Hi, I’m Ian McLean. I’m the founder of Flow Group and GreenLine Conversations. And this podcast has grown out of the chaos that’s been thrust upon us. During the podcast, I’m going to try and share with you the best of 25 years of helping corporate organizations deal and cope with change. So, as you’re out there, busy making sense of it all, trying to cope and maybe in some cases trying to rebuild your organizations. I’m hoping that some of this can be of some assistance. We’ll keep it deliberately short because I know you’re busy. Let’s dive in.
There are two aspects to the current pandemic that are coalescing and have an implication for leadership. The first is that we’ve literally fallen through a digital trapdoor.
Speaking at a conference recently, the speaker before me described how their two-year digital transformation strategy got shrunk wrapped into being delivered in less than two months. The second feature of the pandemic currently is we’re finding ourselves in this kind of twilight zone with regards to working and our workforce.
Our people are dispersed with one foot in and one foot out of the office. They’re neither all there nor all missing. This combination of the digital trapdoor and the dispersal of our people simultaneously calls into question the implication for culture. So, as a leader, whether you know it or not, you are the CCO, which is the Chief Culture Officer.
And as CCO, how do you, in this environment, retain, maintain, And develop your team and organization’s culture?
This question is partly answered by an excerpt from the vaults of a conversation that I did a couple of years ago. It talks about innovation, why change initiatives fail and, why culture is so critically important and indeed what culture is.
Sometimes, people think of it through the technical lens of research and development and technology. And, you know, you need to be innovating constantly in those spaces. But does that mean that you don’t need to be innovative in any space? So it really is change or die, adapt or die.
The problem with change is that if you look at the research across corporate businesses, 70 per cent of all change initiatives fail.
So when you look, when you put all of that together, and you realize that the speed of change is absolute, innovation isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity, but 70 per cent of organizational change initiatives fail. You have to look at what is it that causes that to happen.
And when you get into the roots of what that might be, it ultimately comes down to culture. And if you want to change an organization’s culture, one of my favourite definitions of this is the biggest obstacle to changing an organization’s culture is the organization’s culture. And it kind of begs the question also of what, what is culture because it’s one of those intangible things.
Every organization has one. And, uh, but if you were asked to describe it, or you walked into any company, uh, it would be very difficult for, and two people would give you two different definitions. The best definition of culture that I’ve ever come across goes back to, uh, during the 1960s, some experiments that were done by a scientist called Stevenson.
In one of the experiments using rhesus monkeys, he took five monkeys and put them into a cage, and he put up a step ladder and suspended some bananas from the ceiling. And, of course, the first monkey went up the ladder and started to go with the bananas. So they came in, and they hosed down the monkey. And they hosed down the other monkeys who were standing.
So after a number of attempts where they’d been hosed down, it quickly happened that they stopped going up the ladder and looking for the bananas. So once that happened, they took out one of the monkeys, and they replaced him with another monkey.
Of course, the new monkey didn’t know the game, so they went straight up the ladder for the bananas and got hosed down. And very quickly, anytime he made an attempt to go up the ladder, not only did he get a hose down, but he got beaten up by the other monkeys. So, each monkey, in turn, was changed, and a new monkey came in with the same result each time.
Until ultimately, all of the old monkeys were changed and exchanged for five new monkeys, none of which ever attempted to go up the ladder to access the food on the top of the ladder. So, the definition of culture, therein it lies. We don’t know really how it evolved or how we got here. We just have one.
Until next time, stay safe, stay sane, stay connected.