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Defining Culture Excellence: The Foundation of a Thriving Organisation

An article in the Roadmap Game series, by Niels Kooi

As part of the Culture Excellence article series on the Roadmap Game, our cornerstone Define service is where the magic happens. It's about more than just setting goals; it's about defining the very essence of the aspired culture, in a highly inclusive way. This is where the roadmap to a thriving organisation takes shape - a roadmap that aligns seamlessly with the strategic agenda, ensuring that every cultural nuance contributes to overarching business objectives.

The Importance and Understanding of Culture Strategy: Articulating the culture strategy is a pivotal moment in the first stage of our culture change services: Define, Activate, Measure, Live. It involves carefully choosing, based on the unique needs of the organisation, whether to transform an existing culture, merge cultures after an acquisition, scale culture for growth, or continue to develop an existing cultural identity with some maintenance or repair activities. This strategic decision sets the tone for the entire cultural journey, guiding subsequent actions and initiatives.

Participants must first establish the type of culture strategy - or combination of strategies - that aligns with their organisational goals. Here's a brief exploration of the four primary culture strategies:

  1. Transforming: Adapting the current culture to align with new market conditions, disruptive strategies, or leadership changes. A journey of evolution, ensuring the culture is better suited for the organisation's new direction.

  2. Merging: Clarifying, defining, and engaging employees in merging cultures, fostering a smooth unification of entities during mergers. Unveiling a shared culture that reflects the best of both worlds, creating synergy and unity.

  3. Scaling: Balancing the founder's spirit with the growth beliefs of the workforce during rapid company expansion. A delicate task of scaling the culture while preserving the positive aspects of the previous phase.

  4. Developing: Continuous growth is the goal, and a strong, healthy culture is the key to faster growth. Like brushing teeth, maintaining, nurturing, or repairing culture is essential to sustain growth.

The Define stage is by no means a closed-door strategy session. It's about inclusivity. Involving a diverse range of perspectives ensures that the culture strategy is not only strategic but also reflective of the collective aspirations of the people within and outside of the organisation. This inclusivity is the secret sauce that fosters buy-in and commitment from all levels.

Navigating the Define Stage with the Roadmap Game: In the heart of the Define stage lies the innovative Roadmap Game - an interactive, engaging experience that brings culture planning to life. Within this game, participants are presented with a selection of best practices, each representing a unique facet of the tactics of implementing a culture strategy. The selection is based on a combination of our experience and the outcome of intake interviews with the participants. During the roadmap game, the selected best practices are unveiled in short, informative presentations, and participants receive corresponding cards that symbolise these concepts.

The real magic happens when these cards find their place on the individual roadmaps. Each participant, armed with their unique insights, builds their roadmap using the best practices that resonate most with them. At the end of the Define stage, participants gather to compare their roadmaps, ensuring that cards unanimously selected make it to the combined roadmap. Those requiring discussion among the group are thoughtfully considered, fostering a collaborative approach to culture strategy. Our role is to ensure that the energy in these discussions is channelled and that the end result provides a nice balance between group (organisational, leadership, team), individual, and systemic interventions (processes, office layout, other assets, etc.).

Every game is different, as it is tailored to the organisational challenge and strategy, but to give you an example of the typical interventions that are discussed in this part of the roadmap game, the following five often make it to the shortlist:

  • Company values, and how to inclusively decide on them, given the company strategy

  • Start-up toolkit of behavioural best practices per value, and how to create the toolkit, ensuring relevance for the target audience

  • Behaviour brand (the “just do it” of your company), and how to find one matching the external identity (reputation, brand) with the internal one (culture, way of working)

  • Guiding principles to align processes to the aspired culture, and how to safeguard that both content and the way the processes are run match the culture

  • KPIs and reporting, and how to make sure the ‘fluffy stuff’ is contributing to your strategic objectives and is measured in a relevant way

Preparing for Engage: As we navigate the Define stage, we are laying the groundwork for the next thrilling chapter - Engage. This is where the aspired culture comes to life through engaging, energetic tools, and interventions with key stakeholders. The Define stage is the launching pad, propelling the organisation into a phase of activation and dynamic cultural engagement.

To summarise: in the Define stage, we don't just set goals; we sculpt the very foundation of organisational identity. It's the starting point for a cultural journey that will empower, engage, and elevate your organisation to new heights. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the subsequent stages of culture change planning, each playing a unique role in the unfolding narrative of your culture excellence.


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