Monthly Culture Inspiration: June 2017

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

Visual: RSA Animates the Future of Work

RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) has a wonderful series of animated videos about several topics including the science of persuasion and where good ideas come from. In this video on the future of work, Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organizations encouraged an open, collaborative, and flexible working culture. 

I particularly love this drawing of what it feels like to look at your inbox on a Sunday afternoon:

And this one of Darth Vader saying “Join me in the office, Dave,” while Dave vows to never go back to the office full time, and instead to keep doing remote work:

Book: Under New Management by David Burkus

Rare is the management book in which every single chapter has actionable ideas. David Burkus, an associate professor of leadership and innovation, has written Under New Management, a playbook for the new rules of management. His ideas may seem counterintuitive (e.g. “Outlaw email”), but he backs them up with solid research and examples from real organizations who are using these methods (a French tech company mandated no email, and found that employees loved it). Each chapter details one specific action managers can take. For example: “Put customers second;” “Lose the standard vacation policy;” “Close open offices;” and “Celebrate departures.” These ideas may seem wacky now, but I have a feeling in 10 years, they’ll be fairly normal.

Article to Bookmark: The 9 questions that uncover the most surprising insights from employees

Know Your Company is a software tool that helps organizations and employers get to know their employees better. In this post, CEO Claire Lew shares three years-worth of findings, based on data from 15,000 employees in 15+ countries. Here are the three that most surprised me:

  • "67% of employees said, “Yes, I’m afraid of something at work.” This result caught me off guard (almost 70% of employees are afraid of something at work!) but it goes to show the importance of showing vulnerability as a leader and digging deep to uncover the areas of the company (or people in the company) that employees may feel intimidated by.”
  • "81% of employees said, “Yes, there’s a part of the company I wish I were able to interact with more.” An overwhelming majority of the employees we surveyed feel silo-ed. By asking this question, you’ll learn exactly which parts of the company they’d like more interaction with, be it a specific department or office."
  • "76% of employees said, “Yes, there’s an area outside my current role where I feel I could be contributing.” This result is surprising, considering that most managers feel their employees are slammed and are already at capacity. Thus, this question all the more important to ask: You’ll learn very tactically where your employees want to contribute more to help push your business even further."

Even if you don’t survey your entire organization about these questions, it might be worth asking your colleagues or teammates a version of them.

Monthly Culture Inspiration: May 2017

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

Visual: 10 Guiding Principles of Organizational Culture

Here are 10 Guiding Principles of Organizational Culture from Jon Katzenbach, a practitioner in organizational strategies at PwC’s strategy consulting group. Jon shares that “although there is no magic formula that will guarantee results, we have gleaned some valuable insights through decades of research and observation at dozens of enterprises” about how to mobilize your organizational culture.

Book: Time Talent Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Teams Productive Power 

Michael Mankins and Eric Garton are experts in organizational design and effectiveness at Bain. They’ve written a great new book, Time Talent Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Teams Productive Power. In the book, Mankins and Garton argue that most modern organizations' scarcest resources are the time, talent, and energy of their people, and the ideas those people generate and implement.

The first two thirds of the book have suggestions about how to attract and deploy great talent, and how to unleash the energy that people bring to their work. However, the authors admit that these suggestions usually “provoke two frustratingly simple and deceptive questions:" 

  1. "All this seems pretty much like common sense. Why doesn’t it happen in the ordinary course of business?
  2. If we follow these prescriptions, how do we make sure that they all stick—and that we get and sustain the results we’re looking for?"

The authors write that "the answer to both questions comes down to a clichéd but critical element of any organization: its culture. On the first question: many companies don’t take these seemingly commonsensical steps because they don’t fit with the company’s culture. Try to implement them and the culture attacks them like an immune system ridding the body of a foreign intruder. On the second: culture will determine whether the changes you make can last, and whether they will generate the results you seek. Get the cultural elements right and your other steps will fall into place, even reinforce one another. Get culture wrong and you’ll find yourself constantly frustrated, because nothing will stick. Former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner captured it well when he said, 'Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization’s makeup and success … I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game; it is the game.’”

Along with great case studies, the authors offer three ways to build or restore a winning culture:

  1. "Raise the strategic ambition and recenter your company’s purpose in a customer- or socially focused mission. Ask yourself whether you can see your company’s purpose come to life every day in your employees’ actions. 
  2. Reawaken the ownership mindset and performance orientation through 'constructive disruptions' at moments of truth, both the symbolic and the routine. Reinforce the behaviors you want with feedback systems and consequence-based performance-management systems. 
  3. Reset the company’s operating model, especially its ways of working and talent systems, to embed the change. Renew your talent acquisition strategy, leadership behavioral signature, and talent-management systems to attract difference makers. Ask yourself whether you are encouraging culture-strengthening or culture-weakening behaviors."

Article to Bookmark: The Org is Your Product. The People are Your Customers.

Gabe Kleinman was a designer at IDEO, then head of People Ops at Medium, and now Director of Content and Marketing at Obvious Ventures. In his most recent Medium post, "The Org is Your Product. The People are Your Customers” he writes that "the vast majority of Human Resources and People Ops-related programs are devoid of both humanness and people-ness. Leadership tends to overlook the key moments that matter with candidates, employees, and alumni in favor of a focus on process, administration and box-checking.” He then gives suggestions on how organizations should treat employees during the hiring process, the first 100 days, throughout their career development, and after they leave. I was tickled to see that he referenced an article I wrote with Kate Judson on exploring different feedback systems. Gabe's article is critical for anyone who works in a talent-related role to read.