Practical Examples To Try
Trying to change the way things work can be draining. The existing system often grinds us down and wins, possibly because it's actually designed to resist change. While some of us might be frustrated with status quo, things might actually be working exactly as the people at the top want until they retire or change jobs. To create significant change at a company-wide scale, it's probably going to take the people with the power (typically 'at the top') to want to change things. Here are some hacks (specific actions to change things) to help us get to that point...
Connect the people passionate about our company's culture. e.g. HSBC created The Culture Project directly as a result of Culturevist. People from different departments, levels/grades, etc, all coming together to learn and come up with ideas around a common interest: developing our company's culture. Have external speakers pop in to add external perspective.
Turbo charge them. Bring life to them. Clarity of mission, make them something people will genuinely be attracted to and want to be part of. These can be an amazing way to improve collaboration across geographic/organisational/language barriers and reduce silos.
Everyone knows something they could teach their colleagues, and everyone could learn.
So both benefit, e.g. less experienced person learns from a Senior Manager, and the Senior Manager learns about something the less experienced person
Either a colleague or someone in another company.
In person and/or online. When team makes a sale, or win, a 'bell' rings raising awareness of the win, recognising it, and celebrating it. People literally stop what they're doing and celebrate (applause/cheering/likes/responding/etc.) Raises morale and team spirit.
Post on an Enterprise Social Network (or similar comms tool). In case our colleagues can help us, maybe because they used to work there, maybe they're also working with the prospect, etc.
Stop trying to drive people away from other companies that offer value in a similar approach to you. You're working towards a similar goal. Having a common enemy can pull a team together and strengthen bonds, but rather than focus on another company trying to do a similar thing to us, focus on achieving your company's mission. See more here.
"They might hit their deal targets, but they often end up with less happy customers and lower margins. [...] I believe that salespeople ought to make commissions, but we’ve found that those who believe in our mission and care about our company values are more likely to help the overall sales team succeed—and to succeed at a personal level—than commission-hungry lone wolves." Source.
People Management Hacks
Literally creates silos/division/separation within the team. Turn Managers' offices into a space people can gather and collaborate, and have managers out with the rest of the team. There will be times it's better for some conversations to be in private, in which case go somewhere private, but don't base yourself somewhere private all the time.
Will put people off speaking up if it means they also think they're gonna have to add to their workload.
As above. And maybe someone might spot something that could be improved but not see a solution yet - do you want to miss out on this opportunity to improve? It's okay if one person spots the problem and another person comes up with the solution.
Let people register their interest in the projects they'd like to work on. Either let them choose, or you can still decide, but at least you have an indication of their interest. May be more likely to be engaged.
Let the people who enjoy reporting and entering data do it, rather than forcing people whose strengths are on other things to spend a significant amount of their time on it
Some encourage people to not send email/messages outside work hours. That's one approach. Another is for the sender and receiver to write when's best for the outcome they're looking to achieve. Set the expectation that if you send an email outside work hours it is okay to not respond til work hours if people prefer.
To learn from each other. Also helpful if someone gets ill or leaves the company. Pair-programming is pretty common, though can apply the concept to other parts of the company.
Create teams of 7-12 people
Approx. optimal size for teams
Could be online/in person. Celebrate, have a physical event for raising awareness, certificates for something for people to touch
Use the 'Mastermind' format for one-to-ones
It's mostly led by the team member. Source.
e.g. for hiring a diverse team
Might be difficult for us to understand and 'live' our company values if we don't understand our own personal values.
This won't be to everyone's liking. "From your first day at Buffer, you get a free Jawbone UP, which tracks your sleep and your exercise and steps." Source. Employees can connect with each other to see how colleagues are doing and support each other to be healthier.
So people can see each other's salaries.
Go to lunch, recognise their work, message them on birthday, etc...
Assess performance based on outcome rather than output or input
Someone could achieve better results in 4 hours than being sat at a desk for 8 hours.
How they're feeling (about the culture). Beware of survey fatigue.
They know more than we do about what's going on in their lives and the best way for them.
Process AND PROJECTS Hacks
So we're forced to revisit and challenge whether things can be improved. Things may become outdated. But actually do it, don't just have lots of expired processes.
So only have as much bureaucracy as necessary
Making it more 'human' and easier to understand
If a project is big and uses a lot of resources, there's often a lot of talk of whether it's a good idea or not. People end up spending so much time disagreeing, when neither side actually knows whether they are right. The only way to know is to actually try and test it. Pick a part of your business, have a hypothesis - something you think, and try to either prove it right or not, before investing too many resources. Could use this experiment as a chance to have lighter processes and less bureaucracy than you typically have. Once you've learnt something, iterate quickly and repeat.
Encourage people to see ways to improve things. Cold introduce Stop The Line: a slogan borrowed from the manufacturing industry, where every worker on the shop floor has the power to bring the production line to a halt if they sense any risk to safety." Source.
For each decision or area, ensure there there is one person who clearly has the authority. Others can influence and that person can seek guidance, but we shouldn't need to wait for agreement from a committee.
Particularly relevant in large companies as there are often many people working on many different projects that may even be competing with each other. Trying to get everyone to agree that a new idea is worth investing in could be so slow and difficult that the idea may never even get past the discussion stage. Instead, find a senior sponsor who would benefit from the initiative who has enough influence/budget/etc to experiment. Be mindful of the risks, and as long as it's safe to try, try something. There are benefits to getting everyone bought into a change, though sometimes at an early stage it helps to get initial momentum so things don't get stifled/killed. Go where the energy is and do a small experiment and then getting people bought in by evidence of early success rather than trying to convince people with words. See Green Dots, Yellow Dots, Red Dots change approach.
Rather than try and make it more difficult for people to do things we don't want them to, help them see the impact and let others see what people are doing. Related to the saying: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant". e.g. if people need new tech hardware, rather than making people get sign-off from a Manager and write a business case, say Sure and you'll need to add your name and item to this list that everyone in the company can see.
Imagine that the project has happened and failed. Try and think of possible reasons for this to help you be aware of what could happen.
e.g. rather than having a painful/slow expenses process for employees, make it so they have to do the least effort, and then take the more administrative work away from them and giving it to people who enjoy that type of work more. e.g. for customers, rather than make them fill out long feedback forms because you'll find it helpful, think of how to get insight in a way that's more pleasurable for them.
The traditional approach teams take is waiting for approval at each step. This means things freeze until the approvers say yes. They may be busy so things don't move for a long time. Could try a 'no objection approach'. i.e it's safe to proceed until someone objects. Like having foot on accelerator rather than brake. A related approach is the 'Advice Process', where people can make decisions though they must seek advice from others.
Consists of people from different departments, so not dependent on being slowed down by having to ask permission/approval from other parts of the company.
To show it's okay to experiment and fail. Not just technical hacks, e.g. can hack the way we sell, a process, a marketing campaign, organisational structure, etc. Great way to build relationships between people who don't generally know/work-with each other.
e.g. Break projects into smaller chunks, e.g. weekly rather than monthly. So the cost of changing course is not too high, we don't go too far in the 'wrong' direction. Start small - so don't have pressure of hitting targets that will make you do things that might be detrimental in the long term.
“We think about one-way doors, and two-way doors. A one-way door is a place with a decision if you walk through, and if you don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back. You can’t get back to the initial state. A two-way door, you can walk through and can see what you find, and if you don’t like it, you can walk right back through the door and return to the state that you had before. We think those two-way door decisions are reversible, and we want to encourage employees to make them. Why would we need anything more than the lightest weight approval process for those two-way doors?” Source.
Helps connect people across geographic, organisational, language, cultural boundaries. Increases transparency. Gives people a voice. Increases sense of belonging and pride, sense of being part of something much bigger than just ourselves.
Do and narrate your work in public so others can benefit and input. Default to public unless the benefits of being private outweigh it.
Frequently mention culture when we communicate, and demonstrate it is a priority in actions, not just words.
Get to see what it's really like for those that serve customers or are 'out in the field'. Stay in touch, build relationships.
It's such a powerful technique. Have people talk about you in the most engaging way.
A lot of people think presentation slides are rubbish. They're often not, it's the way they're used. Help everyone become better speakers/presenters.
So transparency is the default and people can make things private if the benefits outweigh public.
Email just a notification system, like it is for tools like LinkedIn/Facebook. Work happens in Enterprise Social Network or other communication channels
Sometimes people make things less transparent by using acronyms. so make it more human, simpler to understand.
So people can have conversations about the news. Also a great way to surface news from others who contribute.
Helpful to remind people. Bear in mind it's just pushing stuff people passively receive, can be better for people to learn doing.
Not everything may need to be polished and the finished article. Could be more authentic and set a different.
More visual rather than so much text.
What people might actually find interesting/useful - rather than just what you want them to see.
A technique that helps with creativity - building on what someone said, rather than closing it down or dismissing it.
COMPANY Values HACKS
e.g. if a value is to encourage collaboration but then individual's performance are compared to each others. Or if say you encourage innovation but penalise people who fail and control how people do things.
Have fewer so people are more likely to remember and consider them
Choose real words e.g. Aviva's include: "Care more", "Kill complexity"
Get rid of them. Help people get a sense of what we believe and the way we do things and what we value by what they see and experience of our brand
Something that moves people, something people feel they are contributing to. e.g. the story of when someone asked someone cleaner the floor at NASA what they did, they said helping put man on the moon.
Create a manifesto
That will act as a rallying flag. An attractors so people who care about it gravitate towards your brand.
Write what you want other people to write about our company
To act as a guide. What makes you unique? What does it mean to be 'one of us'?
Might be difficult for us to understand and 'live' our company values if we don't understand our own personal values.
Attendees decide what's valuable for them, not the event organisers deciding what they should hear.
Invite our partners/customers to co-work from your office/locations
Together with your people. Build relationships,change of scenery, come up with new ideas, build community etc.
Use an alternative presentation format
e.g. Pecha Kucha, flash talks etc
Choose a creative space
Get out the office. Get into nature. Or a place with significance you your company's story.
e.g. Google doesn't have deadlines for filling job roles because it's more important for them to have the right people for the right roles that just having someone to do the job.
Prioritise attention to hiring. It's critical. Managers need to reinforce this with words and actions.
Pre-boarding programme and pack
To help people get a sense to the way our organisation works and the way we want things to be. Focus on culture. Include Company Culture Handbook (see description above in Company Values section) e.g. Valve Handbook. Invite people into a Enterprise Social Network to meet other new joiners, people and learn about culture, technical, local attractions etc. e.g. Yammerversity.
Force rotation of people in roles to stay fresh
e.g. Hauwei rotate CEO every 6 months. Source.
Onboarding programme and pack
The initial joining a company stage is critical. Most of us remember our experience, make it a special one.
Only hire people who are a cultural fit
This is sometimes a controversial one. Different companies do this to different degrees. Some of the companies that most people think have the most progressive cultures place a really high priority on cultural fit. Something to consider is the amount of diversity. Tension and differences can be great, though if the company is totally diverse and open, then will things become diluted and lose what makes our company special? Perhaps getting diversity as long as people have similar values to the company values?
Stop hiring using CVs/Resumes
Have a probation period
Because it's really hard to get to know people well in the interview process. e.g Buffer's Bootcamp.
Try asking different questions
e.g. See questions you might not be asking in our list of Interview Questions.
Offer successful candidates money to not take the job
e.g. Zappos offer thousands of dollars for successful candidates to not take the job. Helps show whether they really want to work there.
A 'Maybe' Is A 'No'
If you're not sure, then it's a no. We only want people we're sure about. It could be said that we could miss great people who's strengths are not immediately obvious, or could say that they have had to prepare to demonstrate their strengths.
Interview in an alternative environment
Is the best place to get to know someone by asking them questions in-front of a desk? How about a coffee shop? A colleague's bbq? A weekend company trip? etc.
Create the scenario that people may find themselves in. May not be accurate if it is staged, maybe could do it in a live 'real-working-life' scenario.
Rather than asking people questions for them to answer, see how they play a computer game and what insights we get from how they play it.
Weekly in person Meetings
Depends on purpose. Do you really need to be all together every Monday morning? Sometimes it's used as a forcing function to get people into work early. Beware of tradeoffs. You are effectively saying you've decided this is more important than the other things everyone could be doing. If early morning, it might be to help people have more time to work during the day, though be aware it might be perceived as you trying to make sure people start work early.
Change Calendar Default From 1 Hour To 30 mins Or 15 minutes
So people have to deliberately make a meeting longer if they really want it. To reduce unnecessarily long meetings.
Day Of No Meetings
Reduce distractions and time spent context switching.
'Walk and talk' or 'Walkshops'. I used to do this when I worked at PwC in More London just by the River Thames. If we didn't need privacy or tools that were in a room, we'd go for a walk by the river and back, and sometimes popping into a cafe it it helped. Research of link between walking and creative thinking.
Horn / Yellow Card
Have a physical card to give people a warning if someone breaks a rule or structure of a meeting
Check-In Round At The Beginning Of Meetings
Ask people what's on their mind. It can be far better to build relationships and for work to go smoothly if you know what's on someone's mind or what has got their attention. e.g. someone might be dialled in to a meeting because they are looking after my daughter - celebrate that rather than pressure them to hide the fact.
Closing Round At The End Of Meetings
A chance for everyone to have a last say on the meeting. e.g. Ev
Have facilitator as one of the people not in the room
To help there not be a centre of gravity.
Have everyone in the same room or no-one in the same room
To avoid a centre of gravity.
Line the tables with paper and pens
To encourage creativity.
Give people time to reflect in silence at the beginning of, or during, meetings
Force no distractions for people to think/reflect/process stuff.
OFFICE ENVIRONMENT HACKS
As a change of scenery, to build networks, to increases the chances of serendipity.
To give sense of connection and global nature
According to who they're working with or to encourage people working with different people.
To encourage people to share ideas and create.
Things that help bring people together, particularly those that may not spend time with each other. Bear in mind how to encourage people to take breaks and get exercise. Can be fun too.
Free Haircuts, Laundry, etc
Helps reduce time people have to spend on things that need to be done.
To help people be healthier, and get to know each other
Makes it feel more spacious, more relaxed, more informal.
Make toilets able to be used by all genders
Rearrange the space periodically
"the space is reorganized every six months so people can sit near different colleagues. "So we don't get too comfortable" Source. Some people may not like this - an example of one of the things to decide whether to force.
Get people on one floor rather than many
Stairs are a significant divider. May still have the challenge of people sticking to the same area, so could rearrange space (see above).
Rather than enforcing a dress code.
Give people great equipment (e.g. laptop/tablet/phones)
So can be as productive as using personal machines. Also can make people happier.
Building cOmmunity AND PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS HACKS
People will self-organise, which means that they chose to become engaged, rather than you having to try and make them engaged.
Celebrate People's First Day/Work Anniversary/Birthday
e.g. Yammerversary thread
e.g. Cotap bag Christina
Team Away Day Focussed On Getting To Know Each Other And Build Relationships
Felt like school / uni trips
Join a league and enter a team
The competitive element can bring our team together. Build relationships in a way you wouldn't otherwise at work.
lnclude people outside your company (clients/suppliers) in some of the things we do
- e.g. invite people to cowork from your workplace for the day
Help People Get To Know Each Other
e.g. Zappos need to name which of your employees are in the photo for you to unlock your computer
e.g. randomised coffee trials
It can be just one lunch, so not too intimidating. Particularly powerful when people are really different levels of seniority.
e.g. Twilio all new joiners build and app and get knighted
Video Interview series
Getting to know the actual people.
Give people time to volunteer to causes they care about out
Benefits include the impact it makes to the communities we help, and the experience of doing it. Various ways, such as things that may not be people's core skills, e.g. bankers doing gardening, or devoting time of core skills e.g. computer programming. Consider the value we can create in each way.
To help people learn from sources you value.