Depending on whom you ask, 60–70 percent of change initiatives fail to meet their stated objectives, and the primary source of that failure, according to a Deloitte study, is resistance to change. So if you’re embarking on a change initiative, the last things you want to skimp on are risk-awareness and risk management.
If you have an important change initiative you should do a Culture Mapping scan. It reduces risk and increases your chances of success.
Think of it this way. Imagine that your change initiative is a large fleet of ships that is about to go into a relatively uncharted waters (your company culture). You would be stupid to just take the ship into the harbor without some advance scouting.
Culture Mapping is like sending in a team with a fast, motorized rubber raft, to scope out the harbor and plant big red flags to mark the rocks under the surface. To find the deep water and favorable currents. To scope out hostile and friendly forces. To map the territory, so you can navigate the safer waters and give your larger mission the best possible chances for success.
Even a brief, one-week Culture Mapping scan will give you enough information to avoid costly mistakes and find the positive enablers that can help you position your initiative for maximum success and to minimize risk.
Most importantly, Culture Mapping works. It surfaces information that, as far as we know, cannot be collected any other way. It gives the C-suite access to frontline culture in a way that they could never get through their own efforts, because the water-cooler conversation always shuts down, or significantly shifts, when the CEO or senior leader walks by.
First, you work with a Culture Mapping team to identify the groups that can best represent the various subcultures in your organization. For example, Finance, Sales, Wholesale Group, Retail Group, Operations, Logistics, IT, and so on. Working together, we identify 5–6 people from each group.
The Culture Mapping team schedules a series of 90-minute sessions, one session with each group. It’s important that these groups are teams that know each other and work together on a regular basis. In other words, we want to sit down with 5–6 people in finance and only those people. Then we might have another session with 5–6 people in sales, and so on. We want to do these sessions separately.
The thinking behind this is that we want people to share real information—in a sense this is a constructive complaining and designing session. No, the boss cannot come. These meetings are with the teams and not the bosses. The purpose of these meetings is to understand the cultural blockers and enablers which often being reinforced, intentionally or unintentionally, by management.
The sessions provide clear links between management actions, incentives and business structures and business results. They also provide recommended management actions and clear reasons and linkages that demonstrate why these actions will be likely to deliver the desired results.
Ironically, people will often be more honest with a complete stranger than their boss, or someone they feel might have a personal or political interest in the outcome of Culture Mapping sessions.
As a leader or manager in a large organization, you probably have a sense of the culture and people challenges facing you, but at the same time, you must also manage not only down but up and across the organization.