This excellent article in Strategy + Business explains why complex “culture change” initiatives often fail to achieve the desired objective. More importantly, the article authors (Jon Katzenbach, Rutger von Post, and James Thomas) share the three specific elements – the “critical few” in their terms – that do lead to effective, lasting culture change in the shortest amount of time.
- Critical Behaviors – “Those ways of doing things in your current operations that can easily spread from one employee to another; they have the potential to generate a real business impact, particularly when they become habitual and widespread. Moreover, you would recognize them right away if respected leaders at various levels throughout the organization started putting them into practice.”
- Existing Cultural Traits – “Three or four emotional elements of the current culture that are distinctively clear, wisely profound, emotionally powerful, and widely recognized; these traits together are a manifestation of the organization’s collective sense of identity. They play a prominent role in supporting the most important behaviors.”
- Critical Informal Leaders – “Those few authentic individuals who motivate others by what they do and how they do it. They are recognized by their colleagues as credible, trustworthy, and effective—and they know how to influence behavior.”
Let’s look at these through the lens of social recognition, which is designed to identify your critical behaviors and traits, then encourage all employees to notice others demonstrating these behaviors/traits and recognize them very specifically for doing so. Yes, your critical informal leaders are crucial to getting the momentum going, but making it easy for anyone and everyone to share positive praise quickly turns nearly all employees into leaders of your culture.
The S+B article recommends:
“Take stock of the positive aspects of your current culture and consider which elements could be harnessed to drive the behaviors you seek most. At the same time, ask yourself:
- How visible would these behaviors be if a senior executive or an authentic informal leader started exhibiting them? (Would others throughout the organization see and recognize the change?)
- Will these behaviors be contagious enough to be spread through social networks and peer relationships? (Will key people begin to envy and emulate them?)
- What potential do the behaviors have to create real, measurable business impact? (Can you find ways to measure and track the impact early on?)”
I would add: How do you make these behaviors more visible, more contagious and more measurable? Social recognition achieves all three – behaviors become more visible when everyone is empowered to notice them in the work of others; recognition itself makes them more contagious because people enjoy praising others as much as receiving the praise themselves; and built-in measurement systems concisely report out where and how those recognized behaviors are having a real impact on business needs.
How do I know this is true? Aside from many clients I’ve had the pleasure see realize these goals, we have at Globoforce, too. I’m thrilled and very proud to share with you that Globoforce has once again been named a Great Place to Work in Ireland, ranking number 3 in the medium-sized workplace category. I know our own investment in our culture of recognition is a primary contributor to our continued success.
What are your critical behaviors and cultural traits in your organization? Are they visible to all employees? Do they drive what you want them to drive?