Are you ready to unleash the potential of your corporate culture?

Working on corporate culture should not be taken lightly. This is especially relevant these days. The pandemic forces us not only to throw well-practiced behavior overboard, but also to break with old patterns of success or to rethink previous attitudes.

Stress and pressure reveal core values and real corporate culture that is deeply rooted in our company-DNA. Usually, core values and beliefs of an organization are not easily visible. In everyday work life, focus is put on keeping rigid structures alive, strictly following processes or on political wrangling. With the help of cultural initiatives and value campaigns one can try to uncover true cultural potential. However, most times it is difficult to succeed.

Corporate culture: potential or barrier?

The past few months could have shown that your corporate culture is a threat to your future success: imagine a corporate culture that blocks learning and innovation even in times of crisis, that does not trigger positive spirit and that got stuck in success patterns of the 20th century (command and control leadership, bureaucratic structures, efficiency paradigm, …). Without a fundamental cultural transformation the economic challenges and dynamics of the environment can certainly not be mastered with the existing patterns. You might also have discovered many positive behaviors that now need to be incorporated to the „new normal“. Both cases are good reason to track down the cultural potential of your company.

Ready for an exercise?

We invite you to participate in a small experiment to explore the potential of your corporate culture. It’s simple: give a group of people in your company the following 2 tasks:

“What would you advise a friend who wants to work in your company: How should this person behave in order not to be conspicuous in your company, i.e. behave like everyone else?”

Ask the group to answer this question looking back to 2019, before the start of the corona crisis (note comments in a left column).

Then ask the group to answer the same question, considering the extraordinary events that we have experienced during the fight against the coronavirus (note notes in right column).

Look at the answers in the two lists and go one step further. Start with “Why-questions”: “Why do we behave the way you described? What are underlying beliefs and values that cause us to behave in certain ways?”

Then highlight the differences between the two lists.

Now try to explore the potential in the differences

Perhaps some of the people you interviewed first described the corporate culture as follows: “We think mainly in silos, we try to please our boss and try to avoid mistakes as much as possible.” Others may have answered the second question with these words: “We work more transparently and are more concerned about colleagues from other departments. Due to the corona crisis, we are less afraid of making mistakes and don’t ask for permission so often – we trust our common sense.”

If you have encountered such differences as in the example above, you have discovered great potential in your corporate culture. The true convictions and values on which the company can build often only become apparent when employees leave their comfort zone. You can compare it to a treasure that you can use for sustainable development and future success of the company.

Dig a little deeper?

After this experiment we invite you to explore your culture in more depth. Qualitative exploration methods are particularly suitable. We now want to share another useful exercise with you.  Invite a small group of employees to draw the company culture as a person. The following question will help you guiding them:

“Imagine that our company/department was transformed into a person overnight. It is just entering the room …” What does this person look like? Age, sex, clothing, special characteristics – How does this person behave? Hobbies, interests, preferences, typical behavior, holiday destinations etc.

Go one step further and elaborate on what makes this person strong, where does it have its weaknesses, how does this person deal with challenges, how to convince this person to behave in a new way?
During this analysis, you will get excellent hints for qualities and barriers of your company culture.

Another option is to organize focus groups and let them describe your corporate culture according to the “12 glasses Canvas” developed by ICG:

"12 glasses" - External behavior; structures & systems; guided tour; stories, myths and rituals; sense & purpose; success; communication & meetings; taboos & fears; influence / power structure; dealing with change; conflicts; decisions

Based on these descriptions, you will most likely receive answer to the following questions: „What behavior and mindset will support us in mastering our future challenges and the associated business goals?“ And: „What patterns are rather preventing us from doing so?“

How to unfold potential also in the future?

Did you explore attractive potential of your culture? In a next step it should be anchored in a sustainable way to secure the future business success of the company.

To transform corporate culture, it is important for people to gain new experiences. New impressions can help to develop towards different behavior and manifest new mindsets. Through the corona crisis we are given the chance to question old patterns of our corporate culture. We need to react faster, become more resistant and responsible. But how to maintain these developments?

People and organizations tend to quickly forget positive patterns of behavior and experiences as soon as the context or situation changes. Old structures, traditional behavior patterns and power games can quickly come back to the fore. Therefore, it is important to become active now.

We recommend using the following 5 levers to influence culture in a sustainable way:

  1. Create a safe space where people can gain experiences to continuously develop a new mindset. To support this, you can try the Rapid Results Method, which is based on agile principles.
  2. Get rid of disturbing conditions such as obstructive structures, processes and systems. Reduce complexity in your organization and focus on agile principles such as customer orientation, simplicity, fast learning cycles and self-organized teams.
  3. Encourage managers whose personal values match the desired organizational values. People who put words into action, trust their common sense and avoid political machinations. Most importantly, say goodbye to leaders who oppose and act contrary to desired values.
  4. Organize learning and communication formats that give people the chance to reflect on their behavior. Use time in meetings to have authentic conversations about business assumptions, emotions and beliefs.
  5. Support the dissemination of success stories and symbols that are signs of a “new” corporate culture. Share the stories that show genuine appreciation for the new mindset and behavior. These stories should be shared between colleagues over a coffee as a sign that they are proud to be part of the company.

Have you noticed that your employees and colleagues behave differently since the start of the corona pandemic? Then it is time to explore the cultural potential that has been created.

If you expect your business to function differently after corona and you feel the need to break with old patterns, it is time to start sustainably transforming your corporate culture.