LeadFirst Approach to Culture Change

LeadFirst has been on the forefront of serious and large scale culture shaping initiatives for over 30 years. We’ve worked with hundreds of organizations, from FORTUNE 100 behemoths to fast growth startups to forward thinking non-profits. We’ve witnessed, and contributed to, the evolution of such efforts. Our approach begins with the ability to define culture with precision and measure it period over period as is done with all assets of significant value. And research has proven that few are as valuable, or as hard to replicate, as culture. This measurement system allows client organization to identify and remove the most significant barriers, whether structures, policies, processes or behaviors, to creating the culture required for their strategic success.

Two Pathways to Culture Change

While this form of measurement and analysis, enabling a systematic removal of cultural barriers, is absolutely necessary for sustainable culture change, it is not sufficient. Just as important is the ability to enlist the leadership team, especially the executive team, in a process of transformation. The executive team cannot simply sponsor culture change; they must be an essential part of it. They cast a shadow seen by all including how they engage people to how they make decisions. To create the culture required to execute their business strategies, they must begin to lead as though it already exists.

The Two Essential Pathways are executed through the ASPIR culture change process. It has evolved through 30 years of experience and is designed for both speed and sustainability. The ASPIR process begins with a deep but highly flexible cultural assessment identifying the Executive Preferred Future culture (future state) as well as the Actual culture (current state). Most importantly it identifies the most critical issues that lay in the gap between the two. This enables focused and aggressive action.

Simultaneously, the top bands of leadership, especially the Executive Team, are engaged in a process of Synchronization. This ensures strong alignment on the organization’s vision, values and strategic direction and connects this alignment to the leadership framework required to execute on them. 

The Executive Team drives execution through a Culture Action Team which is responsible for carefully crafting an enterprise wide Culture Plan. This Plan is focused on both immediate change and long term sustainability.  

Two Pathways to Culture Change
Unlike most culture migration approaches, LeadFirst's process centered around the Diialog measurement system enables organizations to understand not only what their cultures are today and what they want them to be in the future, but also what to do about it. Specifically, Diialog enables you to see both what cultural characteristics need improving as well as the Causal Factors that drive those characteristics.

Since 1982, LeadFirst has refined a system of support services that enable organizations to promote sustainable culture change. These services are entirely optional and are designed to help clients achieve self-sufficiency in managing their cultures toward ever-higher performance. Our culture migration services, described below, help ensure that:
  • The senior team is fully invested in culture as critical strategic asset and in a specific plan of action.
  • The organization’s culture change initiative is designed to achieve and sustain results.
  • There is a clearly defined Culture Plan to focus efforts and galvanize action.
  • The organization has the capability to identify and remove specific barriers to culture change as identified in the Diialog process.
  • The organization can take full advantage of the excitement, energy and engagement that the Diialog process produces.

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Executive Summit

The Organizational Culture Executive Summit is a critical element of LeadFirst’s approach to creating and preserving organizational culture value. The purpose of the Executive Summit is to move senior leadership to informed commitment about what it takes to create a high-performance organizational culture.

During the Summit, LeadFirst faculty, in partnership with our client’s HR and other initiative sponsors, facilitate discussion about the organizational characteristics and results that distinguish the highest performing organizations – characteristics that have enabled these companies to create significant and sustainable competitive advantage.

The Executive Team then reviews the results of the Diialog Culture PROfile™ taken prior to the Summit, which pinpoints the gaps between the “Preferred Future” organizational culture profile (defined by the Executive Team) and the “Current” culture profile, described by employees and other stakeholders. The Executive Organizational Culture Summit results in a strong and informed commitment by the senior team to take action to seize culture opportunities and close gaps.

Specifically, the Objectives of the Executive Summit are to:
  • Demonstrate the relationship between organizational culture and performance at the individual, team and enterprise levels including employee productivity by Sales, EBIT, and/or Shareholder Value.
  • Provide an overview of relevant and comprehensive research supporting these conclusions.
  • Review and discuss the types of organizational culture characteristics and how they relate to corporate performance.
  • Review and discuss the specific results of our client’s Diialog Culture PROfile™ measures including comparisons to selected benchmarks.
  • Identify the most critical gaps between the executive team’s “Preferred Future” and their organization’s “Current” organizational culture, as well as the root causes revealed by the measures.
  • Review the implications of the specific gaps and gain consensus and informed commitment to take assertive action.
  • Chart a path forward for closing the most critical gaps and migrating the organization toward its Preferred Future Culture.

Culture Academy

The Organizational Culture Academy is an intensive and highly interactive experience for the principal champions and implementers of a disciplined organizational culture measurement and improvement initiative. It follows the Executive Culture Summit for the senior team during which this team sees the results of their Diialog Culture PROfile™ and provides deep insights to the current and preferred culture, including a prioritized list of issues that must be considered to close the gap to goal.

The Organizational Culture Executive Summit results in a strong and informed commitment by the senior team to intentionally manage the organization’s culture, including appointing a Culture Coordinator who will be accountable for developing and deploying the Organizational Culture Migration Plan that is developed in the Culture Academy.

Organizational Culture Academy — Purpose and Objectives:
The purpose of the Culture Academy is to commence action on the mandate established in the Executive Summit. Its focus is to educate those charged with fulfilling this mandate, typically the Coordinator and his/her team and to achieve these specific objectives:
  • Develop a detailed and viable organizational culture migration plan, including monitoring metrics, accountabilities, resources, and timetables for closing the gap between the Current and Preferred Future Culture.
  • Immerse participants in a high-performance organizational culture experience, so they not only hear about, but feel, what a high-performance culture is.
  • Establish client self-sufficiency through the transfer of knowledge, skills and tools required to create and preserve organizational culture value.
The Academy experience yields a comprehensive Organizational Culture Development Plan to be presented for ratification by the Culture Coordinator to the Executive Team that sanctioned its creation during the Executive Summit.
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