Reinvent Your Organizational Culture. Here's How.

lukekyte
Written by
- 7 min read

The hardest thing to do is start. Writing a book, exercising, dieting… reinventing your work culture. But deep down you know it’s the right thing to do. There’s an internal nagging that won’t go away. An encouragement from your voice of reason. And every business reaches a crossroad that’ll shape its future.

article photo

Profit vs. people. Traditional vs. progressive. A culture of trust vs. a culture of rules.

It’s easy to take the well-travelled route, where people are resources, profits are king, and rules litter the path. It’s been a popular direction for dozens, if not hundreds of years.

It’s harder to venture into the unknown. A path not worn down by decades of trampling corporate shoes. But we know this path can lead us to Eden too. Businesses across the world have shown this.

And what’s more, we know, deep down – it’s the right route to take.

The journey could begin with a bang, a revelation, a euphoric moment. Or it could equally be the result of a long, hard slog through decaying business nonsense that’s no longer fit for the present day.

For Reddico, it was a combination of the two.

As a company still in start-up mode, we knew things weren’t perfect. Nothing ever is. But it wasn’t until team feedback highlighted the gaps between perception and reality, that action started to take place.

This was our crossroad.

Do we follow the path of micromanagement, bureaucracy, rules, cliques, confusion and frustration – or take a bold new approach towards trust, freedom and responsibility?

We chose the latter. And this is how you can, too.

1. Speak to the team

Where better to start than with the people you’re trying to make work better for? Ask questions such as:

  • What are the frustrations or pain points?
  • How could this initiative work?
  • What would make work better or happier for you?

These are the people who will know what is and isn’t working, can provide valued inspiration, and make sure your bold plans actually get off the ground. You want that wider team buy-in and understanding of where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there.

Keep everyone in the loop throughout the process, talk about challenges, and create a process that’s inclusive.

2. Read, read, read

You’re not expected to know everything, and that’s okay. You’ll learn a lot on the journey, and be inspired by some amazing people, companies, and cultures.

Create a reading list that’ll get your brain ticking – good places to start include: Brave New Work, No Rules Rules, The Fearless Organisation, The Culture Code, The Happy Manifesto, Moose Heads on the Table (and of course, Make Work More Fun) – all of which will get you thinking about alternative and progressive ways of working.

Reinventing Organisations is the bible of many progressive organisations, but can be a tough read if you’re just starting out.

3. Reach out to leaders

When you start taking culture seriously, you’ll find an underground world of inspiration – thought leaders, advocates, people experimenting with radical ideas.

And it’s a really generous community, more than willing to spend time talking about their experiences, helping you to overcome problems, and offering a fresh perspective.

So, reach out to them. You never know, it could provide the injection of creativity you need.

4. Learn from bucket list companies

Another obvious, yet valuable place to find inspiration and learn about a world of progressive work, is to check out the Corporate Rebels Bucket List.

A one-stop shop for some of the most inspiring and radical thinkers and businesses.

5. Know everything might NOT work

You can speak to thought leaders in the progressive work space, learn about incredible initiatives and bold projects that put people first – and the amazing results that come from them. But it might not be right for your business. For instance, a work anywhere, anytime policy is unsustainable in a hospital.

The solution isn’t to try to squeeze these systems into your business, but critically review and understand what will and won’t work. Ask the questions, speak to your team – and focus on the projects that will bring positive change.

6. Compile your own manifesto

This will be your own bible.

What should your future company look like? What’s the goal? Where will you be? How will it all come together?

You won’t have all the answers right away, and you don’t need to – just start compiling a list and fleshing out what a better version of your business could be.

Share this with your team. Shout about it. Get feedback. Create accountability. Everything is out of your head and written in black and white. Here’s a link to our original manifesto, written in 2017 and detailing our bold vision for Reddico.

Over time this has changed a lot. Some of it worked. Some didn’t. Our values have completely changed. But having this manifesto points you in the right direction – it’s your north star.

7. Create a position for cultural change

Business gets in the way.

What starts with a bold, adventurous plan, soon gets lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Your vision deteriorates, you roll out a couple of changes, and everything you were once energised and inspired by is lost in the mayhem.

That’s why, for cultural change to be a real success, you need a dedicated role. Someone to plan and roll out your masterpiece. Someone to build on your ideas and see them put into practice.

Whether you choose to promote from within or hire externally, this is vital to how successful you’ll be.

8. Review, amend, enhance, and progress

There are going to be amazing aha! moments. There are going to be times of frustration and dejection. There will be parts that move seamlessly, and others you can’t quite crack. Every journey is unique, so understand that yours will be very different from all those inspiring stories.

But don’t stop.

Don’t roll out change and settle for what you’ve landed on. Allow time to breathe, to test, to know what does and doesn’t work. And then keep revisiting it.

Review your processes, speak to your teams, change things for the better, tweak elements that haven’t sat well. This isn’t a linear journey. There isn’t a start and end point. It’s continued progression that’ll constantly make your business better forever.

Culture is a big word at the moment. Almost everyone seems to be talking about it – and even more say they have the answer to your problems. From Brewdog to Basecamp, culture has hit the news for all the wrong reasons over the last few months. When it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

Treat culture as your company’s foundations. Without it, everything else – the doors, windows, walls and roof, may look nice – but one day will come crumbling down.

Plan, prioritise, act. Start today and build a better business that’s fit for tomorrow.


This is a guest post from Luke Kyte, Head of Culture at Reddico a company that puts trust and freedom at the heart of everything they do. For more information on Luke and the company, check out his rebel page.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Share


leave a reply

Replies (6)

Perry Timms

Perry Timms

Great piece Luke. Lots of "tick, tick" going on in my head in relation to our little enterprise (PTHR). Really pleased to read all of this as affirming choices and setting pathways for others with the same intent as your folks have. Congratulations and more power to you all.

A question if I may: What's been the most unexpected success/accomplishment for you and the team? Perhaps the thing you were least intentional/deliberate about but worked out really well?

| | 0 | Flag
Vitaly

Vitaly

Profit vs. people. how many times have I heard that. Why does it have to be the two opposites. Why not Profit through People and for People as well as investors and planet. Every time we isolate one at the cost of the other we setting ourselves up for failure. Business needs to make profit else we can all go home. It is through the achievement of financial results that we can develop the people and create true change.

| | 4 | Flag
Pete Swanson

Pete Swanson

Thanks for a thought provoking article. I would argue something important is missing in here though, which is that (organisational) culture must primarily be about supporting business success. Groups (organisations, teams, communities etc) shape culture so they can be successful and respond to the unique challenges posed by the context or environment they operate in. I'd argue many culture programmes and efforts fail because that linkage is not sufficiently well established - culture should not exist for the purpose of having a great culture. Culture should be about reinforcing the beliefs, values, practices, and patterns of behaviour that underpin organisational success, that helps the business respond to the unique challenges it faces and ultimately thrive. Yes, great cultures are often great places to work or be part of, but I think we sometimes can fall into the trap of forgetting the "why" of culture. So the best culture development in my mind has the cultural practices heavily intertwined with the day to day business practices - rather than being a thing on the side, it is aligned and integrated with the hard business practices. That to me is when culture programmes work their best.

| | 2 | Flag
Vitaly

Vitaly

Pete could not agree more, culture needs to support the the success of the business and specifically reaching its key objectives. Also culture shift on its own is not enough either , it needs to be supported by processes/systems/ rituals/ structure etc etc ...the infrastructure that helps people deliver on their promises to customers. Its a integrated wholistic approach. Trying to re-invent culture on its own often fails to achieve the desired result.

| | 0 | Flag
nick_pulley

nick_pulley

Great article Luke, congrats and very much agree with Pete's comment above. The two have to dovetail for the business, and therefore the culture, to survive and thrive.

| | 0 | Flag
lukekyte

lukekyte

Profit vs. people. how many times have I heard that. Why does it have to be the two opposites. Why not Profit through People and for People as well as investors and planet. Every time we isolate one at the cost of the other we setting ourselves up for failure. Business needs to make profit else we can all go home. It is through the achievement of financial results that we can develop the people and create true change.

Vitaly

I agree with you – a business needs profit to survive, thrive, and build out support structures for the team. In this instance though, I'm referring more to the fact that many businesses focus on high profits at all costs, burning out teams, producing high turnover rates, and creating generally unhappy workplaces.

As an example, we focussed on the manifesto and culture change – and in the following year had a revenue and profit increase of 40% and 60% respectively. Whilst things changed in the business model, it also seemed a natural consequence of putting the team first.

A question if I may: What's been the most unexpected success/accomplishment for you and the team? Perhaps the thing you were least intentional/deliberate about but worked out really well?

Perry Timms

It's a good question. Something unintentional from the outset and now aligned to one of our new values (we start with trust) is removing spending caps on budget items.

For instance, the team can buy whatever they need to work from home comfortably and productively, or spend what they need on training, without needing permission first. We just couldn't have done that four years ago, so it's great to see the transition of the business over time.

| | 2 | Flag
Flags are private, only visible to forum moderators. Be specific: "It's spam/off-topic/inappropriate because..."
submit

Leave a reply

This field is required. Only use letters, digits, spaces and minus characters.
This field is required.
This field is required.
We only use your email for spam detection purposes.