Bestselling author, psychologist and management consultant Maaike Thiecke would like to encourage you, even more, with her recently published book ‘Cultuurdingetje, eh …’. It is difficult to change a culture. An almost impossible task if you are not aware of what you are dealing with.
First heart: your managers ‘leadership style, your employees’ competencies or commitment, toxic teams, lack of innovation, obstacles or dinosaurs in your organization are not the reason all your efforts are in vain. It’s not your fault, nor your people’s. That’s the system.
Do not start sighing now, just read on. Culture is the DNA of your organization. It includes what your people teach each other, share, pass on, it includes all patterns in your organization. Or as Thiecke describes it: what’s in your flooring and what’s sticking.
The old culture was once the solution
Culture is also what provides direction that prevents you from getting lost every day. And yes, that also applies to the culture you so desperately want to get rid of. The annoying thing about the old culture is that it was once a good solution for your organization. And you have to be aware of that.
Culture, your organization’s DNA, is much more crucial than individual individuals. You are dealing with a collective or a living system. That system and its patterns hijack your people, hijack your teams, hijack entire departments. Therefore, the fresh perspective on new employees has already disappeared after a few months.
You often become aware of that culture when you stumble across it
If you want to change the culture, you first have to see the culture ‘as something that is completely logical and obvious in the floor covering, and which is completely obvious and persistent and contagious’, writes Thiecke. ‘You often become aware of that culture when you stumble across it. Just like with a real rug. ‘
Why it gets worse first
The ‘flooring logic’ in her book makes it easier to understand what is happening, to better predict what will appear when you remove the flooring and what interventions help to install the new one. Not that it will give you less trouble, but less stress.
If you are in danger of losing something, the fully automatic response is to hold on
The starting point: living systems always react equally to changes, namely with the heels in the sand. If you are in danger of losing something, the fully automatic response is to hold on. A collective does that too: resist and go back to the starting point. If you get the impression that it’s only getting worse, then it’s right.
Second heart under the belt: you can really change a culture. According to Thiecke, for the right approach, look for three disturbed patterns in your flooring: organization, bonding, and exchange.
Boost your motivation
It sounds a bit vague now, but in her book she gives a lot of tips, useful questionnaires, practical and fun examples. She also describes different, very recognizable cultures. As a leader, change leader or other professional, you can really get started with this.
For MT / Sprout, we put three cultures with disturbed patterns in the floor covering in the spotlight, with a possible approach. This will give your motivation a boost.
# 1 Order in a family culture
A family culture in your organization is attractive. It is cozy, you get personal and professional space. As an employee, you are loyal, and therefore it is no problem to share your privacy every now and then on hold to rise a notch. It can all work fine.
Ultimately, the private agenda always comes first, not the interests of your organization
Things go wrong when that family culture – not to be confused with a family business – is an obstacle. If your product or service is not delivered because an employee hates that region. When people do not come to a meeting because they have to return a package from H&M to the post office.
When you approach them about performance or absence, they find it unsocial. Ultimately, the private agenda always comes first, not the interests of your customers or your organization. When coziness or personal preferences automatically take precedence over the functional, your organization suffers from disrupted organizational patterns.
Complaints about reconciliation
Procedure: the recipe is that you want to lead with the interests of the organization in mind. You determine the framework, you draw the lines, with what scale, by what means you regulate the conditions, you prioritize functional relationships. Everyone else should just follow this, and yes, you should too.
You will receive complaints about the hardening and commercialization of your organization. It is no longer cozy, but distant, impersonal. Therefore, it is necessary to create clarity about the areas where your organization takes precedence and the areas where the fun comes first.
The essence of the change is not to ruin all personal relationships, but to ensure that your organization can do what it is meant to and that it has priority.
# 2 Connection in a polder culture
The admired polder model can be found in many organizations as a polder culture. Everyone is allowed to think along and discuss everything with the underlying idea that you achieve the best together. Staying in conversation, engaging in dialogue is the solution to everything.
All that consensus uses a lot of energy, your people are complaining about the workload
Things go wrong when your organization becomes slow and viscous, when indecision sets in, when your people start sighing loudly over another round of dialogue and participation. As they become less and less tolerant of each other’s ideas, inputs, contributions and views.
All that consensus is starting to consume too much energy. Your people are complaining about the workload because they are in 100 workgroups. Meanwhile, the real work is being done by an army of outsiders.
Polder as a goal in itself
If poldering becomes a goal in itself, if poldering is the solution to everything, or if it is used to maintain the status quo, then there is a disturbed bonding pattern. Or as Thiecke describes it: ‘Too much together, too much everyone, too much everything, too much always the same for everyone everywhere.’
Procedure: Exclusion and distinction are allowed. Some people, departments, roles or levels just do not belong in some decisions. Should everyone be involved when it comes to the best treatment of a chronic disease or the most sustainable process of waste treatment?
Start with the facts. Who is part of this consultation and who is not? Does this agenda item belong to this meeting or not? Exclusion is a mortal sin, writes Thiecke. ‘You get looked at with your neck if you don’t think about, participate, collaborate or watch.’ In such a moment, realize that every little difference you make contributes to a healthier collective.
# 3 Exchange in a culture of vitality
A healthy, wholesome, vibrant organization where it flows, with healthy, vital, vibrant people. Training, development budgets and vitality programs are arranged for him and her. Internal mobility is encouraged. The gym, the health check, the bikes … are all paid for by your organization.
This new vitality guru mainly causes frustration
Things go wrong when all that attention is focused on the vitality of individual employees and not on the vitality of the collective. If the new mobility program or the new vitality guru mainly results in frustration. When the healthy people go because they get too much and can not give back. Then you have a disturbed exchange pattern.
Procedure: You must agree on what is a normal exchange. It’s about giving and taking of time, money, expertise, energy, talent, information. An important tool: job descriptions, authorities, communication channels, your chain …
Who should bring what information to where, where can you get what expertise, what places and in what roles should you show your talent? All this in a formal way with the organization’s primary mission as the underlying foundation.
†Kulturting eh – How to get the old organizational culture out of the carpet. And the new one in it‘is written by Maaike Thiecke. The book is for sale on managementboek.nl, among other places.