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Rapid Culture Assimilation

Real Culture Change, Real Fast


Rapid Culture Assimilation™ will help you and your team live your new vision sooner, faster, and deeper.

Stop trying to be NICE about culture shift.

Slow and gentle can work…eventually. But think about it: wading slowly into the shallow end of a pool merely extends the pain of getting in the water.

Instead of being Nice, we invite you to be CLEAR about where you are going. Invite everyone into the conversation, and create a common language and set of expectations that will have everyone on your team excited about – and committed to – a new future. When you quickly pull everyone into the deeper end of the pool you save time and money, get your team bonded and working together faster, and move the organization where it needs to be ahead of schedule…and in the end, with less pain!

We call this Rapid Culture Assimilation™. This immersion approach to organizational culture shift can cut many months off a typical 18-24-month implementation timeline AND help address the toughest aspect of change: how people behave.

The Reasons for Change are Many – the Issues are Universal

There are many catalysts for organizational shifts – what’s yours? Merger? Acquisition? New leader with a new vision? Reorganization? New software? Competitive pressure? Customer dissatisfaction? Implementing Lean/Six Sigma? Financial difficulties? A new direction for the organization? Globalization?

The plans for change usually look great on paper. Yet, a large percentage of changes fail to deliver on the promise. Why is that?

Let’s speak the Truth about why change initiatives fail:

    1. People resist change.
      When organizational change initiatives bog down, it is rarely due to a “bad idea.” It is because human beings are programmed for Stability – so they resist learning new tools and hang on to their old habits, especially when it is “someone else’s” job to hold them accountable for making change. If you do not involve people in designing the change, you lack their commitment, and nothing happens.
    2. Change creates Uncertainty.
      Unless you make a living as an adventure guide, there is a big part of you – and everyone else – that needs Tomorrow to look like Today, to look like Yesterday. You want to know where you sit and what you are supposed to do. Yet once a change is declared – and until it is deemed “complete” – people cannot be certain of what tomorrow will look like. The longer the period of uncertainty, the more insecure people feel, and the more likely they are to disengage or even leave the organization. And if people jump ship, you must change your plans, which adds time… and on and on.

The biggest breakdown in culture shift often occurs here. To avoid making mistakes or making waves, the predisposition is to Study the current systems and people, conduct gap analysis, and otherwise hide in the safety of “analysis paralysis.” That can create the perception of activity, but no real action. Face it: The bottom line is that most everyone already knows what’s not working. What’s really needed is a leader who has the courage to declare the new future and then the tenacity to stick to the change decision and move as quickly as possible through the period of uncertainty.

  1. Organizational inertia is powerful.
    The Titanic did not hit an iceberg because people did not see it or they failed to understand what it was. They collided because it takes a long time to course-correct something that big with one person working a single rudder. If you are the only person pulling for the change, you cannot do it yourself.
  2. Everyone sees the world differently.
    Even when you work hard to deliver a consistent message, people will hear it differently than you intend. Everyone in your organization has a slightly different set of work/life experiences that create filters through which all communication must pass; words you choose for their positive meaning, for example, can actually create negative reactions in some people.

What you really want from a successful change initiative:

When you consider where you and the organization will be after the change is complete, you probably get excited about moving forward. What you hope for is that:

  • Everyone cares as deeply as you do, views the situation as you see it, believes it to be just as important, and shares your excitement.
  • Conversations in the organization change. They turn to “what is required to make this happen?” You can feel urgency in the air – it crackles with possibility.
  • People embrace the changes. Everyone feels 100% committed to the changes. The new outcomes are clear and universally supported.
  • Once people understand the changes, they know exactly what to do differently to achieve the new outcomes. Old/outmoded behaviors that no longer serve the goals disappear, while new behaviors, new terminology, and new priorities easily become the norm.
  • The business continues to operate at full speed even during implementation. Confusion is minimal, and people move easily from old to new processes without downtime or loss of quality, productivity, or service.
  • Employees feel connected. No one leaves, because they are so happy with the new order.
  • The new outcomes start to occur almost immediately. Productivity soars, creativity increases, costs manage themselves, the P&L statement shows improvement in the next reporting period, customers pound on the doors to beg for more of what you’re delivering, and you have to hire more people to staff your rapid growth.

Sound like a fantasy world? Perhaps the above is a wee bit exaggerated, yet…

…these objectives are actually quite reachable when you make Communication as important as Implementation

The solution? Rapid Culture Assimilation™. This multi-phase process dramatically accelerates the shift that is necessary to support the success of four common organizational changes:

  • Culture (the system of shared meaning/treatment of people in & outside)
  • Technology (what supports how work gets done)
  • Structure (how people and work are organized)
  • Process (the work itself)
  • and often several of these are intertwined

Rapid Culture Assimilation™ engages every member of the organization in a conversation to understand what you expect of THEM, and seeks to enroll them in the changes. This means leaders can shift from pushing change from above to collaboratingwith their people to accomplish it together.

This group experience starts with clear communication from the top leader, followed by several rapid rounds of facilitated conversation cascading down the organization, plus individual and group commitments to the change, group coaching for the top leaders, and follow-up sessions to manage accountability. Everything rests on the Four Building Blocks of the RCA process.

The Secret to Success of the RCA process:

Rapid Culture Assimilation™ succeeds on a foundation of four Building Blocks:

Building Block #1: Clarity

You know exactly where you want the organization to go, and what the future looks like, right? Ah, but does everyone else share the same vision? Sadly, and despite your many PowerPoint presentations, probably not. Using an adaptation of the Teachable Point of View (TPOV), a powerful communication tool developed by Harvard instructor Noel Tichy in the 1990s, we will guide you in the creation of your own teachable point of view. This concise and powerful statement will serve as a reference document for the entire organization, creating clarity and a common language for the new future.

Building Block #2: Conversation

Change is far easier to implement when everyone impacted has an opportunity to examine the changes and have a say in how they will make the shift from their current to the new reality. The second part of RCA is a series of structured, facilitated conversations with as many people in the organization as is practical.

We begin with the top leader’s direct reports, expand to all managers, and then to the front line staff. In each round, participants engage directly with you, the top leader, to understand – and even challenge – your vision and get clear on what you are asking of them. In addition, you serve as both Teacher (of the common language) and Requester (inviting them to embrace the future you have declared). The conversation reduces uncertainty, and opens the door for the next stage, commitment.

Building Block #3: Commitment

“Talking about it” is not enough – eventually, your Request for change must be matched with a Promise of action. Following a thorough examination of what is expected, participants in each conversation work as a group to study the leader’s teachable point of view and adapt it as their own. They declare – in writing and to an accountability partner – the specific behavioral changes they commit to such that they can deliver the new outcomes required of the organization.

Building Block #4: Coaching & Accountability

Old habits often overwhelm new commitments. To support the momentum of the change, we provide executive coaching support to you, the top leader, to help you make the behavioral changes you promised and to help you effectively coach your own leadership team. In addition, we provide group coaching for key leaders, to help them manage their own and other’s setbacks and to reinforce the new culture. Finally, we work with internal resources (e.g. Human Resources or key line managers) to ensure they are on board with the process from the beginning so that the organization fully owns the process and can keep the players accountable to their commitments.

Other benefits of the Rapid Culture Assimilation™ process include:

  • clear understanding of the top leader’s expectations,leadership style, and non-negotiable values.
  • An environment where the leader and team members can explore concerns, perceptions, and potential issues openly and productively.
  • Development of a Common Language around the elements of the culture shift, which might include communication, decision making, managing people and work, and the very concept of change.
  • Identification of what must change (e.g. leadership behaviors, communication processes) to meet the new expectations.
  • A personal action plan – from every person on the team – for making such changes.
  • A strong-shared commitment from the entire leadership team.
  • Support for the leadership team (tools and coaching) to help them adopt new behaviors and processes.
  • Acceleration of relationship building within the entire team.
  • Faster implementation of the new organization structure, language, processes and methodologies, and/or culture.
  • Improved productivity as your team(s) moves more quickly from a distracted “what’s my future?” state to feeling focused and committed.
  • Reduction of the uncertainty associated with change, leading to a reduction in undesirable turnover* due to anxiety or disconnection.*Note: the RCA process can also lead to a minor short-term increase in voluntary turnover among the small percentage of the population who cannot or will not embrace the change. Such ‘desirable’ turnover opens up space to hire individuals who are a better fit, and eliminates the distraction/drain associated with ongoing performance discipline.
  • Partnership of Human Resources or key leaders with the outside consultant/facilitator to create an integrative approach, combining work that previously done in the organization with new ideas and ongoing discussion/dialogue around future change(s).
  • A solution that is less training intervention and more real-world, practical business intervention.
  • An outside partner to the top leader who will provide objectivity, ask the tough questions, help the team get to the core of issues, and help them to apply what they learn in order to improve the organization’s effectiveness.
  • A meaningful team-building event. The retreats will not be merely daylong meetings. Besides having meaty conversation about things that matter, much of the work is done by teams engaged in fun, high-energy activities!

How the Assimilation process works:

I developed this process in the early 1990s after being recruited as HR Director/Chief Change Agent for a national insurance company with regional offices in three states and a new CEO who needed to fast-forward the company’s culture 25 years…NOW. This process helped us replace a long-entrenched entitlement culture with a more entrepreneurial, metrics-driven one in just six months. We suffered minimal turnover, and were able to return the organization to profitability ahead of the initial goal established by our investors. I have since helped a dozen companies or divisions navigate the process.

Rapid Culture Assimilation™ is a guided process that takes a leader’s articulated vision for the culture of an organization and moves it from their head onto paper and then embeds it in the language and behavior of the people in that organization. On a high level, it works like this:

Rapid Culture Assimilation™ Process Flow (High Level)

1. Clarity

The process begins when I provide you (the top leader) with a questionnaire that will help you sort out your thoughts and get your creative juices flowing. You will also receive document samples.

First, we conduct a guided interview to pull out and organize your teachable point of view (TPOV). I serve as your writing partner to co-create a polished and concise TPOV document that will serve as the foundation for the assimilation conversations.

2. Conversation

Then we hold a series of facilitated conversations/retreats, starting with the direct report group and cascading down and out in the organization (the number of events will vary based on the size of the organization).

First, we enroll your senior leadership team via a challenging conversation. The TPOV may sustain edits at this stage – the final document will be one that all members of your direct team can and will support.

Next, we roll out to all managers and then to all members of the teams (depending on the size of your organization), gradually enrolling everyone in the new culture conversation.

The agenda for the retreats will build upon your TPOV and include the following elements:

  • Focus of the day is review of vision, expectations, desired culture, and leadership behaviors and values, and the shared need to change.
  • Simulation activities and debrief that focus on eliminating the barriers to change that exist in the organization (customized based on the current environment).
  • An opportunity for participants to have direct conversation with the top leader to encourage and foster deep understanding of their TPOV.
  • Small group examination of desired future state/culture, followed by debrief and identification of open items. Participants will consider, for example:Do we “get it?” Where are we now? What “baggage” needs to be buried? What do we need to do to build this future? What is non-negotiable? What behaviors do we/I need to change? What do we need from our leader(s) to make this happen?
  • Group Action Planning: defining how the leadership team at large is going to move those they lead through the change.
  • Individual Commitment: Each individual personally reflects on what he or she is doing/not doing to make the change and to what specific behaviors he or she commits.
  • A team-building activity will wrap the day and open a space for the teams to interact with the top leader and ask the questions they did not ask earlier.

3. Coaching and Creating Accountability

I serve as your 1:1 executive coach to help you develop your TPOV and support you through this process.

I also work with your leadership team in a group coaching process to support them in leading and coaching the new culture (at a minimum, the senior leadership participates in the coaching group).

We conduct a follow-up on the Individual Commitments made by all participants, and via survey gather information on how core behaviors and outcomes are actually changing. This is in addition to any service and financial metrics the organization already tracks.

Finally, we conduct follow up sessions at three and six months post-event. These partial-day events reassemble the participants to continue the conversation about what is happening and what is not and invites a re-commitment to the changes.

Is Rapid Culture Assimilation™ a Solution for You?

The ideal client for RCA is a CEO, C-level manager, or leader of a discrete organizational unit. Past clients included:

  • The new President of a regional service firm who wanted to shift the culture to focus on the customer, first.
  • CEO of a $2B east-coast insurance company merging with a sister company in the Midwest who needed to complete the process of integration within six months.
  • The new CIO of a 2,000 person IT division of a Fortune 500 company sought to transition from a culture of independent “tribes” to operating off a common technology platform and mindset.
  • A Senior VP of Operations moving to a flatter, team-based organization that required everyone be actively engaged in the process of Creative Destruction for the sake of the organization’s survival – even as they knew that 2/3 of their jobs would not exist once the evolution was complete.
  • The Director of a creative writing division seeking to increase production by overhauling a decades-old structure and coming at the work from a totally new direction.

The RCA process is most effective in situations where the leader-in-charge (possibly you, the person reading this page) has declared a new future for the organization, has a desire to move rapidly through the period of change and uncertainty, and seeks to retain as many of their people as possible. The ideal RCA client is willing to invest more time Now to engage people, with the understanding that investment will pay off in faster implementation, deeper commitment to the new reality, and higher levels of performance.

RCA is not appropriate for those who prefer to ram through changes from a “because I said so” mindset, or for those who consider major employee turnover to be a “necessary cost” of change.

The RCA process has proven to work even when these “complications” exist:

  • Staff and/or leaders work in multiple states/countries.
  • The change is brand new and no one’s heard of it, yet.
  • Where the change has been In Process for months and appears to be stuck – or the details are still unfolding.
  • Senior leaders are resisting the change(s).
  • When the final implementation threatens jobs.
  • And even when the leader-in-charge is still unclear about the change (the first step in the RCA process is creating that clarity!)

If at this point you are curious about how the Rapid Culture Assimilation™ process might help your organization to create real change, real fast, you might be interested in taking the next step. If so, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary RCA Strategy Session.

In that session we’ll explore what changes you want to create for your organization, the core message you want everyone to “get” and whether this customized assimilation program may be of help or not. Whatever the outcome, you will leave the conversation with more clarity about the issues you are facing and excited about what is possible.

The conversation will take about an hour whether in person or by phone. Contact me to book a Rapid Culture Assimilation™ Strategy Session – I am Happy to speak with you.

In Happiness,

Jim Smith, PCC

Rapid Culture Assimilation™ is a unique offering from The Executive Happiness Coach®.