The Diversity Coach™ on Culture

Over 80% of all change initiatives either fail or severely underperform. The primary reason for this failure usually relates to the reaction of the organization's culture.

Change efforts include mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, rightsizing, or any of the many strategic focus initiatives like six-sigma, innovation, performance enhancement, and learning organization. If you accept the fact that diversity management also involves change and, in fact, is a change initiative, then you would be remiss if you failed to examine your culture as part of the execution process.

The Diversity Coach™ is the leading provider of culture assessments as part of a diversity management strategy. Our CultureScan™ process has revolutionized the planning and execution of a diversity management strategy.  The exclusive “Leverage Behavior” process allows clients to focus on those specific behaviors that need to be addressed and replaced.  We believe so strongly in this process that we often insist that it be a part of a client engagement.

So, what is culture and why is it so important to a change initiative? 

Organizational culture describes “how we do things around here.”  It is the collective personality of the organization. It is the subconscious or unconscious driver of daily behavior in the organization.  Everyone in the company “knows” what is acceptable and what is not acceptable at the organization. However, very few could actually put words to the values and the assumptions that produce those behaviors. They don’t know “why” it is acceptable or customary.

The last one to discover water is a fish

Just as it would take an outsider to introduce water to a fish, it takes an objective and experienced professional to help leaders of an organization articulate and codify the collective culture.  Insiders can’t see it because it is such a natural part of the environment that it is easy to overlook.

The value of having culture codified and reduced to paper lies in the ability to analyze, question, and target specific behaviors that need to change if the organization wants to continue to be successful in a changing environment.  Remember, it is patterns of success in a given environment that established culture in the first place.  It’s only logical then that behaviors need to be examined when the environment changes significantly. Culture can be the source of your success, and it can be the source of failure.

Each of us has our own unique personality that drives our behaviors. For the most part, “being me” works well and produces good outcomes. However, occasionally we get into “bad habits”. Those are times when we notice that “acting naturally” has unintended consequences.  In like manner, an organization’s culture can also generate “bad habits”.  It doesn’t happen right away, but over time the collective behavior of an organization can produce what we call “creeping behaviors”.  Examples of “creeping behaviors” include:

  •  the habit of wearing dark suits, white shirts and red ties when clients tend to dress more casually, or
  • the habit of telling clients what good service looks like, or
  • the habit of delivering messages through back- channeling (tell someone who will tell someone who will tell the subject person), or
  • the habit of expecting all employees to figure out how to be successful.

When “creeping behaviors” are identified, and it’s clear that they may inhibit success in the existing and emerging environment, leaders of the organization should feel compelled to install “leverage behaviors” in their place.

Some may ask “why replace behaviors?”  Why not just eliminate them?  Well the answer lies in nature.  Human behavior is consistent with natural law.  For example, the only way to overcome darkness is to introduce light.  In like manner, to overcome the impact of a “creeping behavior”, we must introduce a “leverage behavior”.  Without a replacement behavior that has a pattern of success, people will tend to “lapse back to natural”, that is, to do “what we’ve always done” (because it worked in the past).

Our process calls for identifying no more than three (3) leverage behaviors and equipping leaders to focus on them over a five to seven year period.  That’s right; culture is so intractable that it takes that long to get an organization to fully believe that the new behaviors are now the accepted norm.

A CultureScan™ is not an employee survey.  It is not an opinion or attitude assessment.  It is instead akin to an archaeological dig.  It requires a fair amount of research, including: review of existing employee surveys, interviews with senior executives, focus groups, archival research, and summarizing the history of the organization.  What we’re looking for is the genesis and evidence of the continuation of core beliefs and values and the resulting behaviors.  We have discovered from conducting hundreds of CultureScan™ that within every organization the influence of the founding leaders is profound.  There is always clear evidence of the impact of the founding leader’s values and behavior systems resident at organizations that are hundreds of years old.

So, why do we insist on a CultureScan™ as part of any change initiative?  The answer is simple.  We want to improve the probability that the change effort will be successful. Without a thorough understanding of culture, odds are only 20% that you will get the outcomes that you’re expecting.  Why not invest in a process that triples the odds of success?

Culture Scan

Diversity & Culture

Organizational culture is a key component of effective diversity management. Learn how to inspire a workplace culture built on celebrating individual strengths.

If we do not understand culture, any change initiative is a game of darts played blindfolded. Culture is subconscious, and it informs every aspect of life within an organization. By understanding the unique personality of an organization, we can identify the barriers that may impede efforts to implement a diversity management strategy, as well as the behaviors that we can leverage for effective, sustainable progress. CultureScan™ is an investigative tool that takes off the blindfold and maps out organizational culture so we can influence it to internalize and execute the desired change.

CultureScan™ is a two to three month process that fully examines an organization’s personality and readiness for change. Of critical importance is the participation of leaders and an internal culture team, comprised of a diverse range of people from all levels of the organization. The insights of this team are invaluable, and the bottom-up approach supports top-down leadership, increasing engagement and buy-in. Other information-gathering methods include:

    • Interviews with senior executives.
    • Focus groups.
    • Surveys
    • Archival research.

The data that results from this comprehensive process is analyzed and used to create targeted recommendations. With these, we can develop strategy to counter obstacles and strengthen and support the behaviors that will drive change. The Diversity CoachSM invites you to explore these resources to learn more about CultureScan™ and how it can be the first step in implementing a diversity management strategy and making it an ingrained part of your culture.

Strategic Partners on Culture