Skip to main content
Organizational Culture Case

Organizational Culture Case: New Behaviors and How to Change

  • 17 October 2016
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Let’s continue the workshop with our thirty Library staff in the room. Read the first part of our OCAI culture workshop if you haven’t already.

We understand what current culture entails from values down to behaviors and we have identified the “shadow side”: the less-effective behaviors that we would like to stop, do less of, or change in any way.

Now it’s time to get a better understanding of preferred culture. From the survey profile, we see that they wanted to emphasize the Create (Adhocracy) and Collaborate (Clan) culture types (Competing Values Framework). But during the dialogue in the workshop, they decided to adjust the preferred culture from the survey because they realized they might need more Compete (Market) culture to become successful…

Mix of Compete and Collaborate Culture

Compete culture focuses on results, making choices, and getting things done. Create culture values learning, being flexible and entrepreneurial (proactive), innovating. Their current culture kept them too fixated on people, procedures, and processes.

What they wanted to keep is their “social capital” from the Collaborate culture: the loyalty, the bonding, the kindness of helping coworkers (who worked in the same silo – maybe extend that toward the whole library, regardless of their unit). They wanted to become more professional by adding a focus on results, feedback, and learning. They got back to work in small groups and then shared the results with the whole room. They identified new behaviors that would make a difference if everyone did them.organizational culture profile

New Behaviors

In the plenary sharing, they agreed on these beliefs and behaviors that would emphasize elements of the Compete and Create culture types:

  • We value mistakes as a proof of learning
  • We give both positive and negative feedback
  • We coach each other – and that isn’t “bothering” but framed as professional openness to learning
  • We experiment with new services
  • We focus on doing – we measure results and actions, not the number of reports or meetings attributed to a new idea
  • We ask the client what they want/need
  • We consistently measure output: quantity and quality of services
  • We work with rough lines wherever possible (instead of a “Phone Book of Rules”)
  • We have flexibility in jobs, and may consider job crafting in the long run
  • We use smart goal setting and priorities
  • We form external partnerships (openness to others)

These new behaviors cannot be implemented overnight. They represented a more detailed version of WHAT to change exactly, but the How-will-we-DO-it wasn’t solved yet. However, the fact that thirty critical, analytical people agreed on these “resolutions” was a great outcome at this point. The energy in the room was even enthusiastic…

The Journey of How to Change

The HOW is different for each organization. Top executives often like the outcome of their OCAI survey but next, expect an expert to fix that culture gap. But the real work starts here: discover those particular details that will make a difference in this situation. 

That’s why we try to include and engage as many people as possible. Even if a CEO has a clear idea, she or he can’t order the others to change. If you want people to own the change and change crucial behaviors, you cannot skip this work of developing the roadmap together, and next, traveling together in the actual territory of your organization. No textbook can help you here. No generic advice will ever fit your journey. This is the art of application.

Change Circles of 10 people are small enough to foster real dialogue, take the time to solve obstacles or reflect on objections and create commitment because no one can hide in a small team. If you don’t agree, your coworkers will notice. There’s no hiding in the back of a large hall and criticizing the sage on the stage. The group is the stage, and everyone is talking to the others - not about them behind their backs. A skilled group leader can facilitate this. If a Change Circle works well - the ten people in the group will know more than one. Together, they have a good chance to solve the how-to-change puzzle - while bypassing and solving obstacles, influencing some people’s objections and thus, together, also changing beliefs. In the meantime, they commit and start to believe in the change.

How To Continue Change in the Library?

What would have the biggest leverage to change in the Library? As busy professionals, they couldn’t sustain large initiatives and do all of the new behaviors listed above. They decided to work on one personal behavior first.

The Library’s executives decided to look at Quinn’s management roles and change their leadership style. Employees said they wanted more “space” and less micromanagement. They had to attend too many meetings and explain many details to their bosses. Leaders took this as their first homework.

By the end of this first workshop, everyone made a public statement: what he or she would do as of tomorrow. They were held accountable for this. Everyone chose a mate. They checked with each other weekly to sustain progress, support each other and solve any blockages – thus practicing feedback as well. After some time, people could get together in a small Change Circle to coordinate and continue their personal and team’s change. Together in small teams, coworkers can support each other to take ownership once they’ve agreed to the “what and how” of change. Together, people change “the way we do things around here” if they trust each other.

In Change Circles, you use the “viscosity of culture” to your advantage. People copy their coworkers. If they practice new behaviors and support each other - they might DO what they agreed on - and evenly important: persist. Even when it’s tempting to go back to old routines.

The “New Normal” in the Library

The library eventually decided to focus on giving and receiving feedback as the key behavior that would make the difference if enough people would do it.

They invited clients (faculty and students) and asked for honest feedback. That was confrontational, but it seemed a right stimulus to improve service and to understand the client’s perspective. They practiced being open to feedback and being open to change a few things. Some project groups started to develop innovative products together with clients - instead of “knowing best” and presenting a finished product to clients.

Some individuals showed new, assertive behaviors. One staff member didn’t accept the fact that she didn’t get an answer to a request. She had been phoning and emailing, but this coworker from another unit was out of office, or busy and promised to let her know several times. But he never did. One day, when she knew they had the unit’s regular meeting, she entered the room and asked for his answer. “I am sorry for interrupting you, but I have to know. I can’t proceed without your response. I thought that we agreed we would be timely and keep agreements as a professional library.” This had never happened before.

This staff member broke the tacit rule of leaving the other in peace, allowing coworkers to hide in their silos and they’d leave you be, too. They discussed what happened. The others reluctantly admitted that this could be new, professional behavior. The “new normal” would be to respond timely to requests by coworkers. No procrastination, no hoarding of information. If you don’t agree with a request or it can’t be done – tell them so: give feedback. But not responding is not professional. This employee became an example and the director publicly applauded this new behavior. Not the interrupting of meetings, of course, but the professional behavior of being assertive in a polite way, giving and receiving feedback and responding promptly.

The ideal, new Librarian

They are still developing themselves toward their ideal of the new university librarian:

“Every employee represents the Library, committed to their work and their coworkers. They have one common goal: to build an inspiring meeting place where knowledge creation occurs so that the academic community will thrive. They feel responsible for serving clients and for facilitating knowledge creation and scientific collaboration.

They no longer push problems from one office to the next. They have become visible and more outspoken (no longer hiding behind bookshelves and within units). They say what they need, what they can or cannot deliver, how things could be improved.

Feedback has been changed from a personal attack that hurts into factual information on how to improve behaviors and outcomes. They are professionals who are willing to learn, sharing problems and solutions.

Librarians are mature professionals. They don’t play the blame game, but ask themselves: What can I do about this? They take action and are accountable for their actions. Anticipating any issues, they proactively prevent problems. They feel proud, as library employees.”

The new librarian doesn’t exist as an individual. It’s a collective effort to create a culture where this ideal librarian would thrive. They’re still working on this. Choosing to give and receive feedback as a key behavior to change, proved a wise decision. While it is not everyone’s favorite, it is becoming the normal, professional thing at work for the majority. It is appreciated. This is enticing more people to use feedback to improve their work.

In my next post, we’ll focus on why Positive Leadership is so crucial during organizational change…

Do you like what you're reading? Read more in my eBook: How to lead Positive Change with Culture and Positive Leadership. Read this before you start any change or new goal to prepare yourself.

Would you like to learn and practice this Culture Change Circle approach? Join the 3-day International Culture Change Leadership Workshop.

  • What do you think of this Library case?
  • Have you ever implemented giving and receiving feedback?
  • What is an ideal behavior that you’d like to be “normal” in your workplace but currently isn’t?
  • How could you start to embody or role model this behavior…?

Copyright © Marcella Bremer 2016. All rights reserved.