How to hack your culture…

Where to start, where to go from here, and what to do next?

These are all questions that diversity and inclusion advocates care greatly about (as well as advocates for innovation, social media etc.), and they are all things that can really vary from one organization to another. Context matters. Having real understanding of the organizational culture, of what kinds of things have been done in the past, of the attitudes and priorities of senior leadership—these are all incredibly valuable in accurately diagnosing needs, opportunities, objectives, etc.

With full consideration of the organizational context, I generally gravitate toward a handful of levers that I find to be very effective in pushing D&I efforts toward greater effect. So, before rushing off to plan another event or implement a new program, please give these some consideration.

I will be exploring each of these further with the rest of my posts this month.

language, logic, memes & stories
Language, clarity and tone are absolutely critical. They must always be the beginning. If clear, concise, positive language and logic and examples are not in place, then everything that you do is built on a faulty foundation. This is why so many organizational D&I efforts collapse on themselves after a year or two. Everyone is pulling in a different direction and there is no progress. You need to be able to answer these questions:

  • What does diversity mean to your organization?
  • What does inclusion mean to your organization?
  • Why and how have you settled on those definitions?
  • Why are diversity and inclusion valuable to your organization?
  • How will you capture this value?

Now, can your employees answer these questions? This will indicate if you’ve clearly answered the what, why and how as an organization, and ensured the alignment between the three.

I have come across very few organizations that have this in place. A huge opportunity that is often missed. Take ownership of the language around D&I, the way that it is talked about, the stories that are told and the examples that are used.

This will change everything.

social process
How does your organization have conversations, make decisions and share information? How does it deal with disagreement? Another huge opportunity. While your organization probably has written policy on how to request vacation and where employees are supposed to park, it probably does not have any explicit public agreements on how it makes decisions and deals with disagreement. As long as that is the case, these social processes (which are some of the most important things that happen inside your organization) are very susceptible to human nature, time pressures, power dynamics, personality, etc. — all things that do not have anything to do with good decision-making.

networks
What do the networks of relationships look like in your organization? Who is connected to whom? Not based on what the organizational chart tells you, but based on actual relationships. Relationships and networks of relationships, through which information, trust, ideas and influence commonly travel, are often of far greater consequence than your neat and orderly organizational chart. Are there opportunities to build new bridges in your organization? Is there a lot of overlap and interconnectivity in your organization, or are there a lot of silos and segregation? Good ideas, new ideas, creative solutions — these things often have social origins, they often emerge from the intersection of different perspectives and professions and disciplines and experiences. Another huge opportunity lies in being more intentional toward the bridges that we build.

access
Who has access to primary materials? Who has access to information, to power, to senior leaders? Who can initiate change? Can anyone look at financial data? Can anyone look at exit interview data? How openly and easily is that kind of stuff shared? Is it discussed openly? Is that safe? How often does an average employee have some kind of interaction with the CEO, how often do they interact with their boss’s boss?

The act of inclusion involves diffusion of power, putting more resources in the hands of more people. Who has access to power, to the initiation of change, to information (which is usually a set of unwritten rules) will tell you a lot about an organizations ideas regarding inclusion.

I will dig into each of these further with the rest of my posts this month.

Be good to each other.

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  4. What I’m Reading | Spark Consulting

    […] Joe Gerstandt has an outstanding post, the first in what’s going to be a series, proffering a series of questions about diversity and inclusion designed to help you hack your organizational culture. […]

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    […] Joe Gerstandt: How to Hack Your Culture This is actually part of a series from Joe Gerstandt, one of the few people out there who I actually listen to when he talks about Diversity and Inclusion. I think the concept of applying “hacking principles” to the workplace is really very powerful. In order to change, we must first seek to understand. And the best way to do that is to break it down into manageable parts. Joe applies this theory to D&I…and culture. And you too could do so very easily. […]

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