The Five Ps is a model that depicts a system-wide view of an organization. You can use the Five Ps to understand your organizational culture and to use culture to manage change.
Organizational Culture Change
The Building a Culture of Distinction program is a four-step process for bringing needed change to an organization. Use this process to guide you in using culture to drive change.
The steps of the organizational change process are as follows:
1. Define the Core Culture of your organization
- Define your organization’s central principles—its Purpose and Philosophy—that describe the organization’s contribution to society and distinctive character.
- Build on that identity-defining foundation by establishing the strategic Priorities that will enable your organization to compete and thrive.
2. Audit for alignment
- Audit your Internal and External Practices and Projections to evaluate their alignment with the Core Culture–the Purpose, Philosophy, and Priorities.
- Calculate your Alignment Index and provide recommendations to improve alignment.
3. Develop a plan to improve alignment
- Develop a Core Culture Alignment Plan to improve alignment of Practices and Projections with the Core Culture.
- Set measures to improve alignment.
4. Implement the plan and monitor success
- Execute the plan to weave the Core Culture principles throughout the organization so everyone lives by the principles that will generate success.
When conducting an Organizational Culture Assessment, use these questions as a guide when collecting information through interviews, open-ended surveys and/or focus groups. During interviews, be sure to ask follow-up questions to enrich the information you collect. Encourage examples and stories.
Although the questions are designed to reveal particular attributes of the Core Culture, you will find that the responses are not always clear cut. Often people’s responses do not directly answer the question. Be open to what the information you collect actually reveals. For example, a Philosophy question might yield a Priority. You must understand the differences between a Philosophy and a Priority so that you classify the response in the most appropriate attribute category. Review the explanation of the Five Ps to ensure you understand these concepts.
Some of these questions sound repetitive. Often, using a slightly different word or phrase in a question will yield either confirming or new, insightful responses.
Below are some questions to consider asking employees in your process for conducting an organizational culture assessment.
- What words would you use to describe this organization? Give examples of each word.
- What is the purpose of this organization?
- Why is the work you do important? (Ask this question up to five times in an interview.)
- How are you making a difference to society through your work?
- What is your contribution to society through your work?
- What special attribute does the founder/leader possess that has influenced the character of the organization? Explain.
- Describe the ideals that drove the founding of this organization.
- What value is fundamental and distinctive to this organization since its founding? Give examples.
- What makes this organization feel different or unique from our competitors?
- Describe the personality or character of this organization.
- What is central to who we are as an organization that should never change?
- What should we focus on and pay attention to?
- To effectively achieve our strategy, what principles should guide how we work? Explain.
- What key values, if followed, would help the organization compete and thrive?
An organizational culture assessment is a process for defining and shaping the culture of your company. The outcome is a well-defined set of Core Culture principles and values (the vital Purpose, the distinctive Philosophy, and the strategic Priorities) that center the organization and provide the criteria for all employee practices.
If you’ve never conducted an organizational culture assessment, now is the time to consider it. There are several options for conducting a Core Culture Assessment. Choose the option that works best for your organization.
- Option 1: Conduct a Comprehensive Core Culture Assessment. This comprehensive culture-defining process requires the support of a consultant with this specialty. A trained professional has an outside view of the company which is often clearer than the perspective of a company employee. First, collect data (see sample questions) through interviews and open-ended surveys and/or focus groups. Next, triangulate the data with a closed-ended survey (based on the analyzed data) for all employees. Then, conduct a facilitated session with the leadership team to review data collection results and decide the Core Culture.
- Option 2: If you cannot afford an outside consultant, consider using this option. First, conduct a Core Culture Assessment Workshop with the leadership team using the Building a Culture of Distinction workbooks. The facilitator will use the text: Building a Culture of Distinction: Facilitator Guide for Defining Organizational Culture and Managing Change. Participants will use the Participant Workbook. Next, collect views from all employees through a closed-ended survey (based on the core culture options that came from conducting the workshop). Then, conduct a follow-up facilitated session with the leadership team to review the closed-ended survey results and decide the Core Culture.
- Option 3: This option works well in a relatively small organization where employees will feel comfortable sharing their views openly. First, conduct a Core Culture Assessment Workshop with the leadership team using the Building a Culture of Distinction workbooks. The Facilitator Guide will be used by the leader of the process. Workshop participants will use the Building a Culture of Distinction: Participant Workbook. Then, have an open session with all employees to discuss and alter or confirm results.
- Option 4: If the organization has fewer than 25 employees, you might consider conducting a Core Culture Assessment Workshop with all employees. The Facilitator Guide will be used by the leader of the process. Workshop participants will use the Building a Culture of Distinction: Participant Workbook.
An organization that has not taken the time to define its core culture principles lacks a clearly-defined identity. And with that lack of clarity, the organization will struggle to be successful. It will experience inadequate performance and unattained goals. In successful organizations, employees are united in shared principles.
Take the time to assess your organizational core culture. It will jump start a process for positive change. Contact me for information on the best way to conduct an organizational culture assessment for your organization.
When things are not going well—for example, good employees are leaving, commitment seems lacking, productivity is not up to par—an organization needs to make some changes. But where do you start? Unless the remedy is clear, rather than making isolated changes, the smarter strategy is to examine the culture of the organization.
When you incorporate change through a culture-defining and alignment process, the organization clarifies the desired values, reviews current practices, and creates a plan for more effectively living those core culture principles. Through this process, expectations for behavior are understood. Any behaviors that are not in sync with the core values are seen as a gap that must quickly be remedied.
Many believe that organizational culture change is a long and involved process. But when employees participate in defining and molding the culture to enhance the organization’s ability to succeed, then the changes that emerge are easier to implement.
Use organizational culture change to bring needed change to your company. Let change management really be a process of defining your core culture, auditing your Practices and Projections, and executing a plan to live the core culture principles and values better each and every day. Bring change from the inside out. Treat your organization as a system. Link organization change to the culture that is valued.
Purpose: Why is this Work Important?
The Purpose of an organization is the most central component of its culture. The Purpose defines why the organization exists. The Purpose is not the answer to the question “What does the organization do?” That typically focuses on products, services and customers. Instead, the Purpose is the answer to the question, “Why is the work of this company important?” This may sound like a simple question, but in its simplicity, lies tremendous significance for the organization and for each employee.
The Purpose is the cause that defines the contribution an organization makes to society through its work. Of course, businesses exist to make a profit, but they also exist to make a difference. Through their firm’s work, employees can make a difference and be part of a meaningful legacy. When an organization’s Purpose is meaningful to an employee, that person feels a connection to work that is not only rational—it’s also emotional.
Purpose Statement: Be Brief in Length and Broad in Scope
A Purpose statement is a few, crucial words that inspire and motivate employees who care about making that contribution. For example, the Purpose of a bread company might be, to nourish life. And the Purpose of an entertainment company might be, to make people happy. The Purpose statement is brief so employees can remember it and use it to guide their daily actions. Additionally, the Purpose statement is broad in scope to allow the organization to adapt over time to a changing world while keeping a constant, consistent central focus. Products and services often change, but the Purpose endures. Think of your company as a living entity; it is a vehicle for improving individual lives, and the world we live in.
Defining the Purpose: Include Everyone in the Process
When defining your company’s Purpose, be sure to include everyone in the process. Participation in the process builds commitment. Use small group discussions to come up with possible Purpose statements. Then, let everyone respond to a collection of options to see the statement that best conveys the fundamental reason why the company exists.
A Purpose statement does not have to be unique. Other organizations doing similar work may have a similar Purpose. Your Purpose should use words that are meaningful to employees and appropriate for your organization.
Purpose Statement: Screen Using the Six Criteria
Be sure your Purpose Statement meets the six Purpose criteria:
- It is a contribution to society—not a product or service.
- It answers the question: Why is this work important?
- It is inspirational and motivational.
- It uses powerful words.
- The statement is brief in length so employees will remember it.
- The statement is broad in scope to allow for future opportunities and change.
Use this worksheet for evaluating Purpose Statement Options: Organizational Purpose Statement Options To Be Evaluated
A Source of Meaning: Unite Employees with the Purpose
Take the time to unite employees around the organization’s Purpose so that work is more than daily tasks. Work should be viewed as a contribution to society and a source of meaning for each employee.
Organizational alignment is a beautiful thing. When the image that a company projects to consumers is consistent with both the customer experience and the values of the company, you have alignment. No mixed messages.
Think about your company:
- What are your company values?
- How do employees behave with each other?
- How do employees behave with customers, suppliers/vendors, and partners?
- What is your company’s image?
Are they consistent? Are they aligned?
For example, if you’re a hotel that projects an image of great service, and customers rave about your service, that’s alignment. Or, if you’re a hospital that touts an image of safety, and patients observe and experience superior safety practices while staying at your hospital, you have alignment. Yes, alignment is a good thing.
So what should Southwest Airlines do? It has a reputation for delivering great service and having a fun-loving attitude, but Southwest also has a reputation for low fares. Yet, according to a Wall Street Journal article, the average ticket price for a Southwest flight has been climbing and in some markets, a Southwest flight is higher than its competitors. Southwest price increases have been due to fuel prices (no more fuel hedges), longer flights and new ways for pricing tickets.
Southwest currently does not charge fees for checking baggage or for changing tickets. If you compute those benefits, it might explain why a higher ticket is not really higher when you add up all the charges. But for the customer who either does not check baggage or have to pay for checked baggage (due to frequent flyer status or the credit card used) and for the person who rarely changes their flight plans, this explanation does not justify a higher ticket price.
Southwest Airlines must rethink who they are as an airline. Are they like the big airlines? Do they only differentiate themselves by their fun-loving attitude and service? Is that good enough?
Southwest has much to consider as they merge with AirTran, but reflecting on their organizational identity might be something at the top of the list. The organization’s identity must be clear. When you change the essence of who you are as an organization, it has an impact on your customers and your employees.
Alignment is important. Know who you are and consistently be it. Otherwise, you will have a confused identity that can negatively impact employee engagement, customer satisfaction and your reputation.
Merging two organizations is a complex process. And it’s the details that can bog you down. From the way you slice a lemon to the way you serve a drink, each practice must be evaluated to ensure that those with a Delta or a Northwest history will perform similarly. The details are significant because they are not only habit for the employee, but also practices that should reflect the culture.
Evaluating how employees do everything might be excruciating, but it might also be a valuable experience. It’s the details that communicate values and produce a consistent customer experience. Companies should take the time to consider how work is designed and the systems and processes for doing work because if these actions do not reflect and align with the principles and values of the organization’s core culture, then the customer experience might not convey the right message about the company.
So even if your company has not experienced a merger, stop and evaluate what you do in your work each day. Screen those actions against the values that are core to your organization and make changes so that every action consistently produces an experience that supports what your company says is important. It’s the little things that matter–yes, the details can make all the difference. Each Delta employee greeting, each pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight experience should consistently communicate a set of values that differentiate the company and express what’s important. Know the values of your culture and be sure all the little things you do at work reflect, reinforce and align with those prime principles.
A recent article by Julie Watson of the Associated Press talks about the desire of many Americans to offer their gratitude for the heroic work of the Navy SEAL team. People are seeking a variety of ways ranging from expressing thanks through social media to making donations to military foundations to show their pride and gratitude for what was achieved. It is frustrating for many who would prefer to give a more direct and personal expression of thanks, but that does not work when it comes to these “quiet professionals.”
A job well done is not isolated to those who exhibit bravery and the ultimate of accomplishments. Employees in their careers accomplish much in their daily tasks, although the results may not appear as monumental. Showing thanks for a job well done is an important aspect of work life, but all too often, managers only document and discuss employees’ flaws rather than their accomplishments. When did you say a genuine thank you to someone for a specific job well done?
Showing appreciation can make employees feel their work is worthwhile and can create a positive mood that spills over to home life, as well. Working in a setting that nurtures workers through sincere, kind words of thanks can lead to positive emotions that impact health, conscientiousness, and creativity. Words that are shared in the workplace are valuable opportunities because they can have a tremendous impact on the receiver.
The benefits of positive emotion are many. As stated in the article, “Work as a Source of Positive Emotional Experiences and the Discourses Informing Positive Assessment” in Western Journal of Communication, January-February 2011:
Research suggests that positive affect improves efficiency, broadens attention, increases intuition, enhances problem-solving, improves information recall, leads to more cooperative approaches, expands cognitive processes and improves physical and mental performance. These benefits also appear to be durable. Other work has found associations between positive emotions and helpfulness, generosity, cooperativeness, graciousness, and increased trust.
Work should be intrinsically motivating. The job itself should be a source of meaning. In the case of the Navy SEALS, they accomplished a task demonstrating excellence in execution, and the outcome of their work was a contribution appreciated not only by their leaders but also by millions of Americans and others, as well. This work was truly meaningful work.
People want to feel good about themselves. And they also want to be valued by others.
The workplace is a social setting where words shared have a greater impact than a manager or supervisor may realize. Showing that you care can make a difference. Thanking workers when they do good work can make a difference. Communicating how a person’s work makes a contribution can make a difference. Nurturing positive emotion in others can make a difference.
Isn’t it time you make a difference in the lives of others at work? Say thank you for a job well done. Encourage and appreciate others’ efforts. Take the time to nurture positive emotions. It helps others, and it might just help you, too.
After reading the WSJ article “Michael Dell Looks Beyond PC Business,” you may wonder where is the soul of Dell. In the excerpts of the WSJ interview with Michael Dell, no clear company Purpose or set of defining principles–a Philosophy–stand out. Where is the soul of Dell?
Leadership is the dominant driver of culture and strategy; therefore, in all communications, the CEO must share the Purpose of the company and its defining Philosophy. These core attributes must be at the heart of each conversation. These defining principles serve the company internally as a glue to unite and a compass to guide. But they also must be consistently communicated to the public so that everyone has a sense of the heart and soul of the company and its distinctive contribution. The energy of the company’s essence can be a powerful tool–when it is genuine and shared.
But in the interview with Michael Dell–the founder–the conversation centered more on the company’s move from consumer to enterprise, the importance of acquisitions and the push to supporting cloud computing. These are conversations that are important but not distinguishing.
If Dell wants to stand out and achieve, the company must look inside and unite again around a Purpose and Philosophy that every employee connects to and that the public understands. To be a leader, a company must know itself and its distinguishing attributes and then build on that internal strength and devoted mindset. Understanding your markets and strategy is essential, but you must also understand and communicate your Core Culture–the essence of who you are–so that you stand out and succeed because of your distinctive ability to make a contribution.