The previous article in this series, ‘What’s your cultural health?‘, drew parallels between culture and health to explain how ‘good culture’, like ‘good health’, is rather subjective. It also outlined how our approach to assessing organisational culture obtains a baseline view of your current ‘cultural health’. Knowledge is power, but only if you choose to do something with it. Organisations can gain a wealth of insights from a culture health report. But what do you do next?

Decide what change will work for you

It is important to reflect on the findings and to consider what, if anything, you want to change as a result. What does good cultural health look like to your organisation? What changes are achievable? Just as if you are hoping to run a marathon when you currently can’t run down the road, if you want your business to have a start-up or innovation culture and you currently have a traditional and siloed culture, the leap may be a bit unrealistic. It is also important to consider what you are willing to sacrifice about your current culture in order to achieve your desired culture.

It was once said “we only change when the pain of changing becomes less painful than the pain of not changing”. Making changes to your organisational culture often only comes when there is a trigger – such as a corporate scandal, a change of leadership, or consumer/market/regulatory pressure. In the same way that we often only address our lifestyles once the ill-effects outweigh the benefits, organisations rarely proactively manage their organisational health to avoid pain points. The painful consequence of ignoring culture tends to force our hand to make changes.

Quick wins

When starting the journey to improve your organisation’s cultural health, it is important to focus on the quick wins, which are often spoken about in the formation of culture plans but are rarely understood as to why they are important. Like personal health for example, a quick win when improving health is to stop smoking – there will be some quick wins an organisation can make to immediately improve its cultural health. Think about making changes that will create virtuous circles, which, like their antonym vicious circles, create a butterfly effect of changes. In the case of a virtuous circles, the result of each knock-on event is an increase of the beneficial effect of the next.

In our health example, this would be to make a commitment to go to the gym every day –likely to cause a virtuous circle of events: you drink more water due to working out, you go to bed earlier to wake up in time for the gym. In culture change, entering into a virtuous circle may start with implementing a reward focused collaboration platform which connects colleagues, and in connecting them allows them to share ideas, and in sharing ideas they solve problems, for which they receive points, which turn into rewards, which causes them to feel more engaged at work and are more energized with their teams. The use of virtuous circles allows us to create one change and get more cultural bang for our buck.

Create a plan

A good quality cultural health report identifies key target areas in your organisation which should be used as a basis for experimenting with what changes may work. The culture report and to-be culture visioning allows you to map out your journey, the level of change that is required, the timeline for this and mitigating efforts to avoid change fatigue and loss of momentum. Just as when you decide to run a marathon you need to create a plan to achieve your goal. It is important throughout these changes that you keep monitoring your cultural health through a select set of manageable metrics. Just as if we were to make health changes, we would want to perhaps take body measurements or track our fitness or weight to ensure the changes were having the desired effect.

In the last part of this article series, we will look at how to monitor cultural health and predict issues before they arise through the use of analytics.

FLORA SPINK | PRINCIPAL

Flora is a Principal at Gate One, specialising in behaviour and cultural change. She also has extensive experience in HR transformation and a passion for applied behavioural science and data driven decision making to improve organisational effectiveness.