Like so many organizations in transition, the Kauffman Scholars Program faced the difficult challenge of transforming itself from the inside out. They asked us to help them design a framework for cultural transformation and we enthusiastically accepted the assignment. The first thing we did was to help them form a culture transformation working group comprised of a cross-section of the organization. Once the group was formed, we coached them on various tactics and strategies they could use to manage the change process. We even flew out to Kansas City so we could present our Symphonic Framework for Cultural Transformation to the leadership team and their staff. They were able to use our framework to guide the organization through a difficult period, resulting in a new direction for the organization.
We believe that the keys to successfully transforming the culture inside of an organization rest in the following:
- A vision that is clear, shared, and that offers a compelling destination.
- A common currency that can be readily and consistently exchanged between team members (e.g., rituals and/or symbols that demonstrate “spirit of generosity”).
- A collection of agreed-upon, rules—formal and informal—that inform how team members engage, interact, and work with each other (e.g., “When we are in a meeting, we attend jointly to the task at hand. This means it is culturally inappropriate to consistently check your PDA or iPAD while others are talking.”).
- A common language that begins to establish a common identity.
- An operating process that reinforces new cultural values, beliefs, and behaviors (e.g., a new format for team meetings or a new seating chart in the building).
- A performance management process that commands and rewards collective commitment to the vision, strategy, or mission/purpose of the team (e.g., new criteria for recruiting, hiring, and promotion).
- A professional development program that trains, coaches, and equips individual team members with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement the vision in ways that elevate and enhance the new culture (e.g., regular seminars and webinars that teach behaviors and shape attitudes that reinforce the cultural values).