Targeted Cultural Assessment

Organizations comprise many interweaving patterns of belief and behavior: patterns driving customer satisfaction; patterns shaping employee engagement; patterns determining the effectiveness internal communication – up, down, and across the organization; and so on.

Any such patterns are hard to improve with the tools most often employed: (1) more talk and (2) more training. If the root of the problem were “absence of information and skills,” then, those alone might work. But it’s usually a little more complex than that.

Think of your organization as a ship with many rudders. The more rudders you align to the same direction, the more you are setting your organization’s course, and not just managing its drift.

Each rudder is a performance driver. They may include obvious influencers, such as perceived promotion criteria, the consequences of raising problems to one’s boss, recruitment and hiring practices, and even organizational structural elements such as layering and cross-organizational process design. And, yes, training and communication practices.

Although the list of possible drivers is almost endless, the “rudder profile” for any organization will be subtle and unique.

In ELG’s practice, we seek to understand the behavioral pattern sought by leadership – and the performance drivers that need to change to match that pattern. A typical issue: “Our technicians need to give our customers more attention, helping them understand what we’re doing to support them.” Or, “Our mid-level leaders need to spend more time collaborating to solve problems – and spend less time explaining why something’s not their fault. Or, tardiness issues, or harassment issues, morale issues, or . . . any organizational trend that needs re-direction, and isn’t just a problem with one or two bad apples. (Though, we find that some of those do benefit from our leadership coaching services, which is normally, otherwise aimed at “high potential” employees.) ELG then works to determine what factors could be arranged (and barriers removed) to support that goal. We will assess the issue, make recommendations and, if desired, we can help implement the resulting plan.

Past Project Samples

CULTURE CHANGE As he entered his job, General David Goldfein, Service Chief of the Air Force, declared “Squadron Revitalization,” a major cultural change, his top priority. Accordingly, he stood up a core team of experienced Airman led by a respected general. Their mission: assess Air Force’s culture and come back with diagnoses and prescriptions for how to revitalize Air Force’s squadrons.

ELG provided the primary senior advisory services to that team, including training them on the approach and skills required for a comprehensive cultural assessment. ELG traveled with the core team to help gather critical inputs as part of the effort. ELG’s work included designing and conducting large (100-person) collaborative working sessions to ensure comprehensive and diverse inputs, plus Air Force-wide support for change.

After that assessment phase, ELG played the lead role in developing the strategic solution framework delivered to General Goldfein. Solutions are now being implemented by Air Force leadership.

For a very readable summary of that work, see “A Model of Air Force Squadron Vitality,” lead article in Air & Space Power Journal, Winter 2018.

ORGANIZATIONAL PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT A leading technology innovator, a Fortune 500 company, was attempting a joint project with two other companies. The project would produce an important advance in product design and performance. The project could boost all three companies’ revenues, but only if the project could hit critical market windows. This would require efficient processes, effective collaboration, and strong ethical behavior in order to ensure each organization’s intellectual property was preserved. Unfortunately, foot dragging and stove piping by middle managers in all three companies threatened to undermine the entire effort.

The Vice President of Engineering asked ELG to assess the situation and recommend improvements. Through interviews and observation, ELG examined organizational issues and process design, and then designed steps to remedy the situation.

The companies executed ELG’s recommendations and later reported a consequent cut in projected product development cycle time by 51%, which netted increased revenues of over $100MM. This multi-company project succeeded, and ELG’s recommendations were carried forward on other projects, as well.

Our Thinking

Our thinking is guided by decades of experience and by behavioral science. You can get a sense of our angle on things by perusing our book, Executive Smarts, or by browsing our past articles. Or, just ask us.