Culture: The Invisible Factor of Conversion
When it comes to the future of work, digital skills are only part of the story. Resilience and creativity, empowered by supportive leadership, are essential to a thriving, innovative workforce. A new vision requires cultural changes to help you gain the trust of your employees and new technologies to make a lasting impact in the marketplace. To learn more about empowering your own workforce, click here.
This is how a transformation effort often happens — and derails — at many organizations. The CEO and executive team decided that they wanted to make a big change, whether it was improving quality, implementing digital transformation, addressing ESG, or any other goal. Realizing that this meant changing the way people work, the senior team delivered some top-down messaging, dotted with vague adjectives and abstract nouns; the company “will be nimble in everything we do,” perhaps. In theory, it all sounds great — after all, who can argue with agility? But quickly a few months passed, and nothing much had changed (other than a dramatic increase in employee skepticism). Often, even the transition itself is stalled. Why? Because employees have heard a bunch of words that don’t make sense in their daily practice.
The scale of change companies are facing requires them to be resilient and adaptive. Engaging your people in the conversion journey has never been more important. To do that successfully, you need to have a culture — the invisible motivator that allows a series of changes to take root organically — on your side. In working with multinationals, particularly in regulated sectors, we have identified three important lessons for organizations looking to leverage culture as part of their journey. convert.
Lesson 1: Connecting culture with business “what should be done?”
Cultural change cannot be achieved in isolation, and it should never be an afterthought of operational transformation. Culture must be rooted in the business context and base – an integral element of the continuum, from conversion assessment to performance measures.
We recently worked with a multinational pharmaceutical company that was initiating a large-scale transformation to optimize business processes and systems. The leadership team knows that the cultural change involved will be important. What they don’t know is whether the company’s current culture is working the way they want it to. So we conducted a cultural assessment to understand the existing pain points.
This has uncovered cultural issues that are affecting the operation. For example, a lack of cross-functional collaboration between teams has delayed the start of clinical trials, which affects product delivery and speed to market. Part of the solution is to focus on how these groups interact on a daily basis. We have coached and worked with teams to identify individual and collective behaviors related to business results and KPIs.
In order to connect with business “what to do, cultural change must start with measurement. Linking behavioral metrics to business-focused KPIs will provide you with timely and actionable information. Imagine that you want to lose weight — let’s say 10 pounds in six months. How do you track your progress? You can measure yourself once a month, but if you find yourself falling short of your goal, the opportunity to change that outcome is gone. A better leading indicator of whether you are achieving your goals is your ongoing behavior. If you aim to hit the gym four times a week but miss out on this important behavioral indicator, you’ll know ahead of time that you’re not on track to achieve your goal.
Lesson 2: Shift change down to specific frontline group behaviors
Business results clarify the macro context for cultural change, but employees also need to understand the micro side — what needs to change in their day-to-day work and how they function as a team. To avoid overloading staff, this should be limited to important few target behaviors, will enable measurable outcomes.
Let’s take another example of a generic drug company that noticed persistent deviations in its production line, resulting in delayed patient deliveries. The “human error” record is considered to be the culprit. The solution is to encourage problem-solving from the root cause, but what does that mean for leaders and employees in practice? We focus on two target behaviors:
• Leaders must commit to “actively working with teams to unleash problem solving and respect that time”.
• Team members must commit to “proactively raise recurring problems and offer team-based solutions to problems.”
These behaviors are reinforced through support mechanisms including ongoing leadership gemba walking (a Japanese term for when leaders visit the work site in person), capacity building in problem-solving techniques, and visible rewards and celebrations celebrate success. As a result, the site is seeing a reduction in deviations in repeat production.
Engaging your people in the conversion journey has never been more important. You need culture — the invisible motivator that allows a series of changes to take root organically — on your side.
We worked with a leadership team whose business was growing at an exponential rate. But as a team, they struggled to make and stick with decisions, often revisiting them after the fact. “We just seemed to talk to each other in circles,” as one of them put it. What can they do to make themselves more agile? Together, we came up with a few key behaviors, including “following through on decisions I missed” (leaders still need to commit to the decisions made without them). don’t have them) and “pick something to de-prioritize every new priority”. Now that the team has agreed on group behaviors, they are coming up with ways to reinforce their commitments. For example, they agreed to stop the meeting when a behavior was not shown, explicitly asked when they needed to make an exception to the behavior and why, and conducted effectiveness checks for three months to see if decision-making improves.
Lesson 3: Create a plan — but expect to adapt it
As with any change effort, it’s important to have a plan from the start. But you also need to expect that plans will change. Measures that work in one business unit or geographic market may not work in another, so respond to what lies ahead of you rather than what what you expect. Focus on making progress step-by-step, rather than trying to force big changes in a hurry. And continuously monitor, learn, and celebrate the results.
This principle is common in many companies and among leaders working to influence culture. We recently paused our cultural work for a multinational — part of a large-scale transformation program — when it became clear that a business unit was a significant source of risk. Instead of continuing as planned, we took a step back and focused on this business, listening carefully to our team members so we could clearly see what they needed and what we could do. to help. (In this case, that means creating a high-performing leadership team before doing anything else.)
The biggest misconception of business leaders about work culture is that it is too subtle and sloppy to make a difference. Based on our experience, culture is the primary vehicle for creating sustainable transformation, along with foundational factors such as mass communication, employee engagement and leadership alignment. . The challenge is to link work culture with real, business-appropriate changes that directly affect frontline employee behavior. By applying the three lessons discussed above, companies can create partnerships in which culture practitioners and business leaders learn from each other — and make an impact. Castle.
- Luna Corbetta is PwC US’s principal in workforce transformation. Based in Tampa, Fla., she specializes in strategy and transformation and is passionate about connecting people and organizations to their core purpose.
- Margo Stokum is PwC US’s director of workforce transformation. Based in Mountain View, California, she specializes in talent culture and strategy for organizations undergoing large-scale transformation or preparing for the future of work.