Culture Change: Measuring the Gap Makes the Invisible, Visible

By Elena Ortega
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Water is like the culture of an organization, it is always there, but often we don’t see it.When we want to explain culture in our conversations with clients, we often use the metaphor of the sea. We ask participants to put on their imaginary wetsuit for a moment and imagine exploring the waters of a crystal clear ocean. We project a beautiful image of the ocean and ask that they share what they are seeing. They tell us about spectacularly colorful fish, corals, a variety of algae, and rocks. But hardly anyone mentions the water. Clearly, the water is there as an important part of that ecosystem, but it is almost invisible. Water is like the culture of an organization, it is always there, but often we don’t see it.

 

Measuring the gap makes the invisible, visible

Perhaps you are familiar with the following quotes: “if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist”. Or “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Or in its positive version: “what’s measured gets managed”. That is our goal when we combine the OCI® (Organizational Culture Inventory®), OEI® (Organizational Effectiveness Inventory®), and LSI® (Life Styles Inventory®) tools in our culture transformation projects: we make the intangibles, tangible. We make something that can be as invisible as culture and individuals’ thinking and behavior styles “real” to be able to manage them properly.

I would like to share a recent case to illustrate how we work. A company founded 5 years ago has been working on defining its noble purpose, values, and the associated behaviors. Their ambitious strategy for the next cycle is making them question whether the company’s culture will be ready for such a feat. The culture journey that we propose includes the following elements:

  • Describe and quantify the desired culture. Although the company believes the work they have been doing to define their desired culture is sufficient, we encourage them to use hard data to articulate their ideal culture. This is critical to later identify and measure the gap with the current culture and avoid any type of subjectivity. In order to do this, we use the OCI Ideal tool and qualitative research (interviews and focus groups).
  • Measure and understand the current culture. We use the current OCI and OEI and qualitative research tools (interviews and focus groups) to understand the behavioral norms that employees believe are expected or implicitly required of them to succeed and ‘fit in’ at the organization.
  • Finally, we use the LSI with the leaders to understand their respective thinking and behavioral style.

The results of these three tools are shown on a visual graph that allows us to “see and measure” the thinking and behavioral styles that are driving the performance of leaders, as well as the organization itself.

 

Why effective measurement is so important

  • It makes the culture challenge “real”. Measurement brings to the surface and measures what was previously hidden. This reduces subjectivity and sets a benchmark measure.
  • It provides awareness about the gap. Not only does it show the gap between what leaders say they value (ideal culture) and the realities of the current cultural norms driving the behavior of individuals, but it also leaders better understand how the organizational culture challenge links to their individual development challenges.
  • It sets accountability. Organizations and leaders take responsibility for their behaviors and the data provides the drive for change.
  • It gives clarity about the path that needs to be followed and helps to prioritize where to focus the effort.
  • It tracks progress, re-assessing with the tools after developing the culture change plan.

 

Conclusion

Culture can be as invisible as water in the sea, yet its immensely important role is ever-present. Using a clear and defined approach to defining the ideal culture, the current culture, the leadership styles and behaviors, and identifying gaps gives us a clear path forward and makes the invisible, visible.

 

Sign up for this upcoming webinar where two of Axialent’s culture transformation experts, Thierry de Beyssac and Anabel Dumlao, will be talking to Tim Kuppler, Director of Culture and Organization Development for Human Synergistics, about the importance of intentionally managing culture and leadership development in an integrated way.

 

This article is part of a series on integrating culture and leadership change in culture transformation work.
5 Reasons To Integrate OCI-OEI And LSI Diagnostic Tools In Culture Transformation
Culture Change: Culture and Leadership are Intimately Connected
Culture Change: For Culture to Change, Leaders Must Change

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