Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
The back story
We were called in to work with a local council facing a tough challenge. With the Government imposing a further £82m of cuts from 2014 - 2018 on them and a rising need for their services, the council knew they needed to be ‘more commercial.’ But what does that mean in the public sector?
The council had ambitious regeneration plans as well as creating income generation opportunities through new business ventures and making savings through sharing services with other councils. However, their CEO recognised that without an internal culture change programme, these strategies may not deliver against their potential.
With this in mind, they asked Ixia to help them identify the traits of their current culture and articulate the traits of the culture they needed for the future to deliver successfully on their ambition.
In addition, they wanted a new set of organisational values which would guide them through the challenges they faced over the coming years.
Firstly, we held a morning session with the extended leadership team (approx 30 senior managers, including the CEO and Directors) to discuss organisational culture, share views of the current culture and start a debate and discussion about how they wanted to generate success in the future. Having initially resisted spending 3 hours on the topic, they had such an insightful debate that they wanted to extend to a secondary session to focus even more time on this important topic.
After listening to the views of the senior management team it was equally important to understand how different employees from around the organisation viewed the changes needed. To recognise the challenge on external spending we trained up members of the internal OD team to hold the same sessions we’d had with the leadership team with employee groups. We taught the team all the ins and outs of organisational culture, our approach and how to collect quality data. The team did a fantastic job and engaged with over 100 staff members in just a few weeks.
Back at Ixia HQ we analysed the insights from all the sessions and shared the outputs with the leadership team, guiding them through a final debate to agree the emphasis for the future. The discussion was so powerful that it resulted in complete buy-in and ownership from the whole team.
We offered the values as a straw man for them to shape and own as they saw fit, but they loved our recommendations from first sight! They believed that they resonated with their journey and what they needed from everyone in the organisation. They ‘felt right’ because they came from their own data and debates and were formed from the words they used. They were pure and hadn’t been over-engineered, over-thought or tinkered with and reflected the heart of the many discussions we'd listened to.
The leadership team now have a really clear idea of the culture they do and do not want to create. They recognise that the right culture will generate success and have a common language that they use to discuss it and hold each other to account.