Building the Business Case for Culture: What business transformation leaders can learn from painters and decorators.

Building a Business Case for Culture

What business transformation leaders can learn from painters and decorators.

Life and business are always running in parallel and, if recognised, the learning in one world can define the level of success in the other. Following the premise that businesses behave like humans simply because they are driven by humans, I am always on the hunt for new and compelling examples. I had this put to the test with my most recent project of painting my entire flat in less than one week.

I thought this was the perfect opportunity to immerse myself in a different kind of transformation and to look at what learning I would discover over this week. It became apparent early on that these two worlds would be clearly linked and life had thrown me yet another opportunity to better define company culture transformation through a unique lens. It has also given me a heightened respect for individuals that master such tasks as a profession.

To help better put this article into context, I believe that it requires a small amount of personal narrative. I decided last year that I needed a change and put a fresh perspective on life and, as part of my quest for personal transformation, I uprooted and rented out my flat of 12 years. I have become a firm believer that change is required to keep us fresh-minded and a little shake-up is needed to challenge and energise that habitual soul that sits inside us all.

As the tenancy lease came to an end and it was time for me to move back into my property, I was faced with a mix of excitement and trepidation. As with any form of change or transformation, the thought of the unknown and the ‘what might be’ can weigh heavy on our minds and perception of how we view what comes next. In the case of my flat, I needed to put in place the next right move in order that I would re-enter this stage with a fresh and forward-thinking mindset.

Hence, the answer to this was giving it a transformation of its own and as project lead, labour and owner I was prepared to take on the challenge myself. To follow is 10 key learnings that I discovered during my week that directly relate to any leader that is building a business case for culture and seeking internal investment.   Once you embark on any people or business transformation programme it is imperative that you are in it for the long haul.

 

One: Best Laid Plans

As with any transformation project, preparation is key and ensuring that you have all the tools in place to hit the ground running on Day One. This will take the form of communication, people and assets that will be utilised throughout your campaign. I am a firm believer in having a launch day and celebrating the changes that are coming and to be open and transparent in the vision of the organisation going forward; however, one needs to be agile at the start of any transformation initiative, as even with the best-laid plans things do not always go quite as expected.

In the case of my decorating week, this was very evident in the fact that I had made my list of all the painting accessories that would be required – from brushes to drop sheets. Being a fan of Amazon Prime, I ordered all I needed and more to be delivered the day before the start date. Of course, this was cutting it fine however Amazon had never let me down before so was not expecting any issues now. I take full responsibility for the outcome as the card I used on file had expired and hence meant the Friday delivery would not come. This is the point that your stress levels will be put to the test so just relax and calmly think what is the next right move.

As leaders, we can get stuck here in the continuous circular mindset of what should have happened and therefore struggle to remain positive and focused on the future pathway. So the painting stuff did not arrive and if that was going to be my directive then I would never get past this first hurdle and get moving. In my case, I had to go old school and actually go to the paint store on the high street and physically pick it up. In doing this, it also reminded me of the value that we get from coming face-to-face with experts in their field and, therefore, it was actually a blessing in disguise as I got some firsthand great advice and cost savings to boot.

 

Two: Plan for the Unexpected

Following on from best-laid plans, it is important to continue this agile way of thinking going forward and remember we are people dealing with people. Hence, there will always be a degree of volatility in these relationships and at the beginning of any transformation project be prepared to have a difference of opinion. In the case of my flat, this came at the checkout of the existing tenants in which their view and my view of what was required differed greatly.

It was agreed that the flat would be cleaned and ready for sign off; however, this was not what I discovered. The flat was not cleaned to the expected standard and was not fully cleared and ready for me to start work. As leaders, we often need to deal with the unexpected as even with the best planning we must build in contingency for the things that are outside of our control and learn to deal in real time.  Often, we believe that we have been clear in outlining our expectations only to be met with a very different interpretation by others of what was communicated.

 

Three: Painting Party

To help lighten the load I had the Idea to dedicate the first weekend to have a painting party. In theory, this would have brought several friends together enticed by pizza, beer and the community spirit to pick up a brush and get to work. As I said, “in theory” as it did not really happen according to my desired vision as I never communicated this concept until the very last minute. As of which time, diaries were full and other commitments made and what would have accelerated the transformation process was lost due to my poor communication.

This brings rise to the importance of clear and timely internal dialogue leaders must have with their team. In most client projects that I have worked on over the past 20 years, poor internal communication by senior leaders is sighted as one of the key contributors to front-line disengagement. It is key that we communicate our vision through all potential mediums available and not just email.  Leaders need to be visibly present and active throughout the entire culture transformation programme. They need to be in constant communication with all the team, not just the other stakeholders that share a seat at the table.

 

Four: Bigger Job than Expected

As the weekend passed and I was moving into Day Three and Four of the flat transformation, I came to the realisation that the job was much larger and more time-consuming than I ever expected. What I estimated would take 30 minutes took 3 hours and on and on and on. This really enlightened me to just how unrealistic I could be with respect to time and the input required to reach most desired outcomes. Hence, in this, the project was falling behind schedule simply because I did not set the appropriate timeline from the onset or apply the appropriate people power to the work.

As a leader, when embarking on any transformation programme, be assured that it will require your full attention and if done well will take much more time than originally expected. So often I have seen leaders take on additional responsibilities that really could be delegated to others simply because they either do not trust their team or they misjudge the amount of additional work that goes into the various task required. It is key to build a great and supportive community around you and allow others to fail in order that they can be empowered to learn. Trust in others and communicate the vision in a way that they will assist in spreading the responsibility for many people.

 

Five: Balance between Roles

Having misjudged the amount of dedicated time that was needed to complete the entire flat, this then began to impact my responsibilities at Bridge. It suddenly became the domino effect and a clear balancing act between the two commitments was needed. Thankfully, I had the support required that meant I could just step away from most of my daily work commitments and focus on the painting task at hand. Without this, I would have been pushed and pulled between the two and only been half present in each.

If this becomes the case then both worlds will be impacted with a degree of mediocrity and momentum is lost. In respect to any form of business transformation, I call this “programme fatigue” and it is the point that key stakeholders and leaders begin to lose the drive and focus on the transformation programme. The day job comes first and, also, it becomes a great hiding ground from those leaders that are a little unsure what is really expected of them with regards to the people and culture piece. It is important to recognise this stage as normal and one that needs to be utilised to check on progress, refocus and re-engage everyone back into the vision.

 

Six: Wellness and Resilience

This would not be a review of business transformation without a consideration for the importance of wellness in both ourselves and for others. It was not until after the flat had been completed that I began to look back at the week through this lens and realised just how low a consideration I gave this during the process. I was so focused on completing the task that I stopped to look at the impact that working in this way had on my health and wellbeing. I mistook my bullish nature for resilience and gave no consideration to the impact that this had on my health.

Clearly, working this way for one week had no long-term effects and after a few down days I was back fit and fighting; however, it does shed light on the importance of managing a good work-life balance and the need that we have to step away in order to step up to the many commitments that leaders face in today’s demanding work environment. Resilience is not about just toughening up and getting on with it, as it is much more complex than that. It is about having the emotional and social intelligence to create an environment that brings out the best in you, your team and one that allows all the ability to deliver at their best.

 

Seven: Budget and Investment

The balancing act between cost and quality will always be on the agenda with every transformation programme and, hence, with respect to my flat, this was no exception. It is important to create a clear budget for all projects and cost must be a factor when determining the purchase of any goods or services. It is important to know where to save money and where to invest, as in many cases cheaper does not always equate to a cost-saving in the long run. For anyone that has ever painted with a cheap paintbrush, they will know the difference in the number of bristles that it sheds when using it.

Often organisations attempt to cut cost on staff engagement and development during a transformation initiative. It is believed by many stakeholders that this is the soft agenda and can be simply managed by the in-house leadership team.   In no way is engagement simple – and investment in third-party assistance is often required as people are the greatest asset of any business. Human behaviour and engagement is a science and sits outside most leaders’ remit and true skillset. To ensure long-term sustainable engagement of a workforce that delivers on the brand promise and offers an outstanding customer experience should never be taken lightly. Just because the brush put paint on the wall did not mean the brush would deliver the best result or last to complete the entire job.

 

Eight: Attention to Detail

I believe that ATD is one of the areas in which true professionals excel, as not only does it require a keen eye and passion for the task but is developed from a vast amount of experience. As my week of painting and decorating unfolded, I seemed to go on a ride of ups and downs on how I felt and delivered on this crucial quality factor. Having worked on the transformation of a 5-star branded hotel to that of a 5-star boutique property, I determined that one of the key differentiators in the 5-star hotel market is the attention to detail that is applied. It was this level of quality that I wanted to see in the finished flat and hence was faced with an even greater challenge.

At the start of the painting project, I was still learning how best to ensure that the quality was delivered in enough detail to guarantee that it was completed to a high standard but once my resilience dropped and fatigue set in, I began to notice that this was the first thing to be impacted. I simply just wanted to get the job done! Once I started to see the transformation take shape in the final days, my desire to ensure that the proper detail was taken returned and ATD became much more important. It is crucial that leaders track the engagement of their people against this crucial factor, as this will give sight to the sustainability of the care and standard of work to be done in the future.

 

Nine: Take Time to Appreciate

Celebrating success is a must to ensure that engagement and hard work is recognised and seen as a true accomplishment. I was so pleased to have finished the journey that I almost forgot to sit back and appreciate the transformation that had taken place. Not only in the look and feel of the flat but also in myself. I took on the challenge and even though it was much harder than I ever expected – I did it. I had the support of some great friends who joined me on my journey and this definitely contributed to the successful outcome.

However, it is important to recognise the journey in real time and not wait until the end to see the success. Every day of a transformation programme brings with it both challenges and exciting success. The role of leadership and internal communication is to find active mediums to share the stories of their employees. The difference that I see between change and transformation is that the first is needed to take a totally new direction whereas the latter is about laying new and exciting opportunities on an already stable core. It is within this essence that we find the true passion of our people and take notice of the hard work and commitment that they deliver daily.

 

Ten: Continuous Improvement

It will not stop with paint as this project has now inspired me to make some additional improvements to both the flat and also in the way I view transformation. It is not something that can be seen as just a tick-in-the-box exercise and one that, once completed, means that it can just sit untouched or it will slowly fade back into the existence that it once was.   This project was more challenging as it was left untouched for a few years and hence needed lots of attention. It has also given rise to additional areas that with a little work can truly make all the difference to the overall transformation. It is important to ensure that once the journey of transformation has begun it is seen as a continuous commitment.

Once the main planned strategy has been completed, I often advise clients that they then need to ring-fence areas of their business that will require very specific influences to perfect the performance of that area. The first stage of any transformation is to ensure that the culture is engaged and committed to the long-term vision and strategy of the business. Once this fresh new outlook has been assured then the team is open to the concepts and development to truly make a difference in the success. Then this is their opportunity to take ownership of the part they play; however, it is important to recognise that people and great customer experience need constant attention and the commitment of senior leadership.   It is not a fad or a phase – it is a long-term continuous journey that, once started, should never end.

 

In conclusion: this weeklong experience has given me a new respect for professional painters and decorators. Before I started this project I went to the market and got three quotes all of which I thought were too high and hence I made the choice to do it myself. On reflection, it was my lack of true knowledge of what went into the entirety of such a project from end to end and the skills that they offered that I truly lacked. All three quotes were well within reason.

What may look easy on the surface comes from both a wealth of inherent skill and learning experience which, when brought together, can make all the difference to both the journey and the final outcome. My advice to any leader that is looking to embark on culture or business transformation initiatives is to invest in the advice of either internal or external individuals that have experience in such a project. Also build a great team of people around you, as their support will be invaluable as the programme rolls out across the business.

 

Meet the Speaker

Helen Watson is a Senior Strategist for Ogilvy Healthworld, and specialist in customer experience and learning. She will be joining us in chairing a segment on wellness & performance at our conference on October 16th, “Building the Business Case for Culture”. In preparation for our conference, we have asked Helen for a bit of insight into Ogilvy Healthworld, the usefulness of journey mapping, and the importance of wellness programs.

You have mentioned that customer journey-mapping has become a very important tool in your line of work. Can this work be translated into an employee journey-map, and if so, what insights can you share with companies to benefit their employees?

As a customer experience expert, I have many tools available to help me understand what customers are going through, and their needs, challenges, goals and barriers. These help me design services and communications tailored to meet their needs and the needs of the business. Often these tools are used purely for marketing or sales to a specific customer base. This doesn’t mean that companies can’t turn the tables and use the same tools and skills on their internal audience.

Creating empathy with your employees and seeing the world through their eyes enables you to create and build initiatives that are truly valuable and will actually deliver a return on investment.

The employee journey within an organisation starts before recruitment, and even up to and beyond an employee’s last days of employment with the organisation. It’s quite a long journey to map out in its entirety.

At Ogilvy Healthworld we take a goal-driven approach to our customer journeys as we do with our personas. This chunks up larger journeys and helps us focus on the ‘Moments of Truth’ where employees are engaging with the brand or services. Here we can identify what is happening and if there is an opportunity for the brand to improve that experience. It also helps the brand to understand if the processes and procedures that they have in place as an organisation are effective. Everything Ogilvy does is data driven not opinion based. This helps us ground our journeys in what is actually happening, rather than what a brand or business thinks.

An example of a goal could be a new employee’s first week at work. What is the actual experience they go through? You map the stages of that process out and work out what the employee is ‘Thinking, Feeling and Doing’ at those stages, and does that reflect the values of your brand.

For example, if on day one the new employee arrives keen and eager to start work, but their new laptop hasn’t arrived and no one in the team knows they are starting, then this could create a negative experience and impression of the brand for that employee. However, if this same employee had the experience of being provided with a working laptop and taken through an onboarding process, they are likely to be left with a much more positive impression of the brand.

For customer journey maps to be successful and create positive change, they have to be data-driven and reflect what is actually happening. If not, they are just the ‘program du jour’ and will be abandoned as quickly as they are created.

I have heard Ogilvy have relocated offices. We were wondering, in the new space, what has been implemented and dedicated to employee wellness?

Yes, Ogilvy Healthworld has relocated to The City/Shoreditch borders, a move away from our previous home on the South Bank in Sea Containers, but it is a move to be with our WPP Health & Wellness colleagues, GHG and Sudler & Hennessey.

Being in the hustle and bustle of the City is obviously a completely different environment compared to the relative calm of the South Bank and our new office environment is definitely a calming antidote to that.

The first thing that hits you is how natural the space is. The WPP Health & Wellness logo, along with our ethos, “Be Well, Do Well”, are mounted on a living moss wall in the reception area. It was this ethos and company culture that has shaped David Davenport-Firth’s (Managing Partner of Brain Sciences at Ogilvy Healthworld and engineer of the new office space) vision. In his words, ‘we should really practice what we preach to our clients.’

The theme of nature runs through everything within the shared space and nothing has been left to chance. Every decision from soft furnishing to the colour of the paint is evidence-based design and reflects the natural environment as many hours, weeks and months of research have gone into the thinking behind all the different elements.

David uses language such as ‘visual pace’ and ‘in harmony with all the different elements’ when talking about the space, and when you see it all in action you immediately understand what he has achieved. Just to give you some idea, he spent nine hours with the lighting company to programme the lights across the two floors, making sure it’s exactly right to create this ‘visual pace’.

From the purely functional and practical perspective, we have two clear zones: one for work and one for play. The home spaces for each agency are clearly workspaces with desks, monitors and break out meeting spaces etc. However, wherever you sit you can still see plants!

Then there is ‘The Den’. This is a large break out area where you can escape, eat your lunch, have a meeting, socialise, work, or whatever you want to do. Even the main reception area is designed to inspire creativity.

Beyond these areas, we have a meditation room, which may be considered to be one of the more unusual elements that was included, but again there is a science behind this and the space is in line with the behaviour we are trying to foster. You can’t help but be more relaxed in this room.

It doesn’t just finish with office space; there are a number of initiatives that are to start in the near future. Remember, we are only week three in the new space. There will be activities, following themes such as mental health, activity, sleep, nutrition etc., run in conjunction with experts in the field.

There’s loads more to come which I have not mentioned. David is truly passionate about this project and he definitely has some tricks up his sleeve. For me, it’s a very exciting time to be working at Ogilvy Healthworld and, being on the receiving end of these initiatives, I’m pretty excited to see what lies ahead!

What advice would you have for our delegates about creating and delivering a successful wellbeing initiative within their organisation? Do you have any experience you could share with them?

As a participant in this wellbeing initiative, I can speak to what works and what doesn’t work from an employee’s perspective. Wellbeing shouldn’t be a tick-box exercise. It’s all too easy to give your employees free coffee and fruit and tick that box as done. You won’t see any real results from this.

WPP Health and Wellness agencies are in a unique position. We are a group of progressive healthcare communications agencies and this gives us the opportunity to be more playful with the way we execute initiatives.

David’s advice is to work with what fits into your culture. The culture of your organisation is important, and your wellbeing should be in line with those values; it doesn’t have to be dry!

How we’ve translated and implemented the science behind health and wellness may not be in keeping with the values of other organisations. What’s important is interpreting the evidence in a way which is culturally appropriate for your organisation.

How will we know that this has been worth it? Well, we won’t know for a while. We have set a benchmark by running a survey at the beginning of week two; so we have a good idea of where we currently stand. We also know that some things will fail, but that is sort of the point; we need to know what does and what doesn’t work. The plan is to gain feedback from employees at regular intervals, look at the uptake of different activities, gain an understanding of what motivates people to get involved, and how we can improve in future.

Hear more from Helen and other specialists and experts speaking at our upcoming conference “Building the Business Case for Culture”.

 

Here’s a Thought: The Human Element

We often interchange the words company, business and organisation to all have similar meaning as this gives flexibility when trying to avoid the same word being used multiple times in a paragraph.

So – is there a difference between these words and if so when is it better to use one over the other?

I see it as

A company is the active, present and structured state, which sits at the core and gives it a sense of strength and stability. It has clear logic however truly finds its own life when it is connected to the more human element of belief and values.
Simply said: What we stand for

A business is driven by personality and the professional manner in which it engages with the economy and customers. Once mature it develops its own code of conduct for both commerce and employees and further connects the culture with commonality of behaviours.
Simply said: Our ways of working

An organisation is an overarching collective and future state as it is always in flux and in constant development. It requires the strength of the first two in order to have the resilience and pride of its people to be part of a positive transformation. Without the human desire to grow and develop it will stagnate and begin to lose its collective energy.
Simply said: Together we make a difference

The secret to building a business case for culture is to respect all three and how each plays a very large role in creating a powerful and dynamic culture for both today and in the future. Respect and nurture all three entities as together they make up your brand narrative and connect your employees to the higher purpose.

Dale Smith, Creative Director for Bridge

Success Stories: Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa

For keeping it real and fun, we wanted to share a little insight into one of our most fun projects – one that was Eau-mazingly successful, because of its realness and authenticity.

In recent years, there has been a shift toward luxury 5 star boutique hotels and the UK-based Lewis Family Trust (known for their global property portfolio and owners of River Island) wanted to move into this market with their property in Palm Beach, Florida.

For 10 years, the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa property was managed by Ritz Carlton with an established market position, returning guests and high employee loyalty. In mid-2013, the Lewis Family Trust took on the management of the property with the directive to create a unique, new-fashioned luxury experience.

In moving to this new name with its own style of luxury, (oft described as ‘whimsical’) the Eau Hotelier population were worried  – how could they bring this new and unfamiliar brand to life, whilst still achieving the 5-star, 5-diamond ratings they had previously scored?

We started with the launch of the new values: Hoteliers, Integrity, Authentic, Intuitive and Goosebumps and an Eau-mazing staff event – think infused water, colourful cupcakes, team activities and the celebrity treatment for all staff.

After this, we explored the values, one at a time, across the entire population. ‘Hoteliers’ looked at empowerment and personal responsibility. ‘Integrity’ was about delivering on promises. ‘Authentic’ connected the Forbes standards to their greater purpose; infusing that Eau new-fashioned-luxury touch in achieving the rating. ‘Intuitive’ looked at how asking the right questions and being attentive (in the right kind of way) could help guests feel at home and offer a seamless experience. Culminating in ‘Goosebumps’; Bridge worked with the team to put all the values into action to create unique, personalised ‘goosebump’ moments for each guest experience, leaving a long-lasting impression and leading to guest loyalty.

Why was this project so fun? By tapping into the stories, talents, hobbies and uniqueness of each and every Hotelier, we were able to bring their individual authenticity to the table as part of the guest experience. And Eau-mazing characters they were – see our video below!

In 2016 Bridge Training & Events won silver at the UK Employee Experience Awards for Business Change or Transformation for their work at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa.

The hotel’s short-term goal was achieved within the first full year of operation, when they received the coveted #1 ranking on the Condé Nast Top 25 Resorts in Florida Readers’ Choice Awards.

Contact me on sharn@insidebridge.com for a copy of the case study.

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