There’s a much better understanding of the hard, bottom-line benefits of actively managing an organisation’s culture today than in the past. Yet too many businesspeople still consider the work of “organisational development” specialists as fluffy stuff.
Is it because organisational development has traditionally been regarded as women’s work?
My job for more than years at business solutions provider MYOB has been to support the CEO and executive team to drive positive cultural change in our business. This has just been recognised with a Transformation Award from culture and leadership consultancy Human Synergistics, so we must be doing something right!
Below, I’ve provided five key elements of our success so far in developing a workplace culture that nurtures both men and women… Let’s see just how ‘fluffy’ they are.
Courage: Start at the top
The behaviour and actions of the executive team will make or break a culture. It’s as simple as that. This team must be committed and active – they must absolutely ‘get’ the reasons for working on the culture, they must create the vision for the future while enabling others to provide input, they must drive change initiatives and they must walk the talk when the company asks something new of its team members. For us, ‘starting at the top’ meant our executives taking a long, hard look in the mirror at their leadership behaviours using a 360-degree feedback tool. Sometimes confronting, this process developed new self-awareness and insight, and drove personal change that created a powerful driving force for cultural change.
Focus: Leadership is the biggest influence of culture
We also recognised the rest of our leader community were critical to this journey’s success. Organisational culture is often defined as ‘the way we do things around here’, and so much of that is down to leaders’ mindsets and behaviours. A whole range of initiatives were delivered that invested in leadership development and measured leadership capability. The bar was raised and, quite frankly, some didn’t make it.
Respect: Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water
“What cultural history don’t we want to lose?” was an important question. MYOB started in a garage in Blackburn, Victoria some 21 years ago. With a history of market leadership, innovation and valuing the team, not everything needed to change. We made a concerted effort to respect the past and acknowledge the present while creating our future.
Vision: Know where you’re going
I love this Lewis Carroll quote: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. Actually, I believe it’s a misquote but that doesn’t make me love it any less. Building the vision for our aspirational culture was an interesting and inclusive process involving all our leaders. The process itself was engaging and at the end there was a shared clarity around where we wanted to be and why.
Persistence: Keep going!
We recently had our team engagement measured and were advised it had improved by 13%, which is so exciting. We’re now in a place where teams are happier, more collaborative and feel more connected. This has tremendous productivity benefits, and enhances the quality of the products and services that we provide to clients and partners. Having said that we’re still a way off where we aim to be; the journey definitely continues.
So, fluffy work or not? Our net result has included significantly increasing team engagement, achieving double-digit annual revenue growth and almost doubling profit – nothing fluffy in the outcomes.
Catherine Davis is MYOB’s organisational development manager. This article was first published on LeadingCompany’s sister site, Women’s Agenda.