One of our greatest challenges to culture change is over complication. Because the work of effecting and enriching culture means that we delve into the intangible realm of exploring how we feel about things, how our teammates feel about things, how our customers feel about our brand, how our investors feel, our community, and so on, we tend to avoid taking the plunge.
In business we’re taught to focus on the tangible and measurable elements of how businesses operate. We strive to create and refine systems. We search for technologies and tools to make our process easier and more streamlined. And we hunt perpetually for the next idea that will fulfill a new need, leverage a niche, or edge us out over a competitor.
Venturing into the intangible therefore feels like jumping off a cliff into an unknown abyss of the “touchy-feely.” It feels as though in some ways we’re denying our teachers and experts and being irresponsible. What’s more, this intangible arena feels complicated and difficult to navigate. Success in business feels much more accessible and attainable if we reside in the tangible and leave the intangible to evolve organically on its own.
Occam’s razor is a philosophical concept often used by scientists to guide their discovery process that says that of competing hypotheses, the more simple explanation is more likely correct. Many great thinkers have espoused the virtues of simplicity over complexity, and I would offer that a simplistic approach to culture is vital to success.
In fact, if we over think the process we’re actually doing the opposite of what is required to evolve culture, which is to feel, to express, to listen and intuit. Too much thinking and analysis keeps us in our heads and cuts the flow of the feeling-centered effort that is required in order to move culture forward.
In the work that Maria and I do, there is much to it. There is coaching and mentoring, there are workshops and processes, there is strategy and progression and recommendations, and yet at a core, what we do is very simple. Indeed, the work of any organization intent on moving culture to a deeper richer place is very simple.
And so in the interest of simplicity and Occam’s razor, and to provide a discernible path to culture change we offer the following (very simple) four-step design for culture change.
Step One – We widen our perspective to people, planet, and profits
Step Two – We come to understand how our company functions
Step Three – We accept the reality of our company regardless of what it looks like
Step Four – We courageously and continually engage in a process of growth and evolution
Notice that these steps are written as “we” statements, indicating that culture work is a collective process. These steps are also written as action statements, not rules or guidelines. That is because culture is a non-static and continually evolving process — it may look like one action or direction one day, and another direction or action the next. The connecting threads are these simple four steps.
Much could be written about each of these four steps, and there are entire books that have been written about each of these four steps. My book, Shift: Indigenous Principles For Corporate Change is largely about step one.
The value in these steps is that together they represent a simple reminder of where to keep our focus. All we have to do is trust the process.