Organizational Agility And Resilience – Two Critical Sides Of The Same Coin

Agility and Resilience

In a world where longstanding business models are being disrupted (many at the hand of a staggering rate of technological advances), you won’t get ten paces without hearing terms like agility and resilience being thrown around. This dynamic has seen the rise of brands like Amazon/Whole Foods, Netflix, and Uber as well as the demise of others like Kodak who failed to see and respond quickly enough to changes in the market. If you’re reading this and thinking that this isn’t something that applies to you, you’re sadly mistaken. Even historically stable industries are being disrupted in ways that require the ability to adapt and transform in order to thrive.

The belief that organizations must master the ability to innovate and drive new products and services to market in order to beat out the competition has contributed to the focus on agility as a critical success factor. These organizations must “fail fast”, quickly learn from mistakes, and adapt to changing market conditions in order to outperform their competitors in the long-term.

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The Culture Hack You’re Not Seeing

“Take this pill and all your weight loss and fitness dreams will come true! No workouts needed!”

“Get that summer 6-pack in 30 days!”

…if only that were true.

We’ve all seen products that claim to have the “key” or the “hack” to the magazine-cover physique. We also know there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work and dedication to achieve your fitness goals. So, be wary of those tactics, because looking for shortcuts doesn’t always work out.

However, there’s a difference between claiming to have found a way to “beat the system” and uncovering something that’s been under your nose the whole time. In this context, we’re talking about your company culture. Regardless of how “healthy” (or unhealthy) it may be, there is one thing you can do to make an immediate impact.

 Disclaimer: This definitely won’t burn off that Hungry Man Chicken Dinner you just popped into the microwave.

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The Interdependent Nature of Culture and Process

It may not be intuitive to link something that is perceived to be as nebulous and qualitative as company culture to a quantitative, very nuts-and-bolts concept like internal business process. Surprisingly, these two concepts are much more interdependent than what meets the eye.

Internal business process is dependent on the thoughts, beliefs, norms, and behaviors of those tasked with adhering to it. On the other hand, company culture is woven into many aspects of an organization, including its systems and processes. Companies and teams with misaligned cultures can expect to experience more deviant behavior from their employees for a host of different reasons. This can include deviation from the norms surrounding internal business processes, where employees tend to complete tasks in their own way or build their own “way of doing things” altogether. If the culture is misaligned across the organization, shared accountability suffers and can perpetuate more variance in the way people accomplish their tasks. Read More…

The Art Of Unlearning What Works

typewriter

As an organizational psychologist and a firm believer in continuous development, I have often found myself in the position of advising people on creative ways to keep learning throughout their careers. I have worked with clients seeking to become “learning organizations” – where individuals and teams are continuing to figure out what works through learning in order to outperform their competitors. Research, experiment, succeed, fail, learn, improve, repeat.

As someone who has dedicated his professional life to the topic of organizational culture, I realize that groups of people, over time and through collective experience, figure out what works and what doesn’t. Doing so allows them to begin to bake into their organization’s systems and processes methods for repeating successes and minimizing failures (or they cease to exist). Doing so allows members of these organizations to routinize processes and behaviors that lead to success so they can utilize their mental capacity on other things. Easy enough in theory.

The real challenge presents itself when the old ways of doing things that once yielded success stop working (or stop working as well as they once did). It is during these times that I often get people reaching out to me to help them figure out what to do in order to right the ship before things go too far afoul. In all of these situations, some common realities have bubbled up that are important to acknowledge.

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8 Books That Will Inspire Your Workplace Culture

leadership lessons

The team at gothamCulture recently put their heads together to curate a list of book recommendations that will inspire your workplace culture and leadership development. Consider choosing one of these for your office book club. We hope you find these helpful!

The Culture Code: Daniel Coyle explores the question, “How is it that some groups add up to be greater than the sum of the parts, and others do not?” The book is based on research over a period of four years, looking at some of the best/most successful team cultures. The discussion is organized into a presentation of three skills known for generating high-performing groups: (1) Build safety, (2) Share vulnerability, and (3) Establish purpose.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard:  a book about how to change things when change is hard. It can be about you, a job, friends, or even family. Change is very difficult and hard to do without a little motivation. The book helps you to look at things in a different way than you had before. Seeing the good things about why you should change and why it was better before. Read More…

Your Company Culture And The Uniqueness Paradox

Organizational Stories

Advising senior leaders on the topic of organizational culture for the last fifteen plus years has provided me with a multitude of opportunities to examine the ways in which groups of people organize themselves to accomplish their work and to achieve their mission. There are a wide variety of methods that I use when helping clients to understand the cultures of their organizations. One of these methods is engaging members of a client organization in order to listen to and attempt to make meaning of the stories that are told.

Stories have served a critical purpose in organizing groups of people for thousands of years. Stories are engaging ways to educate members of a group about what is valued by the group. What the group expects from its members. What gets rewarded and what gets people punished. Stories spark different areas of our brains than other forms of communication and this is why they have, and continue to be, utilized to share important ideas amongst and across groups of people.

Stories, due to their unique contextual factors, tend to reinforce the belief that each is a special, one-of-a-kind thing. Stories are not the only organizational phenomenon that foster the belief that organizations and their cultures are unique and special snowflakes but, in reality, organizational cultures and the stories that are shared within them share many commonalities in terms of structure, delivery, and ultimate purpose. This is what researchers Martin, Feldman, Hatch, & Sitkin refer to as the uniqueness paradox.

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Dear CEO, Having Your Values On The Wall Isn’t Enough For A Great Culture

climbing a mountain and values

Many a time I have been asked how a business knows they need to revisit their culture and just as many that I have been told by a CEO that they have a great culture whilst they go on to tell me the signs are that they don’t.

So, what exactly should you be looking for? Here’s my list of the top 11 signs that might be telling you it’s time for a culture change.

The numbers tell a fading story

For whatever reason, if your sales are on a downward trajectory its a sure sign there’s a problem. Whether it is the actual product or the way you are working the underlying truth is that the organization is either failing to leverage intelligence and adapt or is simply not agile enough to keep up with market trends.

Your people aren’t happy

Happiness is an integral part of profitability. If your employees are not happy with you then as well as the impact on your HR budget from high turnover of staff and sickness they will also care less and its that loss of attention to detail and will to succeed that could cost you most dearly. Introducing an innovation culture that everyone has a stake in sends out a strong message about the value of employees. Read More…

Why Many Culture Efforts Struggle To Drive Sustainable Change

Culture, Climate and sustainable change

There I was, sitting in the office of a senior executive who was struggling to come to terms with the reality that their organizational change effort, though having somewhat significant success initially, was not sustaining. People were quickly slipping back to old behaviors and engagement measures were sliding back to where they were when the change process started.

As I learned more about the “culture” change efforts that this organization had engaged in over the last year and a half, it became clear to me where it went sideways. This leader is not alone in succumbing to this common misconception about what culture is and isn’t and I felt that it was time to take a moment to clarify a few things for the rest of my readers who may be feeling similar frustrations.

The concept of organizational culture has become widely accepted as a critical component of performance in recent years. With this, I find that a great many of my discussions with leaders, often, teeter between several topics that fall within the realm of culture but are not one and the same. This reality can create some understandable confusion and frustration for people.

One common situation that I find myself running into are conversations with business leaders who are attempting to evolve the cultures of their organization but who, in reality, are focusing on organizational climate. Many business leaders tend to utilize the terms organizational culture and organizational climate interchangeably, and while they share many similarities, there are several key differences that delineate them from one other.

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gothamCulture’s Chris Cancialosi Discusses Adaptive Companies Through The Lens Of Organizational Culture

The SHRM 2019 Spring People + Strategy Journal has been published and in the Perspectives Department, Anna Tavis presents “The Adaptability Challenge.” Martin Reeves, Director of BCG’s think tank, BCG Henderson Institute, is the lead author on this topic writing about “What Makes an Adaptive Company?” Chris Cancialosi, Founder and Partner at gothamCulture, provided one of the counterpoints to the focal article with “Expanding the Lens to Organizational Culture.” To read the article and all of the counterpoints click here.