“Why is it that I am the same person capable of being and doing great things, but also, in certain contexts, sluggish, uninspired, or unwilling to give my team, company, or boss any of my discretionary effort?”
- Samantra Ghoshal at the World Economic Forum
Culture Change & Transformation
Context Nurtures a Vibrant Culture
This question captures the essence of what many leaders have struggled to answer about culture for decades. The late Samantra Ghoshal who was a strategic leadership professor at the London Business School presented this dilemma and lamented that culture is hard to even describe, saying some resort to calling it “the smell of the place.”
Ghoshal answers his own question and that of many leaders with an amusing comparison between the sweltering summers in his hometown of Kolkata, India, and the cool forests of Fontainebleau, France: Culture is about context. And leaders who cultivate a climate where people feel inspired—rather than wilted—will experience a greater sense of community.
Transform Your Context by Understanding Identity
While we can’t always transport ourselves to different destinations to achieve context, we can transform what we believe about our environment through a systems-thinking perspective. Cultural transformation, or any small or large change, starts with understanding a team’s internal identity.
At some point in every organization’s evolution, from heritage companies to start-ups, the identity shift that’s dying to happen often gets overlooked. In today’s workplace or lack thereof, teams are in dire need of a strong shared context or identity as employees increasingly opt-in to remote work for the sake of efficiency and work-life balance.
When your shared identity is out of sync with where people get their work done and meet increasingly ambitious targets, everything feels harder than it should be; your system is no longer in flow. Yet people keep working harder, thinking that increased effort will override their outdated identity.
Does Your Culture Still Reflect Who You Are Today?
The Flame Model Can Help
Culture change starts with a conscious look at your organization’s internal identity and the shift it’s dying to make so your collective efforts can regenerate and flourish. Often before a leader realizes it, the organization is ready to loosen its grip on old ways of seeing itself and to let go of identifications that no longer serve its purpose or potential.
The proprietary Flame Model not only helps you evolve to meet where your reality is headed, but it also recognizes that some cultural norms are true and beautiful and want to live in the emerging future alongside new ways of seeing and being.
Three Ways to Apply the Flame
Cultural Change Team Journey - A leader and her team are willing to sign on to a Cultural Change Journey that enlists key members of the organization to leverage The Flame Model for an identity audit. Once we explore the shift that must happen together, we design the way forward to help the organization cross the bridge emotionally and psychologically to a new way of seeing itself. This requires some education, conversation, and a commitment to learning and creating safe dialogues.
Keepers of The Flame - A subgroup of employees in a company’s system elect to learn “Systems Thinking 101” skills, understand how to “bear witness” to the system, discover how to coach peers on behavioral and psychological change, and bring (sometimes hard) truths to leadership. Keepers of The Flame are not a task force or tiger team. They are trained in a very specific way to listen, see, and sense into what’s happening in the company’s system and bear witness to an organization’s pulse, heart, and psychology. Their purpose is to bring truth, hold space, and coach and mentor others to lean into change safely.
POD Sprints for Change Management - One of the most efficient and accelerated ways to help create a fly-wheel effect for cultural transformation is the POD Sprints process. A leader or group of leaders recognizes that a shift in how we see the world, how we work together, and how we collaborate and innovate together needs to happen. Each team or function has its own identity and own unconscious grips on how they believe work should be done. There are unconscious and non-obvious patterns of behavior between groups or teams, and the POD Sprints make it safe to see them and name them.
A kick-off meeting launching the PODS and the POD Sprints is designed. Senior leaders lead from the front of the room and participate in the kick-off and the PODS. Every POD meets for ninety minutes a day for two weeks; all PODS meet at the same time and are run by professional facilitators.
“Before we hired Tina, our communication was guarded and lacked focus. Afterward, we had clarity, alignment, transparency, and trust.”
- Sherrie Kronfrost, Director, Strategic HR Partnering @ Thrivent