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Change management
Corporate culture & cultural change: definition, examples, tips for success

Table of contents

What is corporate culture? How can we perceive the culture of a company? How can we change them? And how to initiate a cultural change?

Corporate culture & cultural change: definition, examples, tips for success

Corporate culture as a success factor – solutions instead of solutions

 

The terms corporate culture and cultural change are on everyone’s lips for a reason:
“We have Scrum recently told a customer. “We wanted to work faster and more customer-oriented and achieve more motivation among our employees.” A good start. In simple terms, Scrum is modern project management with many feedback loops to the customer and a high degree of self-organization in the teams. “But what we hadn’t expected,” the customer continues, “was the high level of resistance from the employees, who simply refused to take on more responsibility. We even lost some employees and two former team leaders, good people.”
This intention to change probably stumbled because of the corporate culture. People were used to other things and behaved accordingly.

 

Have you ever thought about the culture of your company?

It’s worth it! – Studies have shown that an agile corporate culture is crucial to the success of an organization in today’s world.
But what is corporate culture? How can we perceive the culture of a company? And most importantly: how can we change them?
In our article, we explore these questions in detail, use examples to show how much a culture can hinder or inspire a company – and discuss the basics of a successful, positive corporate culture. Finally, we give you 10 practical tips on how you can tackle cultural change in your company.
We hope you enjoy reading and look forward to your comments!

 

Why corporate culture is so important - the challenge of a VUCA world

 

 

Why is your corporate culture so important?

The VUCA world challenge

We live in a time of rapid change. Conditions and our environment are changing rapidly.
There is now a term for these rapid changes and the associated uncertainty: VUCA.
VUCA is an acronym made up of the terms

 

  • Volatility/change
  • Uncertainty/uncertainty
  • Complexity
  • Ambiguity/ambiguity

 

We have already discussed the term VUCA in more detail in our article Change management in our VUCA world: the success factors.

 

Definition of corporate culture

When our environment changes, we as a company are also required to react quickly in order to keep pace and remain viable in the long term. Speed is one of the most important factors nowadays.

  • When decisions have to be made quickly,
  • or when previously unknown challenges arise,
  • if the course is not foreseeable and the circumstances are complex
– So what is a company guided by? What are employees guided by when they have to act but there are no guidelines?
The corporate culture plays a major role here: if the company and its employees are positive and constructive, if they have strong inner support and are guided by shared values, then they can react agilely and flexibly and remain capable of acting. The corporate culture points the way here, like an inner compass.
But what exactly is corporate culture?

 

The definition of corporate culture

What is corporate culture?

Finding a definition for corporate culture is no easy task. This is very similar to all other cultural concepts:
– For example, how do you define a country’s culture; what exactly constitutes it? You guessed it – it will be difficult to describe these exactly, because there are many factors that together form a culture.
The anthropologist Cecil Herman defined culture as a
“System of rules and habits that guide the coexistence and behavior of people.”
The term culture, or corporate culture in this case, refers to what outsiders perceive, i.e. how customers or business partners experience the company, and how it feels from the inside, i.e. how employees experience the company. In this respect, a description of the term corporate culture is more appropriate than a brief definition.
We take a look at the individual aspects of corporate culture below.

 

Corporate Culture

 

 

Where do we encounter corporate culture?

Each of us has experiences with corporate cultures, here we want to show you some examples.

The culture of a company from the outside

Every time we come into contact with a company, we experience its corporate culture:
  • In the furniture store, the sales assistants prefer to talk loudly to each other about disliked conditions and pay little attention to the questioning looks of the customers.
  • In the café they are greeted like old friends, the staff joke with the guests and with each other.
  • If you want to sign a mobile phone contract, speak to a call center employee immediately. But appearances are deceptive: after signing the contract, you wait at least 30 minutes for a call.
  • The craftsmen will give you good advice and tips on how to avoid damage.
  • At the hairdresser’s, you roll your eyes when you ask for a spontaneous appointment and point out that you’re finally off work.
  • There is damage to the purchased product and you have the warranty certificate with you, but none of the sellers can do anything for you, the manager has to be found before things can move forward

The culture of a company from the inside

And especially when we work in a company, we feel the corporate culture there:
  • They need binding information, but nobody wants to commit themselves, remains vague and refers them to colleagues.
  • Groups of people regularly gather in the corridor to vent their anger at the boss.
  • The colleagues get on well, and in summer we regularly have barbecues together.
  • You pay close attention to what you say, what you wear, what you do and when, because it’s better to be careful.
  • Everyone is working on their own career development, there is no mutual support.
  • There is open debate and philosophizing, including on topics such as society and social and political developments. The colleagues position themselves openly.

 

Video Agile corporate culture: How do we shape it?

Many teams are learning agile methods in order to operate faster, more flexibly and more innovatively in today’s world. However, none of these methods can bring long-term success without a change in corporate culture. Oliver Grätsch tells you in 2: 30 min which approaches are the most important for creating a sustainable basis for cultural change in the company.

 

The factors of corporate culture

What are the individual areas in which a corporate culture manifests itself?
Here is an overview of 8 elements of corporate culture, which we explain in more detail in the next paragraph.
  1. Behavior, rules, rituals
  2. Symbols, working environment
  3. Power, decision, responsibility
  4. Organizational form – Processes
  5. Underlying values
  6. Reward systems
  7. Type of communication
  8. What stories are told?

The 8 factors of corporate culture

 

 

The 8 elements of corporate culture in your company

And what about your company?
What organizational culture prevails there?
When you look at your company, how would you rate the corporate culture?
What do you think of a small analysis? – Here we show you the eight factors that make up a company’s culture. We primarily use questions for this purpose.
If you like, ask yourself these questions in relation to your company and get a more detailed impression of your organizational culture!

 

 

1. behavior, rules, rituals
– How do people treat each other?

  • Corporate culture factor 1: Behavior, rules, ritualsDo you shake hands in the morning or do you go to your workplace in silence?
  • Do you discuss in order to find a solution or do you wait to see what the boss will say?
  • Do you eat at work or is it taboo?
  • How do your colleagues react when you put your feet up?
  • Do you laugh often and loudly or is it better to keep quiet?
  • Do you behave casually, like among friends, or rather formally and correctly? Do your colleagues like to eat together or do you prefer to eat alone?
  • Is there an occasional after-work beer together?
  • Do colleagues know about each other’s private lives?
  • Do you support each other or does everyone see how they get on?
  • If you want to visit a colleague, do you knock on the door or just show up?
  • Do employees enjoy going to the Christmas party or is it compulsory?
  • What routines and habits are there?

 

 

2. symbols, working environment
– How is the working environment structured?

 

Is the workplace open and therefore conducive to cooperation?
  • Corporate culture Factor 2: Symbols, working environmentAre the premises large or small, are there individual or team offices?
  • Are there common rooms or space for coworking?
  • Are there visual walls where you can work together, where you can do Kanban, for example?
  • Does the company have a coffee spot where you can chat? Or is there just a dark corner?

 

What is the setup like?
  • Rather colorful or rather stiff?
  • Is there the normal office furniture or is there a hammock hanging somewhere?
  • Does the furnishing consist of designer furniture or what was just at hand?
  • Is every room the same or are there differences?
  • Is the workplace changed from time to time or does everyone stay in their place for years?

 

What symbols and status symbols are there?
  • Is the computer a status symbol? Or the company car?
  • Do the floor and size of the office indicate the status?
  • Do you have iPhones?
  • Are there executive parking spaces?
  • Do you wear a tie? Or do you come to work fashionably casual?
  • Is the clothing more business-like or does everyone show off their own style?
  • Is there an espresso machine model professional barista or a decrepit filter coffee machine?
  • Does the company provide organic teas or does everyone bring what they need?
  • Do you value sustainable, fair consumer goods or is cheap the trump card?

 

 

3. power, decision, responsibility
– This is about the type of leadership:

Corporate culture Factor 3 Power, decision, responsibility

How are decisions made?
  • Are decisions made jointly?
  • Does the management involve the employees? Or does it provide no alternative
  • Instructions from above?
  • Does the team decide? If so, then how? Do you discuss until you reach a consensus?
  • Can an employee make independent decisions without hedging his or her bets?

 

How is budget responsibility distributed?
  • Do the employees have little to decide or are they allowed to decide on everything that affects their area of work?
  • Do you get an advance on trust in the form of a company credit card or does everything have to be applied for to the cent?

 

What is the management’s attitude towards employees?
  • Is it the task of the management to check compliance with the instructions given?
  • Or are they rather there to support employees in completing their tasks?
  • Is leadership a coordination task among other tasks at eye level or is leadership “something better”?
  • What do you trust your employees to do?

 

 

4. organizational form – processes
– What form of organization does your company have?Corporate culture Factor 4 Organization, processes,

  • Is your company more of a classic line organization?
  • Or rather a team structure?
  • Are there several people who have a say in a decision (matrix organization) or just one manager?
  • Do you have a flat hierarchy or are there many levels of management?
  • Are there squads in which some topics are organized outside the hierarchy?

 

What structures and processes are in place?
  • Is project management organized and delegated a la waterfall?
  • Or do you work with methods such as Scrum or Holacracy?
  • How much self-organization are your employees allowed?
  • Are processes firmly defined and must they be strictly adhered to?
  • Or are there flexible, changing structures or perhaps even chaos?

 

 

5 Underlying valuesCorporate culture Factor 5 Values, views

People – and companies – live by different values. For some, it is important to earn a lot, while others value a harmonious team. Values determine the actions of every person in the company, and therefore the various aspects of the corporate culture. We have already written several articles on this subject.

Examples of how values influence culture:

 

How do you deal with performance?
  • Does it rather mean: individual performance counts, the best is rewarded with us?
  • Do you want to outdo the other? Or are you more team-oriented?
  • Everyone should feel comfortable and motivated to work?

 

How do you deal with mistakes?
  • Are they punished and do employees have to fear negative consequences?
  • Or are mistakes welcomed as an opportunity to learn from them?
  • Are the employees willing to take risks and dare to explore new territory?
  • Do they come up with new ideas?
  • Or do they prefer to stick to tried and tested paths and stick to what is safe?

 

How do you deal with rules?
  • Are rules followed unquestioningly because nobody dares to question them?
  • Or are they rather an orientation for one’s own actions and can be put to the test?

The topics of values and value management in companies are very close to our hearts. That is why we have already written several articles on this subject. If you would like to read more about values:

 

 

6. reward systems

Corporate culture Factor 6 Reward systemsReward systems are very important foundations for the culture of a company. This determines who is committed to what, and thus the direction of the company.

 

Who will be rewarded?
  • Do all employees share in the company’s success?
  • Or does everyone receive their salary, regardless of whether they are successful or not?
  • Are perhaps only some groups of people rewarded (e.g. sales) and others not (e.g. sales assistance)?

 

What is rewarded?
  • Are there individual target agreements?
  • And are individual performances rewarded accordingly?
  • Is everyone committed to reaping the rewards themselves without sharing?
  • Or is there a team pot and joint achievements are rewarded?

 

Which unit do the reward systems relate to?
  • Are your employees involved in the success of your company?
  • Or just the success of your own team, unit, division…?

 

How flexible are the reward systems when goals change?
  • Will the specifications be discussed on an annual basis?
  • Or you reorient yourself at short intervals (as with “OKR lenses & key results”)

 

 

7. type of communication

Corporate culture Factor 7 CommunicationAn important factor in dealing with one another – and therefore in culture – is of course communication.

 

Official communication

Here you look at how the company communicates officially:

  • Does communication adhere to hierarchies or is there direct communication across departments?
  • Do you tend to write e-mails or do you discuss things at meetings?
  • If there are meetings – what kind of meetings are there?
  • Daily, short meetings similar to Daily Scrum Standup Meetings or is the tendency more towards monthly reports?
  • Or does communication tend to be omitted due to time constraints?
  • Do meetings tend to be formal one-way presentations or is a dialog encouraged?

 

Unofficial communication
– How do colleagues talk to each other?
  • And of course, unofficial communication is also important:
  • Do you use the you or the you-form?
  • Do you communicate in a formal, stiff or casual manner?
  • Are you more level-headed or do you not mince your words?
  • Do you attach importance to an educated way of speaking or do you speak as you please?
  • What is the tone of voice? Open or sharp?
  • Are conflicts addressed or do people prefer to keep their worries to themselves?
  • When colleagues tease each other, is it fraternal or do tips sound out?

 

 

8. stories
– What stories are told in the company?
– What legends are being created?Corporate culture factor 88 Stories that are told

  • Do you tell each other the founding stories, the stories from the early days?
  • And what does that say about the company?
  • Is the tenor more “everything used to be better”?
  • Or are the obstacles that the founders have overcome admired?
  • How do you talk about great successes or failures?
  • Do the stories emphasize the “we”?
  • Or are individuals being exposed?
  • Do you speak disapprovingly of colleagues or do you appreciate their skills?

 

 

 

The influence of corporate culture on success

If the corporate culture tends to put the brakes on…

In times of digitalization and permanent availability, customer demands have also changed: Nowadays, when a customer makes an inquiry, there is no time to pass the response through several hierarchical levels and ensure that it is received. Unfortunately, this is still the case in most companies.
This is frustrating for everyone involved:
The employee responded quickly to the customer’s request and prepared a quote, but had to wait for the green light from his supervisor. The supervisor would have liked to have received the order, but was busy elsewhere and could only deal with the matter much later. The customer is annoyed that he has had to wait so long – and places the order with the competition, simply because they can react more quickly.
If the employee had been trusted and given the authority to submit the offer without higher-level control, the order might have been placed. Because the employee could have acted quickly.
However, this approach requires an organizational and management culture based on trust.
As you can see, the culture of a company is a success factor and, of course, a corporate culture can also seriously hinder the success of an organization.

 

Influence of corporate culture on success

 

 

Three examples of how corporate culture can be a hindrance

Here are a few examples from our practice that show how companies can get in their own way with their culture – and how little half-hearted measures can do about it.

 

 

  1. The culture of fear – better not to make any mistakes!

Our exampleCorporate Culture Model Fear Culture
A medium-sized engineering company with 1000 employees.
The company wanted to position itself globally, strengthen its branches and the slow development department and become innovative and dynamic overall.
The history of corporate culture
Until eleven years ago, this company was run by a managing director with an extremely choleric disposition. He was unpredictable: one day he was in a great mood and relaxed, but the next day he could be in an equally bad mood and make a mess of his employees. It also happened that employees talked to him over a glass of wine in the evening – and were fired without notice the next day. If you behaved openly towards your boss, it could be that the boss suddenly treated you like his best friend – or that he completely lost trust and the employee became persona non grata.
The boss often reacted very harshly, but nobody knew exactly what he was reacting to. It was not clear what they had said or done wrong. And of course, the desire to speak to the unpredictable boss about it was quite low. It was better to keep your head down, remain inconspicuous, keep a low profile and avoid offending anyone.
The uncomfortable managing director had already left the company eleven years ago, but a culture of fear continued to prevail in the company over the years. Older managers were particularly affected by this; they found it very difficult to make decisions. The employees protected themselves and were suspicious. Of course, new ideas were not expressed very openly, because you never knew whether you might get a rope twisted out of them….
The change – and how the corporate culture has nevertheless been preserved
Employees who brought a breath of fresh air were not accepted by the team and left the company after a short time:
There were unspoken rules in the company: Everyone had to shake hands when greeting each other in the morning. Even though they had been working together for 20 years, they never stopped addressing each other as “you”. If you were at an event in the evening, employees were only allowed to go to bed when the boss had given permission or when he himself had retired. And the rest of everyday life in the company was very similar: the boss was like a father who everyone asked whether he was allowed to do something or not. Nothing was decided without him.
The new one
When a young man joined the team who had previously worked for a young, dynamic and innovative company, the different cultures clashed harshly: the employee confidently expressed his ideas, worked and made decisions independently – and, to everyone’s indignation, only threw a “Hi!” to his colleagues in the morning before setting to work. This behavior gave the team the feeling “He doesn’t fit in with us!”, “But he’s rude.”, “He’s such an individualist who just does his own thing and doesn’t talk to anyone.” His colleagues were not stingy in making him feel the discomfort they felt towards him. – And so the new employee left the company after just 2 months, as he didn’t feel comfortable either.
Bosses leave – the corporate culture stays
The fearful organizational culture remained – among other things – through recruiting: People were hired who fit the existing, fearful culture. So the culture continued, even though the company actually wanted to develop in an innovative, dynamic direction – but new, different employees, who would have brought precisely this fresh impetus to the company, were held back by the existing culture. The company had become bogged down.

 

 

  1. The bureaucratic culture – order is a must

Our exampleCorporate culture model Bureaucratic corporate culture
A group
The history of corporate culture
Quality was and is a very important asset in this Group. And to ensure that quality remained at a consistently high level throughout the Group, the main departments took the trouble to record the extremely extensive processes in manuals for colleagues and posterity. There was a process for every operation and a checklist for every process.
What else could go wrong? All you had to do was adhere exactly to the specifications. And that’s why it was frowned upon not to do so: If an employee did not adhere to the process, he was at the bottom of the pile, was no longer welcome and, to make matters worse, was subject to disciplinary measures. This made it much more attractive to carry out what was in the manual than to follow your own, possibly new thoughts and paths. Because such creativity entails high risks.
The long official channels
Of course, decision-making powers were also regulated in detail, sometimes down to the cent: even if an employee just wanted to buy a box of cookies for an event, he had to get his supervisor’s signature. If the amount was slightly higher, a completely different set of weapons had to be deployed: The signature of the division manager was also required.
The employees decided nothing on their own and always followed the official channels. – After all, there has to be order. That’s why there was no cross-functional collaboration in which everyone could have exchanged ideas with everyone else across departments. No, communication worked according to the line principle: the employee had to report to his manager, who spoke to the manager of another department, who in turn passed on the results to his employees according to the silent post principle. There was no direct communication between employees from different areas, as this would have been difficult to control.
The change – and how the corporate culture has nevertheless been preserved
Like all of us, the Group realized that it had arrived in the new era, the era of VUCA. And of course he wanted to position himself well for this and completely change his approach: The Group now needed to be fast and flexible – and also creative.
Measures that seemed suitable included streamlining or even eliminating processes, increasing the scope for decision-making and supporting cross-functional collaboration. As moral support, the employees were assured that there was now a culture of error, that mistakes were welcome and that it was okay to try things out. So far so good.
The result? You probably already guessed it: nothing.
Because the proclaimed “new culture” was not lived. The managers were still the same. They nodded through the new guidelines, but carried on as before: if errors occurred, they did not hold back on criticism and kept the scope for decision-making to a minimum to be on the safe side. And the employees also played it safe and preferred to stick to familiar routines: they followed the processes exactly and continued to ask the boss to make sure.
These new values and procedures have been proclaimed for three years now, but the themes of freedom, speed and creativity simply do not want to gain a foothold. The old management style remains, the old culture persists.

 

 

  1. The culture of competition – one against all

Our exampleCompetitive culture in the company
A sales organization
The history of corporate culture
Previously, this sales organization had rewarded lone wolf behaviour: The best salesperson was rewarded, individual target agreements were made, each salesperson sold their own products, they did not work together when products could have complemented each other. There was extreme competition among the employees: who would do the deal? When competition arose, there was a lot of jostling in the shark tank. The management had no intention of stopping this – on the contrary – they tolerated and encouraged this behavior with a slight smile. After all, competition encourages ambition – and competition stimulates business, doesn’t it?
If someone sold well, he was the star and could take it all for himself; if he broke the rules and misbehaved, he still didn’t have to fear any sanctions; after all, he was who he was. Ergo: You simply have to assert yourself against the others by all means, then it will work.
The change and how the corporate culture has nevertheless
What happened was that the world of this company changed dramatically. The business became more global: whereas it had previously been a national player with nationally operating salespeople, the business now became international and required international cooperation. It could happen, for example, that a client from London wanted to realize large projects in Berlin, Paris or New York. And the products have also become larger, more complex and require more explanation. Instead of just selling, the salespeople were often expected to provide a whole host of consulting services to accompany the projects
It was no longer enough for one salesperson alone to serve one customer: It was necessary to work together across regions and also in terms of expertise in order to keep pace with the competition. Not an easy undertaking, as the employees were not exactly known for their teamwork.
Other companies had already managed this well before: They had put together international teams with different skills. But in this company, strangely enough, it just wouldn’t work. The management never tired of preaching “Just work together! Why don’t you set up national teams?”
The winner takes it all
However, the employees, whose core competence was to achieve their victories alone, did not really trust the roast. People knew from experience that if you wanted to emerge from a challenge as a hero, you had to muster the necessary skills all by yourself, keep your information to yourself and not share too much else. The sellers also continued to pursue this type of non-collaboration. In this way, individual employees had previously been able to win in internal competition, but the company failed in international competition.
The efforts of the managers remained half-hearted, the reward system was not changed and there was no desire to cut back on sales staff. After all, they were the ones who were successful on the domestic market. What if they worked less well or even left the company because they were told to work together because their previous way of doing things no longer worked? No, we didn’t want to use this as a way of controlling them, we preferred to give them as much freedom as possible. The employees use this freedom to consistently implement the new working methods. As the employees did not change anything voluntarily and there was no directive, they continued to try to survive in the new world the old way. Of course that didn’t work…

 

Cultural Change - The cultural change in the company

 

 

Cultural Change – The cultural change in the company

Why corporate culture is so difficult to change.

Our examples have shown this: The corporate culture cannot simply be changed with a few workshops and instructions. Culture is very deeply rooted. And old habits or what people regard as right or wrong behavior, as polite or rude, as valuable or unattractive, cannot simply be changed. An old culture is persistent and usually finds ways to continue. Many organizations have already experienced this.

 

They say:
  • A new strategy is implemented in 100 days,
  • A new structure (e.g. an agile structure) is established in one year
  • It takes at least five years to develop a new culture! And – as in our example above – it can take even longer.

 

But of course you can also influence this. The more consistently you think about the cultural issues that form the basis for every change, the faster things will change in your company. It is therefore necessary to make comprehensive, far-reaching changes in many areas of the company at the same time. As we have seen, an organizational culture encompasses many factors. On the other hand, this must not happen haphazardly, so that valuable features of the old culture can be preserved.
We will now first look at where the journey is heading – in other words, what a corporate culture that is helpful for VUCA might look like and how it would be presented in our three examples. And then we give specific practical tips on what you can do to achieve a positive corporate culture.

 

 

Which corporate culture is helpful today?
– A we-oriented corporate culture!

What has happened so far…

Do we still need to maintain control?

In the past, it was important for employees in companies to follow rules, maintain order, secure success for themselves and avoid mistakes. The management set guidelines and at the same time acted as a supervisory body. In such a regimented environment, a person naturally feels externally determined – they act out of necessity rather than motivation.

Boss and subordinates, hierarchies

 

 

In most organizations we know, at least in most older, conservative companies, an employee hires like a mercenary: “I get so much money and that’s what I put into work.” Sometimes there is also commission, then you work a little more because there is also more money. But – it’s about the money. And only that.
It is not about a vision, an idea or even about the company itself. You see yourself as “bought in for other people’s purposes” and the company is experienced as a foreign entity with which you interact in order to make a living. Sometimes the fear factor even plays a role: the employee performs because he is afraid that otherwise something bad will happen: Threats of consequences, promotion freeze, dismissal.
But joy, pleasure and motivation are rarely to be found in such contexts – and no commitment that goes beyond the filthy lucre.

 

 

We solutions – we call them world solutions

There are organizations, such as associations, where there is not even money involved, but where people still put in work, time and energy because they enjoy doing it: Because they consider it meaningful, because they enjoy it, because they see themselves as belonging and have common goals.
Wouldn’t it be great for employees if they went to work feeling just like that? And wouldn’t it be an incredible benefit for companies to have such motivated employees? – When the entire workforce goes to work with the feeling: “We’re passionate about the same thing, we really want to do it – and we’re all pulling in the same direction!”
This does not have to be a utopia! The basis is a sense of togetherness through a positive corporate culture; a culture that looks for positive solutions for everyone involved: For we-solutions.

 

Globalization as the basis for sustainable success

We believe that we-solutions and we-oriented action are the basis of a positive corporate culture.
What’s more, we believe that we-solutions, which we call Welutions, are the prerequisite for acting agilely and surviving in our VUCA world in the long term.
Because fear, bureaucracy and taking advantage of each other only paralyze a company.

 

Welutions instead of Solutions – The difference

Until now, there were solutions, i.e. solo solutions. What is the difference to Welutions? Here are a few examples:
  • One solution, for example, would be individual commission in sales – where one person profits from his success. A world solution to this would be a team pot: here a whole team is interested in doing the deal.
  • A solution is when the boss decides. The opinion of the team is very important in a Welution. The team is involved in decision-making processes and decisions are made together.
  • In the case of special achievements, one solution would be to highlight the performance of an individual; another is to honor the team performance and mention everyone and show everyone that they are part of this performance and are valued.
  • One solution is to push the supplier and try to get the most for yourself. A worldution focuses on good cooperation: What does the supplier need to do a good job, have satisfied employees and remain sustainable?
  • One solution is to blame individuals for a failure. One world solution is to recognize that in today’s complex world, success or failure is usually the result of an interplay of many different factors, so we can only look together at “How can we do better?”

Welutions – the win-win-win-win solution

As you can see, globalization is a broad field that is about more than just your own advantage or that of your own company.
A Welution is a solution, an approach that benefits everyone: Me, my colleagues, the customers, the suppliers, the entire system – and ideally the world around it. – A win-win-win-win solution. But above all, it is an inner attitude that fits the modern complex world.

 

The foundations of a positive corporate culture

 

 

The foundations of a positive corporate culture
– How to create the conditions for we-solutions / world solutions

Joint reward

One of the most important foundations for how the corporate culture is aligned is the reward system: if you agree individual goals with your employees that are possibly even a little contradictory, then everyone will want to pull in the direction that is good for them – and you will hardly manage to establish a “we” culture in your company. In today’s fast-changing world, there is also a risk with individual targets on an annual basis that the targets will no longer fit when the year is not yet over. How often do employees

An example

You have a car dealership with a service department/workshop. If you reward the service department for doing a lot of repairs, then the service department will probably recommend a repair even if a car is no longer really worth repairing, but the sales department would need a hint to have a conversation with the customer about a new car. This type of reward system lets either service or sales do the business, which results in both competing against each other to some extent, rather than pursuing a goal together.
However, if you have a common salary or at least a uniform target agreement throughout the company, then this is the foundation for a “we”.
A target agreement should ensure that people see a benefit in working hand in hand. This is given, for example, by a profit share that relates to a unit that is small enough for the employee to feel that they can influence it, but large enough that everyone who should work together to achieve this profit has the same target agreement. With this method, each of your employees knows that they will participate in some way in the results and thus in the success of the company. – And he can help shape what the result looks like by working well with his colleagues.

 

Welution - Joint reward

 

 

Joint decisions or “radically decentralized”

In conservative systems, decisions are often made as follows: the manager decides and the employees implement this decision. However, this type of decision-making is now not very useful because, on the one hand, the people on the ground often know best what is needed and, on the other hand, the boss’s announcement is not very suitable for keeping creative young people in the company. But what can a new, we-oriented path to optimal decisions look like?

Give scope for action!

One solution here is for the manager – if there is one at all and a team does not decide together – to sit down with the employee and define a scope of action that is defined so broadly that the employee can complete his or her tasks without having to ask anyone.
In the case of overarching issues, the decision should be made jointly with all those involved.

Find decision mode!

However, a “joint decision” does not necessarily mean that a consensus is required, i.e. that discussions are held until everyone agrees. It is important that there is a clearly defined decision-making mode in the team. These can be different types of voting, such as a majority decision or a consensus. Consensus is a very exciting form of decision-making from holacracy: if an employee makes a suggestion, the team must implement the decision unless someone has good arguments as to why this idea should not be pursued. In these fast-moving times, this increases the organization’s speed and ability to act.
Whatever form of decision-making is used in your organization, it is important that everyone in the team has the opportunity to contribute their information, ideas and opinions.

Why is this so important?

Of course, a sense of belonging and co-determination is essential for a “we” culture. It is also beneficial to the work if everyone can understand why a decision was made this way and not otherwise and if the decision is perceived as fair by everyone; because even if one’s own point of view may not have prevailed, it has still been taken into consideration. On top of that, there are very practical arguments: employees who work close to the market, i.e. close to the customer, have the best information – and this should definitely be taken into account when making a decision.

 

Cultural change: Joint decisions

 

 

Innovating together: creativity in a team

Being creative together as a team is conducive to a sense of unity throughout the organization and thus to the corporate culture. This also strengthens the company’s ability to innovate. Team here does not mean the traditional team, which is also an organizational form, but rather bringing together different people from all areas in non-hierarchical teams. This can happen in so-called squads, a temporary form of organization outside the actual hierarchy, but also in other agile forms of work, such as design sprints, in which new ideas are developed in a team in a short period of time (hence sprint).
The creative process is usually most fruitful when you bring together as many different disciplines, departments and characters as possible. Make sure that the people involved know each other, can assess each other and, ideally, have already worked together and trust each other.
Why is trust so important here? As described in detail in our article Team development: How a group becomes a team, newly formed groups tend to remain polite at first and filter their opinions heavily. – But if not everyone contributes their ideas and views openly, then teamwork is no better than working alone.

 

Culture - Innovating together: creativity in a team

 

 

Welutions in practice

What would be world solutions – we-oriented solutions – for the problems of the three companies in our examples?

 

  1. Example – a worldution for the culture of fear
    – Creativity instead of fear – just give it a try

The counterpart to the culture of fear from the medium-sized company mentioned above is a culture of doing, of trying things out:
The managers involve the employees in topics and processes and they have ideas and implement them independently. When it comes to creativity and trial and error, employees receive full support from managers, for example by rewarding activity instead of punishing mistakes.
A clear sign of this is to celebrate mistakes. What can this look like?
In some companies, mistakes are pitched and celebrated as lessons learned. Many companies are already doing this.
However, the reality of most companies is still miles away from this “we” solution. Implementing a new culture is a long-term process. Later on, we will discuss the specific steps you can take to gradually change the culture of your organization towards a “we” culture.

 

Practice Welutions we-oriented solutions

 

 

  1. Example – a worldution for the bureaucratic culture
    Lean processes instead of paper wars

Here, too, it is important to promote independent thinking and action: instead of micromanagement and process specifications down to the smallest detail, it is necessary to significantly increase the scope for decision-making at the grassroots level. For managers, this means leaving decisions to the employees even if they try to delegate decisions upwards out of old habit.
Above all, processes need to be abolished or at least significantly streamlined.
Ideally, the employees do this themselves:
In working groups with all employees, they adapt the processes to the actual needs, redefine them and discard unnecessary specifications. This process optimization should remain a permanent task for the employees.
The task of management is only to ensure that this optimization process gets and stays in motion. Managers should not influence the way in which processes are changed, as the new processes must be employee solutions. Only when employees actively shape processes together, ideally across hierarchies and departments, will new forms of collaboration emerge.
However, it will not be possible to take all employees with you, as some will not change after years of bureaucratic thinking and action.

 

Corporate culture change for competitive culture

 

 

  1. Example: A worldution for the competitive culture
    – All for one goal, instead of everyone for their own goal

The employees of the sales organization first need a common goal and a common reward, such as a team commission.
The cooperation of several people on one goal probably has to be instructed in this organization first. This is exciting – because in the long term, we want to move away from top-down instructions in a “we” culture. However, there are cases where an instruction is necessary as a start pulse, as otherwise nothing would change.
(Incidentally, there are parallels here with the women’s quota: a new culture can only establish itself through a clear guideline, because if there is no clear impetus, everything remains unchanged in the old culture).
By the way, Clare Graves’ Spiral Dynamics model helps us to know which methods are best suited to advancing change: the organization responds best to the methods that fit into the value system in which it currently finds itself.

 

At this point, we would like to refer you once again to our articles on the topics of values, the Spiral Dynamics model and Clare Graves:

 

 

Cultural change success tips

 

 

10 cultural change success tips: How to shape cultural change in your organization

Now that we have dealt in detail with what corporate culture is, where it manifests itself and how it can have an impact; what “we” culture is and how it can be lived, we would like to give you some practical tips on how you can gradually initiate cultural change in your organization.

 

 

  1. Get the top management on board!

A change in your corporate culture can only work if top management is behind it. Unfortunately, change processes that are controlled by the HR department, the IT department or elsewhere in an attempt to change the corporate culture in a guerilla-like manner or simply introduce digitalization do not work. Even if top management torpedoes changes, they are doomed to failure. So your first step should be to get top management on board, because you will need their full support all the time.
How can you tackle this?
In our work, it has proven successful to organize a kick-off with the entire management team. This is how we achieve commitment and create an understanding of what this new culture actually is. Because understanding this process of change and its necessity on a cognitive level does not yet mean having understood it emotionally or even living the change.
If the existing culture has been influenced by the current management, then the work with the top management should be particularly intensive, because then a real change involves the willingness of every manager to change. This requires a great deal of insight on the part of the leadership and an equally great determination to really act differently in future, otherwise it will be difficult to change anything. A change in leadership is usually the easier option. But we have also experienced the other way.

 

Cultural change Involving management and executives

 

 

  1. Work with all managers!

Another important step in cultural change is to involve all managers. After all, it is the managers who have a decisive influence on the culture of an organization, each in their own area. This means that the actions of the top manager influence all those who work under him and each manager influences his own area. So the lower down an employee is employed, the more management is above them and has an impact on their area.
This can be compared to colors that mix: each manager brings in their own color and ultimately everything is dipped in a certain shade from the very top. This visual representation shows that cultural work requires very intensive work with all managers.

What can working with managers look like?

Organize cultural workshops! This is where you experience yourself together, reflect on how the interaction works, what is helpful and what is not. A common direction in which the company would like to develop is worked out, what this means and concrete measures are derived from this. Individual management development and coaching support this process.
The aim is for every manager to realize what it means for them to actually live this new culture and for all managers to have the same image, the same vision of the new culture. If everyone has had the same training in this respect, then you talk about the same things, then you have been able to develop a common attitude.
The more extensive these measures are, the better. Cultural change is progressing very slowly. It is important to constantly engage with it, because mindsets only change over time. This is not something that can be dealt with in one or two days!

Change or switch management!

It is possible that top management recognizes that some of the executives do not fit into the new culture. It is very important here to find a way to take the managers out of the system and bring new managers on board; managers who already embody the new culture. Of course, you should first try to implement the cultural change with the current managers. Sometimes, however, it can help to bring in a breath of fresh air.
We have already experienced in our work that managers have really changed extensively, that they have realized that they are living in a new era in which different behavior is desired. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. If a manager does not succeed in changing and could thus hinder the change in the entire company, it is crucial for the change to make clear cuts and find someone who lives and spreads the new corporate culture.

 

 

  1. Organize cocktail workshops!

A cocktail workshop? Sounds good – but what is it? Cocktail workshops are workshops in which employees with different functions, from different departments, perhaps even different locations, talk to each other about the topic of culture.
What is being targeted here?
It is about thinking about the existing culture and the desired culture, dissolving internal boundaries and creating networks so that a new communication behavior can be established. The aim is also to enable employees to get to know the diversity of the company. Because if you talk to other departments, you automatically develop an understanding for their concerns, which in turn has an extremely positive effect on cooperation. And last but not least: such events strengthen the sense of unity!

 

Cultural change Change employee workshop

 

 

  1. Organize employee workshops!

Employee workshops are organized to involve all employees in the cultural change – regardless of the size of the company. It is not necessary to hire 1000 external moderators for this. On the contrary: it is better if the moderators come from the company itself in order to stimulate dialog among the employees with a predefined structure and a targeted goal. This should certainly also be about culture, but also about other topics in which employees make decisions. In this way, a new culture is slowly emerging, because the things that are supposed to run on their own in the future are done in a very structured way: Employees talk and decide together on relevant topics.

 

 

  1. Change the company structure!

Restructuring can be a very good tool to positively influence a culture! If your company has worked together on a functional basis up to now, for example, salespeople are in a team with salespeople, accountants with accountants and so on, then you could, for example, ensure that there are now cross-functional team structures. What does that mean? All functions included in a workstream – from the first customer contact to the invoice – for example marketing, production, project management, sales and accounting work together in one team. In order for all the functions required to map a workflow to work together successfully, they must be very closely coordinated, i.e. the greatest possible exchange and sharing of information is required. This flow of communication influences the culture immensely.
This is because the barriers between departments, through which information previously flowed inadequately or not at all, or where decisions were not previously made, are no longer there. By exchanging ideas, it is possible to decide what is good for the customer and what is good for the company.
And, of course, restructuring also promotes changes in behavior: The entrenched, previous behavior breaks down and openness to new things emerges. This openness, this opportunity to reorient oneself offers an excellent chance to say: “We are now starting the new team with a new culture!”

 

 

  1. Redesign the environment!

If you change the premises of your company, cultural change will also be reflected in everyday life.
One company that we have supported has significantly restructured its office in parallel with the cultural change process: Individual gray-on-gray offices became open-plan shared offices with lots of chill-out corners in between. Cheerful colors were chosen, there were corners to communicate, corners where you could talk on the phone in peace – all in all, this created an atmosphere of openness and space in which you could feel comfortable.

 

Cultural Change Office Workplace Design

 

 

  1. Establish a new reward system!

We have already discussed this in detail elsewhere: The reward system is one of the most important foundations of a corporate culture.
Abolish individual commissions! Reward the whole team! And involve your employees in the success of your company! So that teamwork pays off and employees are interested in making your company successful.

 

 

  1. Use other working methods!

If your company’s employees work together in a completely different way than before, this will naturally also change the culture.
For example, you used to run project management in the traditional way using the waterfall method. From now on you work with Scrum. The fact that this way of working focuses on teamwork, that there is regular communication with everyone involved, that decisions are made in a completely different way, that employees work in a self-organized rather than regulated way, automatically creates a different way of working together, a different culture.
It is said that agile methods cannot be successfully introduced without the corporate culture also becoming agile. It’s a bit like the question of the chicken or the egg. What to start with? As you have read, many other factors are needed to change the culture and so it is advisable to change the working methods in parallel in the course of a cultural change. Change goes hand in hand: people change when they behave differently. And when a person changes, their behavior also changes, among other things.

 

 

You can find an overview of agile working methods in our article

 

Cultural change Processes, communication, behavior

 

 

  1. Optimize communication channels and communication behavior within the company!

Make sure that all employees are involved, that there is transparency and that management can communicate as directly as possible with all employees. Whether directly or via video conference – the communication channels naturally depend on the size of the company. To ensure that information that is of interest to everyone reaches everyone, maintain the communication cascades with middle managers!
Introduce new communication channels! What could that be? For example, an intranet or an Internet chat function such as Slack. Such communication options show employees that they are involved, that they receive all the information and can participate in decision-making. And ultimately this changes the culture.
One of our customers introduced a chat program with a voting function. This meant that ideas could be made available company-wide and all employees who wanted to could comment and vote on them.
Of course, you should consider beforehand which decisions you can share with all employees and whether you can make a majority decision. However, whenever this is possible – do it! It makes a big difference when employees have the feeling: my opinion counts, I am being asked.

 

 

  1. Get support!

You have seen: Corporate culture is deeply rooted, has many facets and factors and can only be changed very slowly. As part of the existing system and culture, it is often difficult to break out of habitual behavior and pull the entire company along with you.
Therefore: Get external support to carry out an objective analysis of your existing culture, to develop a vision of what your organizational culture could look like one day, to guide appropriate steps, to stand by you in the event of obstacles and to keep an eye on whether things are actually moving forward.

 

If you are interested in the topic of corporate culture and cultural change or are looking for support. We are there for you with help and advice.
Get in touch with us!

 

Read our tips on how to successfully initiate change in your company:
Change Manager: Leading change successfully – definition, background, tips

 

 

Further reading on the topic of corporate culture

The authors

Oliver_Grätsch_550x550px
Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
Christian_Grätsch_1_550x550px
Christian Grätsch
Matthias-Beikert-550-550
Matthias Beikert
Susanne_Grätsch_1_550x550px
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai_Hübner_550x550px
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
berliner_team_Isabell_1
Anna Isabell Arendt
Claudia_Schmidt_550x550px
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga_Kühn_550x550px
Inga Kühn
BT_Web_Team_Knebel_550x550
Kassandra Knebel
BT_Web_Team_Lehmann_550x550
Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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