Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Solution-Focused Culture

Beginning the end in mind - figure out what you want your organization to be.

Culture can either lift or stifle an organization’s growth and maturity. When people talk about changing the organizational culture, what do they mean? Is that the vision/mission no longer relevant? Does that the values of the organization need to change? Or does that their people need to act or operate differently - and why would that be? So how often does the culture (vision, mission, values) need to change, rather than the way people in the organization are really living up to those that are stated? And how do you align or realign people and their work with the culture! What are the principles and practices to build a solution-focused culture to catalyze strategy implementation?

Leaders need to set transformational principles to develop a solution-focused culture: Organizational culture embodies the values and attitudes of its leadership. Culture sits deep in any organization; it is the bedrock on which organization's foundation finds its base. To effect any form of change in any organization, its culture needs to be clearly understood. In the globalized business environment, very often people of various nations/cultures are in various facets/functions. Leaders who work from transformational principles can develop an organizational culture which is solution-focused, synergistic, and highly productive. Aligning the organization’s policy, procedure, and communication with these principles can support positive cultural shifts. An organization whose leadership aligns mission, strategy, operations, and outcomes within positive cultural norms, is an algorithm for success. As a result, a culture of shared leadership should evolve. When this occurs within an organization, accountability and 'ownership' shifts from a few titled leaders to all leaders. Organizational culture is a set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations. Although a company may have its "own unique culture," there can be diverse and sometimes conflicting cultures that coexist due to different characteristics of the management team. The organizational culture may also have negative and positive aspects which can affect employees own perceptions and identification with the organizational culture. Thus, those that have the most effective organizational culture are where the senior team really live the mission, values, and ethos of the organization - and don't just pay lip-service to it. Other people in the organization will then follow that lead.

Cross-functional collaboration is crucial to building a solution-focused culture: Organizational culture is the behavior of humans who are part of an organization. Culture includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs, and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. Building a solution-focused culture enables an organization to implement strategy more effectively. Look for creative, cost-effective opportunities to develop cross-functional teams, when appropriate, and to bring together people who would not typically have the opportunity to communicate in the day-to-day operations. Encourage feedback and even complaints to be addressed within the context of solution-focused problem-solving.
Beginning the end in mind -figure out what you want your organization to be: Humans are complex ones that unless they are convinced no change can be brought about. Aligning a workforce toward intentional cultural shifts can be quite complex depending on the intended departure from the baseline culture. Obviously, each organization is different, so it isn't a one size fits all process. But there are principles that may apply to most. Include key stakeholders within the organization early on is helpful. In order to cultivate a solution-focused culture, assess where the organization is regarding the impending change. Set a realistic timeline and some measurable outcomes.

Synergy and creativity can be helpful drivers for shaping a solution-focused culture. Identify "ambassadors" within the ranks. Have an advisory committee review policy, procedure, and communication within the organization to ensure the infrastructure supports the shifts. Be ready and willing to eliminate what clearly isn't working. Deep cultural shifts happen over time. But you can use an iterative improvement strategy to guide the forward movement. There is so much good information out there that can facilitate cultural development. The challenge, or to perceive positively, the opportunity, is getting the top-down and bottom-up buy-in and being consistent with the process over time. Results should be defined in explicit understandable and tangible terms so that workers, management, board members and other key stakeholders will partner in this mission.

Building a solution-focused culture starts with visionary leadership and high-engaging employees, and they have a clear understanding of strategy to keep the end in mind. Once people gain new perspectives about change, change can happen very quickly and people will not go back to their old way of thinking. That's when culture change is accelerated and becomes sustainable.


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