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Using values to shift culture and grow value

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The collective ability of an organisation to anticipate change, opportunities and risks, and move faster than the competition drives sustained value creation – the winning tech giants give ample confirmation of this truth. And it is the quality of seamless interactions between knowledgeable managers and employees at all levels which allows a firm to detect early market signals and translate these into concrete actions that grow value. Here is where “culture”, that is the unique repeated behavioural patterns describing how people interact, becomes a driver of success or failure.

It’s no wonder that “agility” and culture have therefore found their way to the top of corporate leader’s agendas. The only problem is, it’s an incredibly difficult thing to change. And, similar to trust, a good culture takes a long time to cultivate, but can be destroyed quickly. Over the years, Humatica has helped countless companies accelerate cultural (behavioural) change and has thereby learned some key lessons for entrepreneurial leaders.

Firstly, there is no silver bullet. Knowledgeable employees change their behaviour voluntarily, you can’t mandate it. They need to connect-the-dots for themselves that behaving in a different way will bring them more benefits than the cost of not changing behaviour. And they need to understand what the desired behaviours are.

A clearly defined set of values that describe the desired behaviours is a starting spot. Values should be defined to highlight required changes in culture, that are needed based on the legacy behaviours and future market demands. They should be aspirational, but at the same time resonate with the current organisation. It is also helpful to define specific real-life dilemma’s, “moments-of-truth” that employees may be confronted with, where the values can be applied to make a good decision – and define what the right decision in those cases is.

One of our observations about successful culture change is that it requires consistent signals and observations through independent channels to give employees confidence that the change is for real. It’s not so much what the management may say, but more what leadership does that signals the desired / undesired behaviours.

For this reason, values need to be anchored in the recruiting selection and performance feedback processes. They also need to be integrated in established reward and sanction processes. In fact, every manager’s behaviour is put under the microscope to assess whether it is consistent with the stated values. Another common use of values is to help in taking action when dysfunctional or risky behaviours occur. When these problem situations arise, they are blessings in disguise as excellent opportunities to graphically signal the undesired boundaries of behaviour dictated by the values. Not taking action in such cases however quickly works in the opposite direction. Inconsistent management behaviour with the stated values is a highly corrosive signal for the organisation.

Humatica has helped countless firms with the identification of required behavioural changes to achieve value creation goals, and the definition and anchoring of pragmatic values to accelerate needed culture change.

This article originally appeared as the Humatica Corner in Real Deals Magazine. Click here to download the PDF version.

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