I arrived in Australia to work and to spend Christmas.
Culture has a much higher profile in this country than I have found in the rest of the world. Whereas in other countries I often find culture as a bullet point filed under leadership or talent management, in Australia the prevaling view is that culture is a critical driver and one which can be managed and measured. Most organizations are measuring their culture using Human Synergistics tool OCI. 4000 people attended the HS Conference in September, and Human Synergistics have done a great job at lifting the profile of culture as a management tool. Many companies give their most senior HR person the title "People & Culture". A few organizations have successfully changed their culture in a relatively short time frame and delivered good business performance. Some have run programs but not seen real change. Some find themselves trapped in a framework which they have communicated but are now not sure how to execute.
The OCI tool is an effective measure of the basics characteristics valuable for every culture - responsibility, open-ness and a lack of defensiveness. But it is a very complicated tool to communicate, and can lead to a dependence on the OCI language which actually disconnects leaders from their own expression of values. Work is required to continually link the OCI language to the strategy and aspirations of the individual company. Yes, cultures need to be "more blue" but how does a leader easily link this to what is needed in day-to-day execution of strategy.
My suggestions to Australian companies who are using OCI and looking for a next step:
- Introduce a much simpler tool in parallel to OCI, and use some qualitative work to support. Use qualitative work to understand the specifics of the behaviours, symbols and systems which underpin your current culture. Human Synergistics OEI tool does not give the specificity required to really prepare a culture plan.
- Reconnect your culture efforts to your own strategic direction, focussing on the few behaviors which are most critical for your business. Safety, or teamwork, or customer centricity.
- Create the feedback loop for leaders to define the critical changes to their own behavior that will send the message that they want things to change. Make this personal again, and worded in personal language, not OCI terms. Listen more. Spend time with customers. Have difficult conversations.
I encourage Australian leaders and consultants to take pride in what has been achieved and have confidence in themselves. The groundwork has been set. Leaders need to take charge and enfuse their efforts with their own language, their own expectations and their own humanity. And, if they do not feel that this is the top priority for them right now, to have the courage to walk away. Going through the motions, or turning this into a task for HR, would be the worst possible outcome.