In September 2018 I was asked to assist with capturing a graphic for a financial institution in South Africa. They had embarked on a cultural change journey about a year before and wanted to reflect on how it has gone. The brief was to create a visual metaphor for the journey that they can use to create insight and to foster discussion.
What a fascinating process! I worked with a facilitator throughout the day. The 14 people in the group had the chance to introduce themselves and state what they wanted to get out of the session. As part of the introduction I asked them to share a picture of what this culture journey looked like. People came up with images such as running a marathon, performing an operation on a patient and flying over mountains in hot air balloons. I captured the visual metaphors on flipcharts and the group identified the top 3 ideas that seemed to have the greatest potential. For each metaphor I then offered ideas of visual images that could work. In the end the group decided on the metaphor of a “Day at the Beach”.
As they broke away into smaller groups to discuss some of the details, I started by creating the graphic on a 2,5 m x 1.2 m white paper in the back of the room. As I received their feedback after each breakaway, I would quickly draw ideas on post-its and talk them through with the group. They then had the opportunity to give their input. In this way we got to a very rich visual by day’s end.
A couple of examples:
Culture is often different based on who you are and where in the organisation you find yourself. Some people (for example members of management) experience the culture in one way, but in the same organisation others (say, first level employees) experience the same culture as something completely different. So, it would seem as if culture depends very much on your role in the organisation.
Linked to silo’s are subcultures in the organisation. We know what they are – the “boring” finance department, the “party-animal” marketing department, the hard-working operations teams. We could speak about how sub-cultures show up in their organisation and what behaviour (and discrimination) they perpetuate.