Culture Chat

And other musings on humanizing the workplace
Telling the Story of Your Culture

Telling the Story of Your Culture

January 25, 2017
Jamie Notter

I love data. I’m a cyclist, and in the group of friends I ride with, I’m known as “stats,” because I am always the one to report on our average speed and the number of feet we climbed, etc. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that in our Workplace Genome we have lots of cultural data to share with clients. I’ve debriefed Genomes with a few clients over the last few weeks (including our very first “Volunteer Genome” where we gathered data from volunteers in an association, rather than just staff), and I love to point out the interesting dynamics or questions that emerge from the data presentations.

But the data alone will never encapsulate your culture. Workplace culture is something that is created and shared among human beings, and humans fundamentally make sense of their world through story. Numbers are certainly a part of the story, but they can only be a part. You need a richer set of descriptors, characters, relationships, tension, aspirations, and both problems and solutions. You need a coherent story.

So in addition to the data, the Workplace Genome provides some language. For example, it gives you descriptors of each of the 64 building blocks in your culture, based directly on the data in those blocks. You’re not just interpreting a number. You’re interpreting potential pieces of your story. And as you emerge from the assessment, one of your primary tasks is to pull together that story, that clear picture of what is truly valued inside your organization and how that drives your success and growth.

Is yours a culture where people can easily get permission to jump in and try to “hack” processes in new ways to uncover new value? Or is yours a culture where you have put in place controls to prevent things from changing too quickly or without enough oversight? The former might be perfect for a software company, but the latter might also be perfect for a nuclear power plant. The story is only complete when it clarifies what makes you successful, in your context.

The only way your people will connect to your new culture is if they understand and can see themselves in the story. That’s why core values are never enough. That’s why a good strategic plan is not enough. That’s why smart leaders aren’t enough. The organizations that are defining the future of work will certainly have those elements, but they also have nailed the story of their culture so that the elements are woven together, and that’s what sets them apart.

By the way, if you want to see how the data and story come together in the Workplace Genome, contact us for a demo. I know I’m biased, but it’s pretty cool, so check it out!

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