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The Culture Framework

Culture framework

Philippe had been hinting at one of the combined tools we’d like to share: the culture and business frameworks. The culture framework that we’ve been using for years informally when helping organisations in their strategic transformations is the “other side” of the business framework Philippe has been sharing for a while now. We redesigned it recently and tested it extensively with our more recent customers to ensure that it’s practical and actionable for anyone not in the consulting business : )

You will see how it regroups and connects concepts I’ve been sharing in previous articles such as values, vision and behaviours, and key elements I’ve been hinting to when talking about complexity intelligence: purposeful drive, strategic empathy and reconfigurable mindset.

This concepts are usually fuzzy and it’s difficult to see why they would matter on any Monday morning at the office. It shouldn’t be that way.

The culture framework we want to share is not about metaphysics and big ideas that no one will ever have to challenge. It is a strategic view of culture. We made sure it wasn’t overly descriptive as culture can be complex to look at. Indeed, we’ve experienced that even though leaders find working on culture very interesting, they get easily overwhelmed by the scope and lose interest once it becomes disconnected from strategy.

The culture framework is made of three key parts: empathy or how the organisation is connected to its environment, drive or how it sets itself in movement and mindset or how its internal workings have impact on the market.

Empathy

Organizational empathyEmpathy is how the organisation feeds and sustains its business perspective by probing weak signals, market trends and internal shifts.

It is its capacity to “sense” its environment. An organisation can have more or less empathy just like individuals. We measure its level of empathy with the number of active touchpoints able to capture data from its internal and external environments.

Touchpoints can be varied from very metrics-driven online customer data capture to subjective mood boards, from direct customer feedback to employee engagement surveys, from networking events and industry conferences to internal startup incubators. A touchpoint is a point of contact between the organisation and reality: its market and wider ecosystem.

The organisation evolves in a specific environment or ecosystem (the global community of people and organisations interacting with it).

Most of the time, the organisation is mainly concerned with its stakeholders (shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, partners, some interest groups, unions, etc).

If everyone knows about the stakeholders, we usually don’t identify the bystanders (the loosely connected people and organisations gravitating but not yet engaged by the company). Bystanders can range from startups on your radar, not yet explored markets, unusual competitors, social media followers. They are key for the organisation capacity to be receptive to unexpected changes and to innovate.

L’Oréal for example has created a programme to encourage women in digital. This is not a just a marketing ploy to gain more brand value, it is a different way to be connected to its environment, listen to the bystanders and show empathy.

Understanding your culture and its potential to support your business strategy is about knowing how empathic your organisation is, and what it is receptive to.

Drive

drive - innovation copilotsThe organisation’s drive is how it engages all employees with a sense of purpose, it is what gets the business moving, it is the powerhouse.

To understand and be able to maximise an organisation’s drive, we look at the key values that energize your teams into actions, to go beyond their job description and engage enthusiastically.

Values are what is considered important by the organisation, what is “valued” and rewarded, what is sought, what is motivating. Beyond the usual publicized buzzwords, there are deep drivers that really moves the organisations, that are lived by employees everyday. They usually come from the foundation of the organisation, its history, its social and industrial context. They are evolving slowly as the organisation ages and grows and as its environnement changes.

Of course the drive and the values it carries are often materialized or communicated on via the vision statement. The vision can become a very powerful “why” statement upon which employees’ alignment and empowerement depend.

Alignment is how you ensure there is a clear and obvious connection between the defined vision and the objectives of management and their teams. This is usually the role of managers to cascade down and translate the strategy into more operational goals. It is key to ensure a coherent drive of the whole organisation, but can be a “lost in translation” exercise if the vision is not coherent itself with the values.

With alignment comes the potential for empowerment which is the degree of autonomy employees have in how they contribute to the vision. Empowerment has become one of theses nice managerial buzzwords but very few companies really trust their employees to make the “right” decision on their own and willingly act in the best interest of the organisation.

Netflix is a great exemple of empowerment. They have ensured via their culture deck that the values are shared and understood throughout the company (for alignment purposes). Their two key words are “freedom and responsibility”  which are not just buzzwords for them as they invested the time to make sure the meaning is shared. It is illustrated in their travel expenses policy which says: “Act in the best interest of Netflix” or “spend as if it was your own money” (trusting and empowering employees to decide for themselves).

Understanding and benefiting from the company culture is about knowing what drives the organisation and how to activate it coherently throughout.

Mindset

mindset - innovation copilotsThe organisation’s mindset is how it thinks and acts in order to fulfill its vision.

It is an ensemble of patterns of thinking, assumptions that are made about self and the world that are illustrated or observable through its way of working: its behaviours.

The mindset is mainly observed through how the company behaves: how employees work, what technology they use, what processes are in place, who reports to who, how people communicate, how decisions are made.

One key consequence of the mindset is the company organisation: its structure, who has power, how people are interconnected to work together, workflow and knowledge management.

The organisation itself is framed by its key processes (the main activities of the organisation, including what people do, how they work and interact) and its biases (the assumptions made by the organisation that influence the behaviours).

For example, Amazon has a “no PowerPoint” policy and a clear process for presenting ideas in a meeting: presenter prepares a 6-page memo called a “narrative”, at the meeting people have 20 minutes to read it, and then ensues a time to answer questions. This process is coherent with their no-bullshit move-fast efficiency mindset and the assumptions that “bullet-points kill meaning and depth of an idea” and “executives will bluff their way in the meeting as if they have read the memo”.

Ensuring that your culture is coherent and powerfully supporting your strategy is about understanding and readjusting your organisation’s mindset and patterns of behaviours.

In a nutshell

The full framework subtitled and explained is this one:

culture framework annoted - innovation copilots

And this is us…

Applied to us as a consulting company, it took about 15 min to fill out our culture framework. Of course, we know who we are and where we stand. It also helps that we’re not 5,000 employees.

our culture framework - innovation copilots

But the more you are, the more it actually gets critical to boil down your culture to a connected framework that makes sense and delivers both strategic and operational perspectives.

Business and culture frameworks

The culture framework is only one side of the whole tool, this is why in future articles we will share how it is connected to the business side. I will write soon about how different company DNAs impact or interact with culture and also how to develop certain types of cultures using the framework, for example infusing organizational resilience and complexity intelligence into your culture.

Published by

Stéphanie Mitrano

Insightful and open-minded, Stéphanie accompanies organisations in their cultural transformation to support innovation and business agility. She is one the few European expert both implementing and doing research on mentoring programmes.