Why visualising your organisational culture matters

Organisational-culture-mattersThis week I’m off to a Culturevist event exploring the question: Can Culture be Measured?

It’s an interesting question. But what about should culture be measured? The answer to which lies in a. how you define culture and b. what you are looking to know.

The reason I might ‘measure’ a company’s culture is to understand behaviours around a particular focus area. Collaboration, agility, innovation and inclusion behaviours – are all key for many of our clients.

In theory, behaviour should be in line with corporate values. A few posters around the place and a well timed speech from the CEO should sort that, right? As the volume of horror stories surrounding banks and the like attest, that simply isn’t the case.

The problem? Values are too often too vanilla to be meaningful. They are not modelled or reinforced by leaders (back to posters). They’re aspirational and not in tune with the actual culture of the organisation. People are not held to account against them.

Corporate values that are more than just empty platitudes guide how things do and don’t get done. A good sign is when they generate debate, conflict and decisive action. And if people join and leave based on a values fit.

Part of the challenge in turning values into behaviours is doing so in a sustained way – rather than for a few weeks after a big values ‘launch’. At Brilliant Noise we talk about one of our eight values in our weekly meeting first thing on a Monday morning. Our values are: ambition, wellness, curiosity, humility, flow, do and make, discipline and community

The pattern is this: The value is introduced. Everyone scores it out of five. The week’s score is plotted against the previous discussion around this value. We then discuss how we’ve rated the value. This is optional – no-one needs to disclose their score or offer an opinion.

While the measurement is useful – particularly our new web app that speeds up the process and visualises the whole thing – it’s the conversation that really matters. It serves two purposes. First it highlights challenges and issues that might prevent us living our values. And, secondly, the conversation serves to focus our minds on the value, and our behaviours around it, in the way that simply measuring it doesn’t.

If you’d like to play with our prototype yourself – to use in team meetings or prompt online discussion – just drop me a line. We’d love to see it out in the wild (free to the first three teams that want to try something a bit different).