Monthly Culture Inspiration: March 2017

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: Five Spaces Leaders Need to Design and Nurture

I recently discovered Tanmay Vora's absolutely delightful illustrations. Vora started his blog, QAspire, as a personal archive of lessons he was learning as a new manager. It now attracts tens of thousands of visitors each month. Here are several other illustrations about company culture. I could look at his site for hours.

Book: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni is perhaps best known for his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, but my favorite of his books is The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. If there was one book that I could offer leaders of organizations, it would be this book. Lencioni argues that "a healthy organization is one that has all but eliminated politics and confusion from its environment. As a result, productivity and morale soar, and good people almost never leave." On the other hand, "the smartest organization in the world, the one that has mastered strategy and finance and marketing and technology, will eventually fail if it is unhealthy." So why haven't more organizations embraced the benefits of organizational health? Because it's hard and it requires courage. "Leaders must be willing to confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunction within their organization with an uncommon level of honesty and persistence. They must be prepared to walk straight into uncomfortable situations and address issues that prevent them from realizing the potential that eludes them." In the book, you'll learn the four steps an organization has to do to get healthy. While this is a "touchy feely" topic, this is not a soft book-- it has incredible detailed, tangible, and actionable steps, with in depth exercises for leaders and teams. Lencioni also has a detailed checklist and roadmap for the steps on his website.

Article to Bookmark: 100 Culture Change Insights from 100 Culture Expert Posts

Culture University is an educational website about workplace culture supported by a faculty of culture experts, including my favorite culture expert, MIT professor Edgar Schein. They have a helpful article, "100 Culture Change Insights from 100 Culture Expert Posts," which is chock-full of good tidbits, like this one: "Terrific, talented people reach their capacity to absorb change and they check out. Every person has their own “change sponge” that has a maximum amount of absorption. Both personal and professional changes decrease the change capacity. Employees become disengaged when they run out of capacity. All the leadership commitment, compelling cases for change and brilliant change strategies in the world are irrelevant if you do not assess and manage change capacity."

Monthly Culture Inspiration: February 2017

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: How to Scale Up Without Losing Your Culture

Stephanie Gioia is the director of consulting at XPLANE. She recently published a post on XPLANE's blog about a common question XPLANE receives from its clients: "We were a start up and had an awesome culture. We grew fast and hired like crazy! Business was great, but one day people started saying, 'This doesn't feel like company we used to be.' Turnover started ticking up. Things began to feel political, like we're not on the same team. Now we're at a crossroads where we must start thinking about our culture for the first time."

Stephanie writes, "The good news is that these companies are not alone. All high-growth ventures hit a culture crisis and they all hit it at around the same place in their growth curve; about 2/3 of the way up." (See the visual above.) She explains in a beautiful, visual way why this happens and what organizations can do to improve their culture.

Book: Smarter, Better, Faster by Charles Duhigg

I finally read Charles Duhigg's latest book, Smarter, Better, Faster (published March 2016), which explores the science of productivity. Duhigg shares "eight key productivity concepts—from motivation and goal setting to focus and decision making—that explain why some people and companies get so much done." While I loved the personal productivity tips, Duhigg's insights about what makes organizations and employees especially productive were particularly insightful. For example, Duhigg writes, "Two economists and a sociologist from MIT decided to study how, exactly, the most productive people build mental models. To do that, they convinced a midsized recruiting firm to give them access to their profit-and-loss data, employees’ appointment calendars, and the 125,000 email messages the firm’s executives had sent over the previous ten months. The first thing the researchers noticed, as they began crawling through all that data, was that the firm’s most productive workers, its superstars, shared a number of traits. The first was they tended to work on only five projects at once—a healthy load, but not extraordinary. There were other employees who handled ten or twelve projects at a time. But those employees had a lower profit rate than the superstars, who were more careful about how they invested their time.... [The superstars] were signing up for projects that required them to seek out new colleagues and demanded new abilities. That’s why the superstars worked on only five projects at a time: Meeting new people and learning new skills takes a lot of additional hours." Fascinating.

Article to Bookmark: Culture Codes is a collection of 40 culture decks, core values, mission statements, and more from real companies. It's been popping up everywhere recently: it was forwarded around several times at my job, and has been trending in my social media feeds. Why? Before Tettra created this, there was no central place to find all these decks. This article is SUPER helpful for any organizations looking to get inspiration before creating their own culture code.