How to get the Cultural Conversation Started

Things get done only if the data we gather can inform and inspire those in a position to make a difference” Dr. Mike Schmoker

Culture survey assessments provide an overview of what’s going on in your organization.  While the results are just data points, the real value is in the follow up conversations with your employees to achieve a deep understanding of what’s behind the data.

It’s wonderful to get culture survey results that describe your organization with values such as accountability, customer orientation, continuous improvement, and teamwork.  However this describes today’s organization, what about the future?  Survey results also show what could be.  Imagine if these same employees asked for employee fulfillment, leadership development, partnerships and community involvement.  How could you stretch where you are today to become an even better organization tomorrow?

Generating conversations

I remember one client who was a new leader in his organization.  He came in with open communications, providing his employees with a vision for the organization.  He also clarified employees’ accountabilities by having job descriptions formalized for every position. He set up performance metrics and dashboards.  And he directed all this within the first 6 months of his tenure.

However, instinctively, he felt that things weren’t quite right so he took action with a cultural survey. To his surprise, the results came back with values including confusion and hierarchy.  He just couldn’t understand how there could possibly be confusion when he was taking such pains to clarify things.

He took the next step to engage in conversation with his employees.  He created focus groups, open house town hall events, and the ability for employees to respond to anonymous follow up surveys.  Confusion turned out to be too much change at once.  Yes things were being clarified, but they were coming through the organization at different tempos.  One department had information before another department.  Employees from the various departments were working together and yet they had different directives.  Confusion reigned!

Conversation insights

Armed with this rich insight, the leader regrouped with his leadership team and they worked to improve the flow of information through the organization.  He also slowed down the rate of change initiating a more seamless change management process.

A good cultural survey provides meaningful data to start with. However, making assumptions about data can cause leaders to run off in the wrong direction.  Robust and brave conversations can generate the ideas to successfully move your organization forward.  In this case it wasn’t a behaviour thing holding the organization back; it was a broken communication process.  Imagine if the leader hadn’t engaged in the culture survey and had just kept ploughing ahead.  Despite doing a number of things “right”, his organization would have spiralled into paralysis as more and more change came down the pipe. They would have developed sludge in their corporate fuel.

Are you ready to embrace and champion a tool to inquire into your organization’s culture?  How open will you be to listen to your employee’s stories? Click here to contact me and I’ll show you how.

Whether your culture is struggling, or a good one looking to evolve, having a tool to open the door to conversation is paramount.  As a leader you must walk through that door and be open to the glorious grains of advice and clarification offered from your employees.

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