The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Shifting A Culture By Building Successful Prototypes

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Imagine you have been invited to lead an organisation. Your brief is to improve the results by changing the culture.

You have several options for making this happen. These include:

You can urge everybody to change and put them through a conventional change programme.

You can fire everybody and start again with a blank piece of paper.

You can create the desired future culture by building successful prototypes. You can then invite people to choose whether or not they want to join this culture.

Savvy leaders often go for the latter option. Why? They understand systems theory.

Systems follow the law of homeostasis – they keep returning back to their present state. It can be exhausting to try to change the system. You can create a new system with new rules.

Good leaders also recognise the importance of language. It is good to stress that you are aiming to Build the New, rather than trying to Change the Old. The language is pioneering. This provides more positive energy than urging people to change.

How to make this happen? One way is to start by building successful prototypes. The new approach can then be implemented across the organisation. Let’s explore how to take these steps.

You can build
successful prototypes

Imagine that you want to build an organisation that delivers exceptional customer service. You want to begin by building prototypes that demonstrate this approach. Here are some steps towards making this happen.

You can set up the
prototypes to succeed

Looking around the different departments, rate the chances of success of running such a pilot. Go with the positive energy. Clarify where the chances are at least 8/10 and then choose where you will build the prototypes.

Another option is to go for a Green Field site. This may be a new site with new people who will adopt a new approach.

You can appoint the right people, make clear contracts
and give them the support they need to succeed

Get the right people in place – especially the right leaders – otherwise you are sunk. Agree with the leaders on the following things.

The What

The specific results to be delivered.

The Why

The benefits – for all stakeholders – of delivering these results.

The How

The key strategies – the principles – people can follow to deliver the results. It will be important, however, to give the leaders freedom, within parameters, regarding how they implement these principles.

The Who

The responsibilities of the various people on the road towards delivering the results.

The When

The specific things that must be delivered – and by When – on the road to achieving the results.

Make clear working contracts with people who are going to build the prototypes. Give them the support they need to achieve success.

You can ring fence the prototypes
in order to help them to succeed

Why? Sometimes old systems try to stop new ones from succeeding, so it is vital to provide protection. Organisations sometimes give double messages, such as:

“We want you to be creative and deliver results in the new world. We also want you to follow the old rules to achieve these results.”

You can encourage people
to share the success stories

Encourage people to get some early wins, build positive momentum and publicise these wins.

Set a date for an event in 6 months time where they will present their success stories. Sounds challenging, but people respond to deadlines.

You can do everything possible to
ensure the prototypes deliver success

You can provide an inspiring vision, but it is up to the prototype builders to do the work. Keep in touch with them, but in a supportive way.

Ask: “What do you want from me to help you to be successful?” Then, wherever possible, provide that support.

Encourage them to communicate their achievements along the road and also celebrate success. If things go wrong, however, make the tough decisions early, rather than late.

You can get people to present the
lessons from the successful prototypes

Success provides its own arguments, so publicise the success stories. They can do this through articles, internal television or whatever. People buy success, rather than the theory of success.

Imagine you have been invited to shift the culture in an organisation. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to set up the prototypes to succeed.

Describe the specific things you can do to support the people involved and do whatever is required to deliver success.

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage people to share the success stories.

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You can invite volunteers to
implement the successful principles
in their parts of the organisation

Imagine you have backed several prototypes that have delivered exceptional customer service. Arrange an event – or use other communication vehicles – where the prototype builders present:

The specific results that have been delivered – the success stories.

The specific principles they followed to deliver success and the things they could do better next time.

The other things of interest that emerged from building the successful prototypes.

You can then announce the next phase by saying something like:

The prototypes have shown how we can deliver exceptional customer service.

We are looking for volunteers who want to follow these principles in their parts of the organisation. The goal will be to achieve customer satisfaction ratings of at least 90%.

Get back to me within one week if you want to make this happen. Let me know ‘What’ you want to deliver and ‘How’, within broad terms, you aim to deliver it. Also let me know the support you would like to do the job.

This obviously means a shift in culture – changing the way we do things around here. We can succeed with this new approach. So let me know if you want to be part of making it happen.

You can provide the volunteers with the support they need to deliver success in their parts of the organisation. The people who set up the original prototypes can, if appropriate, act as coaches to the volunteers.

Set a date, such as the next conference, when the volunteers will present their success stories. Do whatever is required to ensure their parts of the organisation implement the principles and deliver success.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to get volunteers who want to implement the principles and deliver success.

Describe the specific things you can do to support these people and do whatever is required to deliver success.

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage these people to share the success stories.

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You can make the principles mandatory
and guide the organisation to success

You have backed successful prototypes that embody the future culture. Now it is the time for people to make a decision. So you may give them the following message.

The prototypes have shown the principles we must follow to be successful.

The pluses are that we will improve our services and stay in business. The minuses are that it will be challenging, especially at first. But it is the way to build a successful future.

What I am saying to you is also challenging. I am asking you to decide whether or not you want to follow those principles.

If so, get back to your manager within the next week and we will agree on how you want to contribute.

If we do not hear from you, we will assume you do not want to follow these principles. So we will then try to work out, as far as possible, a ‘win-win’.

This sounds tough, but we must follow these principles to achieve success. Let your manager know if you want to contribute to the journey.

Sounds challenging, but frequently there are few other options. People must decide whether or not they want to be part of the future culture.

Expect some rocky times, but eventually things will work out. You will have laid the foundations by building the prototypes.

Keep people’s eyes on the picture of success. Keep reminding them of ‘what good looks like.’ Keep highlighting when people follow the principles and deliver success.

Keep rewarding the behaviour you want repeated. Promote and hire people who follow the principles. Be prepared to make tough decisions, especially about people. Never walk past a quality problem, otherwise you have said it is okay.

Keep implementing the right strategy with the right people in the right way. Do whatever is required to guide the organisation to success.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to make the principles mandatory.

Describe the specific things you can do to keep reminding people of the principles and how following these can deliver success.

Describe the specific other things you can do to ensure the organisation delivers success.

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