The phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast” is spot on.
But how do you build the right culture? Firstly….
How do you know what the right culture should be?
Consider a range of perspectives. (The book Social Physics has some interesting science to back this up).
Look at positives as well as problems. For complex issues, it’s often better to clone success than to solve problems. Plus, celebrating success is good in it’s own right.
Feedback. Continual small changes make it easier to get feedback and adjust direction accordingly.
Give everyone a voice. Often, we treat the loudest opinion as the most important. Not everyone is vocal about their opinions – 40% of people are introverts. (Check out this brilliant TED talk).
How do you get people to buy into a particular culture?
Involve them in the process. Help them to understand the challenge. Why is it important? What are their ideas? Otherwise you risk “not invented here” syndrome.
Present it as a story. This is the subject of a separate post.
How else can you promote the right culture?
Culture is fuzzy. Actions are easier for people to latch onto to. The more specific the action, the more likely it is to happen. When should it happen… is there a trigger? Where? Who? Can people pair up on it? (We all know that we’re more likely to go to the gym if we arrange to go with someone else – we don’t want to let them down).
The single most important thing
Trust. It’s very difficult for a team to succeed without trust. It’s easier to trust someone when you understand where they are coming from.
If only there was an easy path to culture nirvana…
There is: hold frequent retrospectives. They don’t have to take long:
(1). 10 minutes (everyone gets up to 1 minute). People can propose a topic for more in-depth discussion.
(2). 5 mins. Figure out which are the most important topics.
(3). 20 minutes. Discussion of one or two topics. Output should be concrete action points.
Note to self: don’t forget to bring biscuits!