NetXtra hosted a breakfast networking event on ‘The Culture Challenge’ at Carlton House Terrace on 12th March 2019. By popular demand, we revisited our exploration of the barriers to organisational culture change, and also how external consumer behaviour can affect an organisations approach to their members. We discussed how internal change may be facilitated, and the idea that society is shifting to a more participatory nature. All vital considerations in successful business transformation!

Taking on the Culture Challenge

James Murphy (Director, Chalcroft Digital, ex RICS) kicked off the event with 'Taking on the Culture Challenge'. As well as reiterating his key points from October’s event, he brought some key new insights. His presentation clearly resonated with those in the room with many nods of agreement.

James was quick to provide direction that “One rule about culture change is that you never talk about culture change”. He explained how that declaration can in, itself be, an obstacle to change, that positioning it as an initiative and ‘launching’ it as a project on its own, can lead to failure. James made it clear that culture change has to be a strategic decision and committed to ‘for the long game’. Culture change requires the conscious weaving in of new language, realigning marketing and communications both internally and externally. Commonly, processes and procedures will require some level of reengineering to result in the desired cultural transformation.

James stressed the value of extending and broadening ‘the gene pool’ for organisations committed to a cultural shift. A new hire, from a newer generation or with a wider base of industry experience can provoke fresh ideas, inject enthusiasm and encourage creativity.

A major focus of James’ seminar was on defining your organisations purpose. This is crucial in an organisation’s evolution and is fundamental in growing and retaining both your membership and internal teams. He encouraged us to ‘try joining as a member, or applying for an advertised position, because by approaching your organisation from an external perspective, you are better likely to understand how you are perceived.  It’s a good way to check if your organisations purpose is still relevant and meaningful and will help check how well you communicate your culture.

James challenged those of us in the room to question, ‘are we an organisation with a vision solely focussed on our members, or have we extended that vision to be about the greater societal good?’ ‘What should our organisation look like today?’ ‘Does that identity and purpose still echo the needs and wants of our members?’

The importance of purpose was echoed in Simon Etchells seminar, which focused on external societal changes and embracing the challenges it presents. Simon took a whistle-stop tour through hot topics on the current cultural radar; plastic pollution, inequality, exploitation, eating local, politics both here and abroad (yes, the ‘B’ word was mentioned!) and of course the saturation of technology in everyday life.

He introduced the concept of ‘citizenshift’ which is a societal behaviour and expectation model documented by the #citizenshift movement which outlines how as a society, we have shifted in our behaviour and expectations. In previous centuries, society was largely made up of dependent ‘subjects’ who have few expectations shifting to the independent materialistic ‘consumers’ of the mid-80’s who expect service, to today’s more participatory society of ‘citizens’ who are marked by their spiritual and purpose-driven interdependence.  It is well worth looking at the table of comparative behaviour and expectation traits of these 3 categories which you can find on page 37 of the attached presentation – it’s a really fascinating study, which Simon would always be keen to discuss further!

Simon posed the question of whether organisations might potentially have been so caught up in creating the perfect member value proposition in order to attract and retain members, that they may have inadvertently neglected establishing and nurturing their vision and purpose. His point being, that the current spiritual society of ‘citizens’ want to invest in and champion causes for the greater good. And it’s the purpose of an organisation and how that’s achieved that actually attracts, engages and retains its audience.

To close, Simon kicked off the round table discussions encouraging us to think about your organisations purpose and to question:

1.    What would happen if your organisation didn’t exist?  

2.    What is the challenge that your organisation needs to work on and through with your members?

3.    How can we involve and engage them in that challenge?