Recently at Insigniam, we launched a firm-wide cultural transformation initiative, which engaged the active participation of everyone at the firm.  This is what made it work:

1. A high-quality assessment report driving for insights, bringing the unexamined into the limelight

After interviewing nearly half of the employee population, a cultural assessment report was produced.  Rather than merely reporting on what was said, the unsaid and behavioral norms of the organization, the report uncovered unexamined deeply held beliefs, past-based assumptions, and pre-assumptions that gave rise to what is done and said in the foreground.  The shock value was in the simplicity of these findings, the matter-of-factness in the way they were held, and how they shape the growth trajectory of the firm, determining what is possible and what is not possible.

2. Turning participation from “talking about the culture” to “discovering specific behaviors, ways of speaking and thinking that contribute to the culture”

Each employee was asked the two questions:

  • Where do you see the various elements of the culture being expressed in the organization?
  • What do you do or not do that generate the culture?

By pointing to specifics, we make the culture real in the organization.  More importantly, we were invited to see our own role in contributing to the culture.  Each one is called to account for the make-up of the culture, rather than relating to oneself as a bystander, a survivor, or a victim of the culture.

3. Management’s integrity and willingness to hold every employee’s feet to the fire

Management made it clear that it is an opportunity for real conversations, by providing the structure to answer the above two questions, by demonstrating answering them, by coaching people, and by saying no to lip service.  This brings intentionality, authenticity and integrity into the transformation process.

The result of this process is an elevated awareness of the way the default culture is at play in the organization and each individual’s responsibility for it. This creates the conditions necessary to move to the next phase of the cultural transformation, which is to create a new culture.  

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