After a year of a pandemic that has taken a physical and emotional toll on hundreds of millions of people, the elusive idea of “well-being” is more relevant than ever. Even before the pandemic, it was already a hot topic with an established multi-billion dollar industry. The need for organizations to prioritize their employees’ well-being is more present than it has ever been. Does this mean we have the right tools and resources at our disposal? Not exactly.
 

The Road to “Well-Being”

why organizations need to prioritize their employees’ well-beingOne of my qualms about the idea of “well-being” is that it often follows a prescriptive approach. This is how one “should” eat, workout, rest, work, etc… oh, and here is the evidence for it. As well-intentioned as this might be and as well-substantiated as the proposal may be, I have noticed that many of us find it difficult to fully connect with it beyond just accepting what is proposed.
In many cases, we fall into a loop of feeling we “should” do something or be a certain way. We feel bad when we fail to follow the recommendation or achieve the state we believe we should pursue. We sometimes even reach the conclusion that doing or being a certain way is out of our reach because of __________ (fill in the blank with your favorite response – the one I found most people reference is the lack of willpower or discipline). In many cases, we are either left with the option to “try again” and see if this time we will have the willpower, or try the next new workout class, diet, or meditation app in hopes that this time it will be different. Many of us are familiar with the new “hope-try-drop it-feel disappointed” cycle.
 

Why is it so difficult to adopt changes that are good for us… that we know are good for us?

I have been passionate about exploring this question for years now. I did so silently as I focused on consulting Fortune 500 companies on topics related to innovation, agility, and digital transformation. A couple of years ago, I realized that there were a series of overarching themes in the space of innovation that actually shed some light on helping us adopt those changes. Coupled with some of the core aspects of behavioral science popularized by many habits books and publications, I found an interesting intersection: behavioral innovation through personal experimentation. This was the starting point for Optimal Me, a program we launched at Axialent in 2019.
Ever since, we have worked with seasoned leaders from over 10 countries, spanning Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. We have asked them to run experiments on a wide range of topics – whether it’s intermittent fasting to increase focus and energy, new workout routines to help with stress reduction, breathing practices, personal productivity methodologies, or team productivity approaches. The most gratifying aspect of this work has not been the direct results of the experiments, but when people reestablish the confidence to playfully experiment with learning something new. Trying out a workout regimen for a couple of weeks, measuring how I feel about it, and trying to learn what works best for me is very different than powering through two weeks of doing something that may not even be the right fit for me, but I have a sense of obligation that I should do it.
 

Conclusion

We have learned that people are much more likely to stick with well-being initiatives if they actually enjoy doing them. Working on discovering this joy through a non-threatening (yet rigorous) personal experimentation process, supported by basic tenets of behavioral science is the core experience we are trying to instill in our Optimal Me participants.
Research has shown the incredible benefit of workplaces that provide well-being initiatives. Eighty-nine percent of employees at companies that support well-being initiatives were more likely to recommend their organization as a good place to work. Organizations with supervisors that supported their well-being plans reported a higher number of workers motivated to do their best, higher job satisfaction, and better relationships with their superiors.
If you are interested in innovation or growth mindset, Optimal Me will offer you a concrete way to embody it in your life. If you are just interested in learning how to be better in key aspects of your life, Optimal Me can offer you tools and approaches for you to test your way into it.
 

If you would like to see the recording of our live Optimal Me webinar with Oseas Ramirez, click here.

Many companies begin their culture journey motivated to make big changes. While the intention of major change is there, some will lack the follow-through to sustain focus and solidify lasting change. Taking the time to measure the progress of your culture in a conscious, intentional, and continuous way is important to keep your initiatives on track.
The first step for many organizations is to conduct a baseline culture assessment, typically consisting of quantitative and qualitative data. The purpose of the assessment is to identify their ideal culture, measure the current culture, and find out where the gaps are. This data helps leaders get aligned on their vision, as well as to better understand the mindsets, values, and beliefs that are widely shared in the organization, and how they may enable or get in the way of attaining results.
As the culture transformation process unfolds – roadmaps are defined, workshops are conducted, communication strategies are implemented and change agents are mobilized – measurement typically goes to the bottom of the priority list.  Rarely do we find that the same level of rigor that was used in the assessment step is applied to measure the progress and impact of culture change initiatives.  The approach is often limited to informal sensing based on unstructured conversations and casual observations, or relying on employee engagement surveys, which seldom measure shifts in mindsets and behaviors. This makes it hard to pinpoint where are we making progress and what we need to do to accelerate the change.
However, administering comprehensive culture surveys and conducting multiple interviews and focus groups may not always be feasible if you want to keep the pulse on the change and assess progress in a continuous way.
Here are some ideas to help you design your culture measurement strategy:
 

Identify where you are in your culture journey

Have you recently started your culture transformation effort?  Have you already started mobilizing people and launching initiatives?  Understanding where you are will help you define what you need to look for (your key hypothesis and key research questions) and the data sources that will be most helpful.  For example, you could assess the following:

  • Change readiness – Do you want to see if leaders and employees are aware, willing, and able to drive change?
  • Culture drivers – Do you want to see how effective the new programs or initiatives are?
  • Mindset changes – Do you want to assess if the desired culture mindsets and behaviors are becoming norms?
  • Outcomes – Do you want to understand how culture is impacting key business and people results?

At the beginning of your culture journey, you may want to focus on measuring change readiness and the effectiveness of culture initiatives.  As your process takes root, you can focus more on behavioral and outcome measures.
 

Identify potential sources of data

Since culture is experienced, the best insights typically come from a mix of quantitative and qualitative data.  Based on your key research questions, you can strategically identify potential data sources (such as employee lifecycle surveys, leadership 360s, performance evaluation forms, training feedback, sentiment analysis from employee comments, or feedback data) that can be re-imagined for intentionally capturing meaningful culture insights.  If your focus is more on assessing outcomes, consider conducting advanced analytics, integrating people metrics (such as engagement, retention, development and performance measures) with employee surveys and customer data.
 

Identify potential experiments

Many successful culture change initiatives are rolled out in phases.  This gives the organization the opportunity to learn and adjust, create success stories, and form culture champions.  The phased approach also lends itself to measuring the impact of the culture initiatives over time for certain groups and to compare the differences among groups who have experienced the change vs. those who have not.  Designing and measuring experiments will help you refine your approach before committing to bigger investments, make participants an active part of your broader change process, and assess the ROI of your initiatives.
 

Conclusion

Your strategy to measure the progress of your culture should be aligned to the mindsets that you are looking to drive – whether it is agility, innovation, accountability, or inclusion.  Be intentional and approach the measurement process with curiosity – you are not looking for a pass or fail grade, but for powerful insights that will help you shape your best next step in your culture transformation journey.

2020 has left a trail of exhausted people, mentally drained, after coping with a year of high uncertainty. We learned to adapt by force and reinvented ourselves. But more importantly, where we developed resilience, our ability to bounce back in the face of adversity grew and as a result, we came out stronger.
 

Ready for 2021? Bring it on! …but how?

How are we supposed to be ready for new endeavors when most of us feel the urge to step down and go slow for a change?
2021 is already proving itself challenging. We aren’t close to overcoming the COVID-19 crisis and we still need to care of ourselves and others.  Meanwhile, the world keeps changing. New opportunities emerge in the midst of this crisis and lots of organizations struggle to survive and transform their businesses. It can feel overwhelming.
Leaders are not only dealing with their own need to reconnect and reinspire themselves, but they also need to take care of their teams, as many continue to work remotely while performing other roles (homeschooling, taking care of our elders, looking after our home etc.). Some may be suffering from change fatigue, by being constantly called to change their way of working, taking on more responsibilities as a consequence of employee cutoffs and new demands.
However, not everything is doom and gloom. There is a silver lining: we have learned a lot in 2020. We have increased our ability to confront difficult circumstances and take advantage of new emerging opportunities driven by change. Each of us has what we need to rise and shine. We just need to remind ourselves of it and invest time in renewing our energy and leading the way into 2021.
 

Balance work / life integration

There are simple, yet powerful, things you can try that will help refuel your energy, reignite your enthusiasm, and bring focus to what’s important, thus improving your wellbeing.
 

1. Disconnect to re-connect.

With travel restrictions and lockdowns throughout the world, taking time off to stay home seems counterintuitive for some of us. We usually connect holidays with traveling. However, now, more than ever, we desperately need time to pause and disconnect fully from work and daily activities. We need time to recharge, even if it means staying home, relaxing, and doing nothing. Some of the most brilliant ideas have flourished while doing nothing… just being. Plan for it and make sure you also unplug from technology. Technology has been a main character in our lives in 2020. Let’s give ourselves a break!
 

2. Re-commit to yourself, connecting with what is important in your life.

Take some time to reflect on what you value most: is this the life I want to have? What do I really want my life to be about? How do I want to live my life? What gives meaning to my life? Where do I want to invest my time and energy?
Gifting ourselves with time to envision what we want and grounding our thoughts re-connects us with what’s important in our lives and gives meaning to everything we do. Spiritual meaning is an unlimited source of energy.
 

3. Do something you love every day.

Make a list of the things you enjoy doing that lift your spirit and feed your inner self. Set aside some time every day to do the things you love. The key to refueling your energy is to be consistent and invest time in you. This will help you to be centered and present.
 

4. Count your blessings.

Practice gratitude deliberately every day, until it becomes a habit. Gratitude and appreciation unleash joy and happiness and provide us with a sense of wellbeing and peace of mind. We can train our minds to focus on abundance rather than scarcity, on appreciating what we have instead of what we miss. It helps reorganize our priorities to enjoy life as it is.
 

5. Celebrate your achievements.

Take time to celebrate what you have accomplished, even what you judge to be unimportant. Don’t take it for granted. Small celebration rituals, such as sharing what makes you feel proud with others or voicing your emotions can be enough to reinforce a sense of accomplishment, strengthen your character, and fill yourself with new renewed energy and craving for more.
 
A new year is a great time to stop, pause, and recommit to ourselves and what is important for us. It’s a time to refresh and consciously replenish our energy. There are small and important practices we can learn and apply every day that helps us stay focused, energized, and enjoy the ride, increasing our wellbeing and living a more conscious life.

2021. The calendar year has changed. However, if we are expecting things to be different just because a new year has begun, we are bound to be disappointed. We are still talking about this phenomenon and it continues to be hard for us and our people to find our way through it all. In such times, I have found three things really make a difference in helping me to find my center and be at my best in seemingly never-ending uncertainty. Like all things, with practice, we can become much better at these skills. The sooner we start, the fastest we will get there, so let´s dive into each of them.

  • Be at Your Best in Seemingly Never-Ending UncertaintyAcceptance: Stop judging and start embracing. Our mind moves really quickly into judging what is good or bad news, what might happen, and why people or the world did this to us. The more your mind goes in that direction, the more precious time you lose, when you could be taking action, leveraging whatever happened. Resisting it will not change the fact that it happened, but taking conscious actions to accept it can be the most powerful way to drive creative and effective responses in ourselves and our teams.
  • Gratitude: We sometimes forget that each of us has a lot of resources and abilities that we have developed throughout our lives that have prepared us to confront almost anything. When a new challenge appears, it is extremely powerful to connect with all of our strengths and successes in life until this moment, the things that have allowed us to be here right now and be able to respond. In any challenging situation, there is beauty, opportunity, and something new to experience that will make us stronger.
  • Resilience: Focus on learning and strengthening yourself. We usually react to unexpected events with an energy of “adaptation and reaction,” as if we have no other choice. We feel sad or happy based on the feedback we receive. Building our ability to have a more resilient mind so we can focus on learning from all situations, will make a difference in our capacity to respond faster and better, situation after situation.

It’s true, there is no magic wand that we can quickly wave to become better at all of this. The sooner we realize that this is the case, the sooner we can connect with our energy to make it happen through work, dedication, and practice. The best way to help ourselves and our teams bring the best versions of ourselves in these uncertain times is by connecting with the skills we need to develop in order to thrive.
Are you ready to move one step forward in this direction?

If you ask any leader, “What has been one of the most defining moments in your career?” most likely, the answer will be related to leading a significant organizational change.  This is not surprising: our brains are wired to remember peak moments more vividly. These are experiences that capture us at moments of achievement or courage; or moments that change our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.1
Organizations place a lot of value on leaders who can effectively lead others through change.  In fact, effective change leadership is a common competency used to identify and develop high potential employees.2 However, despite the importance that both leaders and organizations place on change leadership, many organizations lack an intentional strategy to help their leaders become effective change-makers.  Many of us are guilty of having used the ‘sink or swim’ approach disguised as ‘on the job learning’.  Intentionally or not, we throw our up-and-coming talent into leading changes in an environment that is increasingly complex and unpredictable without the benefit of a foundation to help them along the way.
For on-the-job learning to be effective, it needs to reinforce the behaviors we are looking to shift or embed. This means that we need to define the guiding principles of how we should lead through change and the experience that we want to provide our change-makers, employees, partners, and clients.  The benefit of talking about ‘how we lead change’ goes beyond leadership development. It sets clear norms of behavior and common expectations of how we will measure success while empowering our change-makers to ask for what they need.
 

How can we best prepare our current and future change-makers? 

It’s useful to think about the actions that we can take preemptively, through more structured leadership development, coaching, and resources. We should also consider the ‘just-in-time’ support we can provide to help leaders navigate a change event.
The good news is that there is significant overlap between what makes an effective change-maker and what makes an effective leader.  Development activities (such as training and coaching) that encourage leaders to increase their self-awareness and growth mindset and help them become more resilient, inclusive, accountable, and collaborative, will also help them be better change-makers.  In addition, change-makers need to be good at storytelling, influencing, and systems thinking. To maximize impact, we need to be intentional in helping them understand how they can apply these leadership skills in a change situation.
 

As they get ready to embark into a large-scale, high-impact change, we can support change-makers in two dimensions:

  • Change acceptance – In order to lead, change-makers need to be willing to move. In many situations, we ask leaders to take on new initiatives on top of their current responsibilities.  You can increase their willingness to lead by creating a space to intentionally discuss how this initiative fits into the broader organizational picture and what’s in it for them personally.  When they intentionally set their personal goals – whether it is to accelerate their development, build their network, gain a broader enterprise view, learn new skills, or do something with impact – they will feel valued and more energized to take on a new challenge.
  • Change-related skills – Leaders need to feel able to lead the change. Beyond the resources and information needed to execute the ‘what’ of the change, they also need access to practical, ‘just-in-time’ change management guidance and tools. Instead of providing theoretical change toolkits and training that few people will use, employ a design thinking approach to uncover what would be most useful for change-makers as they navigate large-scale change.  This may include practical tools, like a change playbook tailored to your organization, and targeted coaching/advice to discuss ideas and overcome challenges.

Our change-makers can survive a change event, or they can consciously experience and lead the change.  This will not make the change less complex or challenging, but it will help them approach the experience with a different mindset, less fear, and a higher level of confidence.  It will also help advance the business goals that the change is looking to achieve and help build organizational agility and resilience.
 

References
  1. Doll, Karen. (2019). What is Peak-End Theory? A Psychologist Explains How Our Memory Fools Us.com
  2. Fernandez-Araoz, C., Roscoe, A., Aramaki, K. Turning Potential into Success: The Missing Link in Leadership Development. Harvard Business Review, November–December 2017 Issue

When it comes to culture transformation initiatives, complying with change is different from committing to change. For it to be successful, leaders need to be committed to changing how they think, act, and interact. You can’t force this kind of change… at least not sustainably. An essential part of closing the gap between where an organization is now and where they need to be is providing a clear roadmap of the culture plan. This is an important step toward making the necessary changes.
 

Creating the roadmap for culture change

 
The results of the tools we use in Axialent to measure the current and ideal culture (OCI® Organizational Culture Inventory® and OEI® Organizational Effectiveness Inventory®) and the leadership styles and behaviors (LSI® (Life Styles Inventory®) allow an organization to identify levers for change, so they can establish a detailed action plan for successful change management and measure their progress.
Developing an action plan for culture change requires planning for deeper, longer lasting transformation. It is not your regular change management plan.
It needs to cover the following aspects:

  • People need to understand the change, what it implies, and most importantly, why they should change.
  • They need to overcome any negative emotions associated with the change and connect it with positive emotions.
  • They need to be capable of change.
    The “Shadow of the Leader” is long. People will seek their leaders’ example of what it truly means to change. By using the LSI®(Life Styles Inventory®)tools from Human Synergistics, we provide leaders a powerful roadmap for themselves, that weaves neatly into the organizational roadmap because it is built on a common framework and a shared language.
    Most leaders easily “get” what needs to be done at an intellectual level. However, bridging the gap between knowing what they need to do and actually doing it requires working on a deeper level – what we call at Axialent the “being” level. Leaders have to become the leaders that the new culture needs them to be before we can aspire to achieve any true change and get others on board.
    Traditional training is insufficient for this – adaptive learning is a must in most cases.

Only after addressing these three factors can you expect people to be willing and committed to change.
 

Next steps – some food for thought

  • An action plan CAN be simple. It all boils down to who does what, by when.
  • Think of action planning as a proxy of the culture change you want to see. For example, if you want to foster a culture of greater accountability, empower autonomous teams to lead action planning for culture transformation in their sphere of influence and hold them accountable for progress and outcomes.
  • Consider mapping stakeholders by subcultures instead of the usual employee segments and check if this adds value to your action plan.
  • When you have a powerful suite of tools like the LSI, OEI, and OCI, you remove the guesswork from prioritization. You will have the main causal factors that will move the needle toward your desired culture. Concentrate on the handful of measures that will create the most impact instead of merely scratching the surface with various initiatives.
  • When you plan, test if executing short sprints instead of rolling out a titanic change program adds value. Carve out time in your plan to pause, re-measure, and recalibrate your plan itself.
  • Don’t wait until the end to conduct a post-mortem. Make learning an ‘action’ in your action plan by ensuring you will collect and analyze feedback and, more importantly, make time to integrate feedback.
  • Clearly lay out your options once you receive and analyze feedback (for example: pivot, persist, or pull the plug) to facilitate decision-making when that time comes.

 

Conclusion

Ensure that your roadmap for culture change includes actions that get people to truthfully say: “I understand why I need to change, I feel excited/happy/______ (<- your positive emotion goes here) about this change, I feel capable of changing what I am asked to change, and I’m committed to do so”. A clear roadmap of the culture journey will help to ensure success in implementing real and lasting change.
 
 

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.

Watch this live webinar recording 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

There is a deep link between leaders’ change and culture change. The impact of their behaviors is probably the most difficult aspect for leaders at the beginning of a culture transformation process.
Leaders usually understand intellectually the logical connection between their behaviors and the resulting organizational culture. In our work at Axialent, we have never seen leaders rejecting their responsibility in that. What seems harder for leaders to envision from the beginning are the implications for their own personal transformation.
 

Communication Is Not Enough

The initial tendency many leaders show, even when they are enthusiastic about the culture change process, is interpreting that leading it means just politically supporting the change. That they only need to be openly and explicitly in favor of the transformation. A well-intentioned leader may think their scope of responsibility includes declaring their support and demanding that others support it too. There is a general interpretation that this is simply a “communication process”. Enthusiastic leaders tend to easily accept the need to re-design structures, processes, and symbols. All of those are necessary conditions, but are not enough.
leaders' behavior paves the wayThe moment of truth comes when leaders become aware that they need to address a deep insight into their personal beliefs and values as a necessary step for culture transformation. The review and transformation of leaders’ individual mental models is the real “work” they’ll have to do to get ahead on the culture transformation highway. Any culture change process that omits this condition will be weak. Without it, there are more chances for resistance to the transformation.   People in the organization may perceive that “all that culture stuff” is just another example of “lip service”. The attempt at culture transformation then runs the risk of becoming another case in which leaders quickly learn to declare and describe the change they want, but appear incompetent to model it consistently through their behaviors.
 

Mental models

For the new behaviors to emerge and be perceived as sincere and legitimate, the mental models in which they are grounded need to change too. For this awareness and commitment process to be possible and agile, the visible connection between the organizational culture gap and the individual leadership style gap needs to be identified. The sooner this happens, the better. This connection must then become a reference to share mutual feedback, to assess progress, and evaluate impact.
One of the most important learnings I’ve had in the 12 years I’ve been managing culture transformation processes, is that culture is built upon the messages RECEIVED by people, not merely on the messages “DELIVERED”. This means that at the end of the day, what matters most is how the organization is reading the leader and how people are interpreting their behaviors. These interpretations could be quite different from how they were intended. A leader’s behavior is a central message carrier in building culture. At the same time, the subjective interpretation of this behavior shows us a critical path to culture change that unavoidably involves the leader’s personal transformation.
 

Leaders must change

So, to be effective culture builders and transformation agents, leaders need to have more than highly developed communication skills. Even if they perceive themselves as “good communicators,” that’s not enough. Transformational leaders need to step up and be aware of how much their behavior alone is sending messages. Messages that are much louder than those coming from their nice words.
 
Watch this live webinar recordning 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: Measuring the gap makes the invisible, visible

As my colleague, Elena Ortega, wrote in her recent article, at Axialent we define culture as a set of values, norms, beliefs, and assumptions that govern how we work and what we do. So, how do we go about setting these values, norms, beliefs, and assumptions? Some believe that to define a company’s culture, its leaders simply have to state what they want the culture to be, the values, and mission statement. Having a clear vision of your ideal culture is an important step toward building a strong one. However, behaviors and decisions from leaders will always be the strongest representation of what the company’s culture truly is. Culture and leadership are intimately connected.

Culture and leadership: You cannot truly understand one without the other

Team working together with their leaderOrganizational culture and leadership go hand in hand. To understand the culture of an organization, you must examine its leaders and leadership styles. Employees learn the culture of the organization through the messages they receive from its leaders. Whether the messages are consciously sent or not, we observe what is encouraged and discouraged and usually learn to act accordingly (or are forced out).
Culture also plays a role in shaping leaders and their styles. Those leaders that “fit in” to the current culture will thrive. On the other hand, a new leader who brings a different leadership style that is not aligned with the company’s current culture will come up against a lot of resistance from the organization and its people. Culture is a strong force and leaders also receive messages about what they should and shouldn’t do to fit in. If leaders want to change the culture, all leadership must be on board to do so.
These are some of the reasons why we use the  OCI® (Organizational Culture Inventory®) and OEI® (Organizational Effectiveness Inventory®) in combination with the LSI® (Life Styles Inventory®). The culture assessment tools (OCI-OEI) allow us to take a deep dive into the current culture. We invite a cross-section of employees to answer the culture surveys in order to truly understand their experience of the organization’s culture. At the same time, we measure the top leaders’ thinking and behavior styles with the LSI tool. Because of the links between these tools, the results provide a powerful way to connect the dots between the leaders’ styles and behaviors, and the current culture.

Leaders define the ideal culture of an organization

Leaders have the power to define the ideal culture based on what they value and believe leads to effectiveness. In turn, they shape the organization’s current culture through the messages they send about what is acceptable and unacceptable. In our culture transformation projects at Axialent, we like to take our diagnostic process a step further and define the ideal culture using another Human Synergistics tool: the OCI Ideal. Combining these tools allows us to get a complete look at the culture and the work that needs to be done to achieve the optimal culture for success. The OCI Ideal shows us where the leaders of the organization want the culture to be. The current OCI results show us where the organization is today. And the LSI tool allows us to examine the leaders’ role in the culture and create a game plan to make lasting change.

Conclusion

Culture and leadership are not two separate entities but are intimately connected. One influences the other and vice versa. This powerful information can be an important driving force in creating and maintaining the culture your organization needs to be successful.

Watch this live webinar recording where two of Axialent’s culture transformation experts, Thierry de Beyssac and Anabel Dumlao, talked 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: For Culture to Change, Leaders Must Change
Culture Change: Measuring the gap makes the invisible, visible

Is your company responding effectively to today’s challenges? Are you prepared to face what the future brings? Regardless of your answer, the culture of your organization has a lot to say. Identifying and properly managing corporate culture has a positive impact on performance and can enhance a company’s ability to respond to the challenges of the environment.
But what is culture? We define culture as a set of values, norms, beliefs, and assumptions that govern how we work and what we do. However, this definition may seem a bit abstract. At Axialent, we have found that company culture can be made tangible and visible using the OCI® (Organizational Culture Inventory®) and OEI® (Organizational Effectiveness Inventory®) in combination with qualitative approaches (focus groups, interviews, etc.).
The OCI provides a diagnosis of an organization’s current culture in terms of the behavioral norms or “unwritten rules” driving the behavior of team members. An organization’s ideal culture can be identified using the OCI Ideal, which can then be used to identify the gaps between the ideal and current culture. This is a key diagnostic tool used to understand where to focus change efforts based on the outcomes or results (innovation, customer experience, etc.) targeted for improvement. The OEI goes far beyond engagement or satisfaction surveys. It measures aspects of the work climate (systems, structures, leadership skills, etc.) that reinforce or shape the current culture.
Additionally, our wide experience in culture transformation has shown us that in order to achieve successful and sustainable cultural change, it is critical to engage the leaders of an organization. We integrate the LSI diagnostic tool as well as the OCI-OEI. The LSI® (Life Styles Inventory®) is a 360º assessment to understand the personal thinking and behavioral style of a leader.

We recommend integrating the OCI-OEI and LSI diagnostics in culture transformation for these five reasons:

Image used to illustrate 5 reasons to integrate OCI-OEI and LSI diagnostic tools in culture transformation

1. Culture and leadership are intimately connected

You cannot truly understand one without the other. Leaders define the ideal culture of the organization based on what they value and believe leads to effectiveness. At the same time, they shape the current culture through the way they behave and the decisions they make.

2. For culture to change, leaders must change

Culture transformation starts with the leaders’ personal commitment to become role models of the culture they want to create. Leaders’ behavior has a significant impact on the organization, with employees emulating it to “fit in” with the company. Therefore, a leader’s transformation is an important lever for others to model their behavior to achieve the desired culture. Furthermore, engaging leaders from the beginning is a powerful symbol for the whole organization. It shows that “this is important and we are all accountable for change.”

3. Measuring the gap makes the invisible, visible

The combination of OCI-OEI and LSI provides a laser-sharp analysis of the norms, behaviors, and attitudes that make up the culture of the organization, both collectively (OCI-OEI) and individually (LSI). Debriefing the results creates awareness about the gap between the current and ideal culture of the organization and the leaders’ personal style. Leaders can therefore better understand how their personal change efforts link to and impact the organizational culture challenge.

4. A common language accelerates the change

Using integrated tools (such as the highly visual circumplex of the OCI and LSI) develops a common language to discuss, measure, and quantify culture and leaders’ individual styles across all levels. This is key to reinforcing a shared understanding of culture and individual behavior.

5. Providing a roadmap to develop plans and take actions

The results allow an organization and its leaders to identify levers for organizational and personal change so they can establish a detailed action plan for successful change management and measure their progress.

Integrate OCI-OEI and LSI diagnostic tools in culture transformation

In our experience, integrating the OCI-OEI and LSI tools is central to any culture transformation journey. They help leaders understand the ideal culture that supports their strategy. They show the extent to which the current culture is aligned with the vision of the company and the work climate that shapes the current culture.  It demonstrates the leadership styles of its top people and how aligned that is with the ideal culture. These integrated findings can then be used to plan and set the priorities for change, to achieve a greater impact, and increase effectiveness.

Watch this live webinar recording 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.