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“In class when I mapped the freight process, I discovered that the operational process was not the main issue; instead we had some key decisions at the strategic level to consider. Back at work, I have already shared the maps I developed with others and I am developing some dashboards to collect data to focus our improvement efforts. Shelley asked some insightful questions that influenced my thinking and put me in a stronger position to demonstrate what needed to be done.”

Theresa Quinn Accurso
Director of Finance
Shure Inc.


Can Changing Your Culture Be a Quick Win?

Negative imageThere’s another way to create culture change says Jason Bingham, a vice president at Trane North American and author of Cultureship: The ACBs of Business Leadership.  Instead of using a change management approach for a transformation which takes three to ten years, Bingham says begin with

  • a culture survey and
  • an employee engagement survey

These two surveys assess the current state of the culture.

Use the survey to identify areas of strength for the organization (e.g., product leadership, operational excellence, or customer focus) and areas for development (e.g., teamwork, execution, or open communication).  Additionally, use the surveys to identify which departments or offices are leaders in the desired culture and which are weak. The desired cultures is built on three elements:

  1. the company’s vision (where they want to be),
  2. mission (what they do), and
  3. guiding values (how they will behave with one another). 

Let me translate this for a process culture.  If the organization really wants to be more process focused

The vision might be something like: Serve the customer without organizational boundaries.

The mission could be: Provide our product/service (through efficient and effective processes)

Some guiding values would be:

  • Treat customers and employees with respect, trust, and care
  • Look for improvements in process and technology for continuous improvement
  • Teamwork is critical for our work.
  • Use qualitative and quantitative data to inform decisions and actions.

Now in Bingham’s book, the organization provided training for employees, modeled the  new behaviors as leaders, and had training for emerging leaders.  They put new leaders in units that had scored low on the culture survey to stimulate the changes needed..

In building a process-oriented organization, business process improvement teams and leaders are terrific places to provide training in process improvement skills and model teamwork through the leaders, ground rules, and authority and affirmation given to the team. I have worked with over 100 business process improvement (BPI) teams;  they become skilled in many process improvement techniques, and they move through forming, storming, and norming behaviors to become a high performing team. They are motivated to implement Quick Wins early, and if the Quick Wins don’t work out, they learn and move on. They are excited about their redesigns, which always go beyond what they thought was possible as they began the BPI project.  They are working in concert with the Process Owner and Executive Sponsor.   The team approach really strengthens engagement of employees and leaders, and builds strong relationships across the process.  The team and leaders own their work, the recommendations, and they lead the implementation.

Bingham says that as the employees at Trane North America began to own the culture, they started thinking about ways to improve their work. The company started a “fix-it” event where employees could identify quick wins and longer term improvements.  Then the employees were empowered to implement the fix-it ideas that were approved.

For the process example, once organizations have done a number of BPI projects, I encourage them to form a Steering Committee to oversee all the projects, not from an audit function, but to look for challenges, best practices, and new opportunities across the enterprise.  They look for how are the projects meeting the vision and how the guiding values are working. And where there is excellence, they acknowledge and reward the practices; where there are challenges they determine the possible root cause and see what changes would help. And employees and leaders acknowledge one another as well.

Although each company’s approach to the specifics will be different, Bingham’s quick culture change ideas can clearly be used in building a process culture.


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2 comments to Can Changing Your Culture Be a Quick Win?

  • Inger

    Perfect timing to read this great blog post. Our organization just launched its annual employee perception survey. Previous survey results have resulted in positive changes to our culture including a revamped Management Team that is more inclusive and less directive. I’ll complete this new survey with a different BPI-infused lens.

  • Moises Bedolla

    Normally we expect that a culture change comes from a Change Management Initiative, and it should be like that for the most challenge changes in the company/department. Normally this work starts with a Top-down approach which can take some time to reflect desired changes, so it is a very good idea to have a couple of quick hits regarding cultural changing as part of any BPM/BPI project. Nothing better than having people excited to see their own ideas reflected in a short term within the day-to-day activities.
    So providing the tools for them to detect gaps, assess their own “fix” feasibility and encourage them to do it is definitely a great Quick Win especially if the BPI project is directly related to the proposal.

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