an intensive program that takes a look at some core issues. The team participated well. Once the issues were brought out and agreed upon, we also made every member of the team personally responsible to achieve what the team set out to achieve. There can be no passing the buck. Each member was given the authority to call out and course correct as an empowered member in this committee.

The team decided to meet everyday for 90 days towards achieving the kind of culture they wanted to see among the leadership team itself. Then, once they understand the process, the idea was to take the exercise downwards.

The process is underway. It is obviously a learning process, a growing process. The team has stuck to meeting everyday diligently and are finding more transparency and bonding in the team. Some issues remain. The key is to enforce the agreed upon rules, make everyone responsible and measure results to course correct. One must ask the right questions again. 

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