Corporate Culture – what a contentious term! Companies go out of their way to craft a purpose statement, define corporate values and pride themselves with it all. Yet…under the hood there is often a stark contrast. The values and beliefs are not necessarily lived and the behaviours not shown. When you talk to employees about the company’s values and beliefs you often get a conspiratorially smile as if they were trying to say „if only you knew…“
And still, corporate culture is essential and cannot NOT exist. In its essence, corporate culture is the invisible glue that holds employees together. Of course it is not that easy, because within a company you have lots of different groups and each of these groups may also have their own culture – the way things get done within that team, based on documented contracts (e.g. team charter), visible artefacts (e.g. team meetings) and underlying assumptions (e.g. we pursue the same objectives, we value transparency). Ideally, the overall corporate culture provides the umbrella over and guidance to all those teams.
Now, if things do not go according to plan, a culture change is postulated. Yeah right, as if it was that easy. More often than not, it is yet more money down the drain. Instead, companies and individuals on all hierarchy levels should focus on living the corporate values authentically and visibly. But often I hear from employees „this is just the way how we do things here“ ignoring the fact that they are part of the system and maybe also part of the problem. We humans tend to call for higher powers („if only they did that…“) instead of asking themselves how they can contribute to the change. „What is it that I do today that may not be in accordance with the corporate values? How can I adjust my own behaviours in the workplace and become a role model to others?
Corporate Culture Hacks are small interventions that can change underlying assumptions and beliefs, visible behaviours and artefacts. They are normally small enough to be done by individuals. Doing it persistently and at scale will ultimately make a dent in the corporate’s universe.
I have collected some culture hacks that I find powerful. Most of them I have seen in action myself or would like to try out in the future.
Sit with your team at least once a week
This has luckily changed over time but still you find managers (especially higher up the hierarchy) that have their own office or are physically separated from the team. Why not just grab your laptop and sit with your team once a week, including team members of your direct reports. This way the manager becomes more approachable and gets a better sense of what people are working on.
Providing a book budget to the team or even individuals is an important investment into life-long learning, an absolute critical skill for the future. Obviously, the books are still corporate property and should thus be made accessible to all other employees too. Also, you could combine this with a book club initiative at the company and / or asking each purchaser to hold a session about the content of the book. This also forces the employee buying and reading the book to reflect on its contents and will help him to learn, as sustainable learning only happens if you actually understand what you read.
If one of your pillars of your culture is around trust, transparency, collective intelligence, then Lunch Roulette could be a nice hack you may want to try. Lunch Roulette or Mystery Lunch brings together a group of people from different departments and teams that may not know each other. They meet during lunch hours and connect and share building new relationships and trust among each other.
At a company I used to work at holiday requests had to be approved by managers. One of the managers told me that in the past two years, he rejected a holiday request only once. This is nothing to compared to the number of requests he simply approved. He wanted to turn the system around and asked for the system to approve requests by default. Why not? Set up a time-boxed experiment, inspect and adapt. Maybe it actually works.
Displaying important business figures or KPIs in real-time
Transparency is important to give orientation and also spur a sense of achievement. This can be provided via additional monitors that are accessible in a team or department area, could be a dashboard on the Intranet or other frequently channels and places (e.g. entrance to the canteen).
Disclosing professional goals
Goals or objectives for the quarter or year are normally negotiated between the manager and his staff and kept a secret. But what if others knew about those objectives? Might others be able to help that employee achieve his objectives? I am a strong believer in a purposeful network and trust relationships. If you do have that you may want to try open up about your quarterly or yearly objectives. Try it and see what happens.
I know that in times of OKR individual objectives may take a backseat but most companies are clinging onto the old performance model. Thus, this hack could be for individuals working at those companies.
Open Kanban Board of the Leadership
I find this a very powerful hack, as this is helpful to the leadership team and to employees. The leadership team can create better alignment between its members and employees see what is on their plate, as long of course it is not highly confidential. Please do not say everything is confidential, because that is not the case.
The above is just a very small number of potential hacks. Before hacking anything, think of this though:
- Define your desired state (corporate values)
- Discover and reflect on existing practices, behaviours that are not in line with the desired state
- Define an experiment / hack to address
- Time-box the hack (1-3 months)
- Be vocal about the experiment
- Look for support from others
- Reflect on the experiment at the end of your time-box and adapt if necessary
- Start the next experiment / hack
It is actually rather difficult to find actionable hacks that even individuals can just start. What corporate culture hacks do you know? Please do share with the community. Sharing is caring and happy hacking!!