Leveraging Expertise for Organizational Success

Experienced consultants bring a wealth of knowledge and understanding that can contribute greatly to guiding organizations towards their cultural objectives. These change agents offer perspectives that go beyond conventional practice to provide tailored strategies that help leaders with their constructive impact or in discovering their organizational potential. By leveraging a skilled consultant, leaders can navigate the complexities of today’s business climate to drive effective change.

For a comprehensive change process, it’s crucial to understand the key components and strategies that skilled consultants rely on. At its core, a professional’s toolkit should include a suite of fundamental elements and methodologies as outlined below.

Charting Course: The Vital Role of Assessments

In the realm of organizational development, valid and reliable assessments form the foundation for organizational culture understanding. They offer clear, measurable insights into the current state of affairs highlighting strengths, identifying themes, and pinpointing areas for growth and improvement. Utilizing assessment tools such as the Organizational Culture Inventory® or Leadership/Impact® not only establishes a benchmark but also paves the way for targeted and impactful development strategies.

Cultivating a Positive Culture with a Constructive Approach

Embracing Constructive Styles as identified by Human Synergistics is central to establishing a positive and productive workplace environment. These four behavioral styles – Achievement, Self-Actualizing, Humanistic-Encouraging, and Affiliative – as described in Dr. Robert A. Cooke’s article “Create Constructive Cultures and Impact the World” are linked to enhanced motivation, engagement, teamwork, quality, adaptability, and profitability. Encouraging these styles is essential for achieving long term organizational success and retaining top talent.

Navigating Growth Through Feedback

Objective, behavior-based feedback, especially when delivered constructively and strategically, is a powerful catalyst for growth and development, encourages learning, and builds trust. When facilitated by an accredited coach, this feedback can align individual efforts with the broader goals of the organization. With their unique perspective, a skilled practitioner can offer insight and new awareness for personal achievement or organizational progress.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

~ Margaret J. Wheatley

Evaluating Progress & Making Adjustments

One integral step often overlooked in the improvement journey is the remeasure – reassessing to measure progress and identifying areas for further improvement. By comparing the initial assessment against the remeasure results, you obtain tangible evidence of improvement while pinpointing areas where adjustments are still necessary. Whether for individual or organization-wide development, regular remeasures embed a culture of continuous improvement ensuring that leadership strategies contribute to both individual and organizational goals.

Integrating Wellness and Adaptive Leadership in the Digital Age

In today’s rapidly evolving workplace, prioritizing wellness and adaptive leadership is essential for maintaining productive, creative, and engaged employees. Upskilling the entire workforce, while critically important, isn’t just about business growth; it involves developing all personnel in being resilient and agile, understanding empathy, and being prepared for future challenges. Working with consultants can be invaluable for leaders as they strive to find balance between upskilling initiatives and cultivating adaptability within their teams.

Launching for Success

As you reset your focus this new year, reflect on the past for useful insights and consider the value an experienced perspective could provide.

For more than five decades, Human Synergistics has been at the forefront of driving constructive change worldwide. We’re dedicated to creating lasting change across all levels of the organization with our globally recognized solutions and experienced team. Whether as professional consultants or in-house HR professionals, our trusted network of accredited practitioners are diverse in their backgrounds, experiences, and industry knowledge to support your organizational change journey.

When you’re ready to chart a path for organizational success, let’s begin a conversation.

Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders: A University’s Approach

In a world where technology and innovation are constantly reshaping landscapes, education is no exception. Immersive learning, with its hands-on, real-world scenarios, has emerged as a cornerstone in today’s educational environment. At the forefront of this movement is Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), an institution renowned for its innovative spirit and steadfast dedication to combining business expertise with technological excellence.

Innovative Learning for a Changing World: How WPI is Leading the Way

For more than five decades, WPI has been a hub of innovation in the academic world and a global leader in project-based learning. Their mission goes beyond just imparting knowledge; it’s more about guiding technically adept students in becoming adaptive leaders capable of crafting sustainable solutions with a global impact. This commitment to project-based experiential learning is deeply ingrained in WPI’s values, ensuring students are equipped to navigate the complexities of our ever-evolving world.

The Transformative Power of Simulations in Education & Business

The integration of simulations into academic curricula represents a logical shift in teaching methodologies. These tools go beyond traditional learning; they immerse learners in real-world scenarios, offering them an opportunity to:

  • Sharpen their decision-making abilities
  • Improve communication and contributions
  • Cultivate an inclusive learning environment
  • Foster enhanced teamwork and collaboration
  • Prepare for real-world challenges

Problem-solving simulations, a well-established tool for team building, have a rich history represented by the Subarctic Survival Situation™, developed by Human Synergistics. With a product history spanning 45 years, Subarctic emphasizes the value of collective decision-making, the potential for group synergy, and the profound impact of group processes on overall performance.

During a recent graduate student orientation at WPI’s Business School, incoming students were introduced to the Subarctic Survival simulation. Set in a challenging cold-weather scenario, the exercise challenged students to communicate, collaborate, and critically analyze group dynamics. Incorporating effective teaching tools, like simulations, helps instructors to prepare their students for successful careers in industry, a practice embraced by numerous higher education institutions.

Blending Talents: Crafting Dynamic Learning Experiences

At the heart of WPI’s educational experiences is a synergy of talents, each bringing unique strengths to forge a dynamic learning environment. Nurturing this process is Robert Sarnie, whose innovative approach to teaching merges finance, fun, and futuristic learning. With a rich background at Fidelity Investments, Sarnie enriches his classroom experience with engaging videos and real-world applications, making complex concepts accessible and exciting. “I’m just trying to make it over-the-top engaging,” he says. It’s about preparing students for real-world challenges, ensuring they’re agile, adaptable, and forward-thinking.

Still, the creation of a vibrant educational landscape isn’t a solo endeavor. It thrives on collaboration and the collective expertise of dedicated staff members like Sandy Wellinghoff and Tom Clark. Wellinghoff’s strategic oversight of the MBA program helps shape a curriculum that’s both comprehensive and contemporary, while Clark’s extensive outreach initiatives fortify WPI’s network with students, alumni, and corporate entities. Their combined efforts lay the foundation for an educational experience that’s not only instructive but also inspiring.

“You can get something good done by yourself, but you’re not going to get anything big done.”

~Prof. Rob Sarnie

It’s this blending of different experiences, expertise, and energies that transform a simulation from a good exercise to a profound, life-altering encounter. Sarnie’s reflection, “You can get something good done by yourself, but you’re not going to get anything big done,” captures this ethos well.

Real Impact: Voices of Future Leaders

“I had the opportunity to participate in the Subarctic Survivor Simulation, and I must say, it was an enriching experience. The simulation went remarkably well and it exceeded my expectations in terms of knowledge sharing and teamwork. It was evident that everyone was genuinely committed to our collective success. The simulation also provided a fantastic platform for us to explore the concept of team synergy. As we worked together to tackle challenges and make decisions, it became increasingly clear how the combined efforts of a cohesive team can achieve remarkable results. Learning about team dynamics in such a practical setting was invaluable…” 

~Alison G., MS in Operations and Supply Chain Analytics Student

“Engaging in the Subarctic Survival Simulation was a delightful surprise. What I initially perceived as just another ordinary simulation turned out to be a remarkable experience. The organizers and the simulation itself were nothing short of amazing…” 

~Allen G., MS in Information Technology Student

Looking Ahead as a Difference Maker

The convergence of technology, business insights, and immersive learning is redefining the boundaries of education and corporate training. Classroom-based exercises, while not direct measures of resilience, provide students with invaluable opportunities to demonstrate and refine resilient qualities like adaptability, problem-solving, and stress management. These experiences equip participants with the skills and mindset required to effectively navigate challenging situations both academically and in real-world contexts.

At Human Synergistics, we provide surveys to guide organizational change, assessments to help leaders improve their impact, and simulations to enhance the effectiveness of work teams. As long-time allies of educational providers like WPI for more than 5 decades, it is our privilege to support institutions worldwide in contributing to the learning journeys of countless students.

Dean Debora Jackson provides this thoughtful challenge: “Want to be a difference maker? Join us.”

If you’d like to experience a digital survival simulation firsthand, we invite you to schedule a free demo.

image credits: WPI.edu

Embracing Constructive Styles for Organizational Success in the Era of AI

In the rapidly evolving landscape of the modern workplace, the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) brings both excitement and concerns. While AI offers transformative possibilities for businesses, it can also instill stress and fear among workers.1

Leaders can play a crucial role in helping their people embrace AI while alleviating their apprehension. With a clear understanding of the Constructive Styles and their value in fostering innovation and collaborative teamwork, leaders have the means to prepare their workforce to effectively navigate this new reality.2

In this blog post, we’ll explore the potential impact of AI in the workplace and how Constructive leadership and cultural styles can empower employees to adapt and solve complex business problems through mutual support, creative problem-solving, and synergy.

The Phenomenon of Artificial Intelligence: Balancing Opportunities and Challenges

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to revolutionize various aspects of work, from automating repetitive tasks to enabling data-driven decision-making.3 However, the fear of job displacement and the unknown implications of AI can create anxiety, stress, and resistance in people.

Leaders need to address these concerns by communicating with transparency and emphasizing the potential benefits of AI as a tool that can augment human capabilities rather than replace them. This position has been advocated by many observers, including Larry English in a recent Forbes article on AI and culture.4 Demonstrating a commitment to support employees throughout the transition and maintain open communication channels will help build trust and dispel misconceptions.

Understanding Constructive Styles: Empowering Workers for Innovation

The Circumplex-based model of leadership and culture, as established by Human Synergistics, equips leaders with a framework to understand, practice, and leverage positive behaviors that drive problem-solving and innovation. The framework has three groups of behaviors and norms, the most effective of which are the Constructive styles: Achievement, Self-Actualizing, Humanistic-Encouraging, and Affiliative. These positive styles contrast with and can replace less effective, Defensive, styles—not only with respect to the behaviors that leaders themselves exhibit but also the behaviors they encourage in the people around them (that is, cultural norms). Learn more about this framework in this excellent overview by Dr. Robert A. Cooke and through the HS interactive Circumplex model.

The Achievement style encourages setting high standards, challenging the status quo, and thinking ahead and planning—enabling team members to embrace and shape the potential of AI as a tool for innovation rather than a threat to their roles.

Leaders can boost experimentation and provide resources for employees to explore, test, and strengthen AI-driven solutions that enhance productivity, efficiency, and customer experience. This will help work teams embrace AI by enabling them to take ownership and increase its potential for improving their performance and jobs.

The Self-Actualizing style fosters a growth mindset, emphasizing personal development and encouraging people to continuously learn and adapt to technological advancements, including AI.

Leaders can support discovery and mastery, encouraging their people to see AI as an opportunity for acquiring new skills and expanding their knowledge. They can promote learning by providing training programs and resources that enable employees to develop the necessary skills to effectively work alongside AI technologies.

Embracing Constructive Styles: Cultivating Collaborative Teamwork

Successfully integrating AI into business operations requires coordinating related activities. This coordination is encouraged within and between groups by Constructive norms that highlight and reinforce listening, cooperating, and, more generally, interacting in positive ways.

The Humanistic-Encouraging style emphasizes creating a supportive environment where workers feel valued and safe, allowing them to explore AI-related opportunities with confidence.

The Affiliative style promotes a sense of belonging and open communication among team members, creating an environment where they can collaborate effectively to tackle complex challenges.

Leaders can accentuate the importance of collaboration in the context of AI by encouraging cross-functional teams to bring work groups together thereby combining human expertise with AI capabilities.5 Promoting and enabling an inclusive workplace where all team members contribute their ideas and insights with a sense of ownership and engagement is essential for leaders to consider.

Preparation and Upskilling: Equipping Workers for AI Integration

To mitigate the fear and stress associated with AI, leaders must invest in training and upskilling programs that help people develop the necessary capabilities to work alongside AI technologies.6  These initiatives should focus on skills and areas that complement AI capabilities, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and emotional agility.

Key Learnings

  • The emergence of AI can create stress and fear in the workplace. Leaders need to address these concerns through transparent communication and support.
  • Understanding the Constructive Styles empowers leaders to foster innovation and problem-solving in the face of AI.
  • Collaborative teamwork is crucial for effectively integrating AI into business processes. Constructive Styles enable effective collaboration and psychological safety.
  • By embracing Constructive Styles, leaders can champion psychological safety, where workers feel comfortable experimenting, sharing ideas, and learning from failures without fear of punishment or rejection.
  • Constructive leaders encourage open dialogue, diverse perspectives, and constructive differing, enabling teams to harness the power of AI collectively.
  • Leaders must invest in upskilling programs to equip workers with the skills needed to complement AI technologies.


Author’s Note

Stay tuned for news on Human Synergistics’ research and development on AI recommendations for cultural change in organizations. We are developing algorithms to help identify the most relevant culture styles and levers for change on which an organization should focus. The recommendations are based not only on the organization’s OCI and OEI results but also on the historical relationships between levers for change, culture styles, and outcomes.

The type of AI being used to produce the Prescriptive Feedback and Action Plan is Traditional AI, based on our own proprietary code, logic, data, and algorithms. We are not using generative AI, which is used, for example, by ChatGPT, Dall-E and Bard. We’ll keep you up to date on this new feature via our website and email outreach.

More generally, the past few years have been marked by significant disruptions and transformations, from the far-reaching impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic to the disruptive influence of AI. In light of these changes, it’s essential to equip your leaders and work groups with the necessary tools and strategies to thrive in the months ahead. From leadership assessment and feedback, to executive coaching programs and cultural transformation initiatives, we offer a range of services designed to help you build resilience, foster innovation, and achieve sustainable growth. Stay tuned for practical tips and actionable strategies to help your organization thrive in this rapidly changing world.

To schedule a complimentary discussion on envisioning your constructive culture, contact us here.

 

References

1 Beauchene, V., de Bellefonds, N., Duranton, S., & Mills, S. (2023). AI at Work: What People Are Saying. BCG. https://www.bcg.com/publications/2023/what-people-are-saying-about-ai-at-work

2 Cooke, R. A., & Szumal, J. L. (1993). Measuring Normative Beliefs and Shared Behavioral Expectations in Organizations: The Reliability and Validity of the Organizational Culture Inventory. Psychological Reports, 72(3_suppl), 1299–1330. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.2466/pr0.1993.72.3c.1299

3 Bersin, J. (2023). New MIT Research Shows Spectacular Increase In White Collar Productivity From ChatGPT. Josh Bersin. https://joshbersin.com/2023/03/new-mit-research-shows-spectacular-increase-in-white-collar-productivity-from-chatgpt/

4 English, L. (2023). The Impact Of AI On Company Culture And How To Prepare Now. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryenglish/2023/05/25/the-impact-of-ai-on-company-culture-and-how-to-prepare-now/?sh=21c0d0fb5f15

5 Chui, M., et al. (2018). Notes from the AI frontier: Insights from hundreds of use cases. McKinsey Global Institute. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/artificial-intelligence/notes-from-the-ai-frontier-modeling-the-impact-of-ai-on-the-world-economy

6 Bughin, J., Hazan, E., Lund, S., Dahlström, P., Wiesinger, A., & Subramaniam, A. (2018). Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce. McKinsey Global Institute. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/skill-shift-automation-and-the-future-of-the-workforce 

Culture Change Agents and their Role in Transforming Organizations

The Beacon

Being an agent of change for an organization’s culture requires solid strategic and communications skills. Those experienced in helping organizations to change their culture confirm that it can be a massive undertaking.

Whatever challenges the organization is facing—low morale among staff, bad behavior at the senior ranks, unhealthy team culture, employee burnout or poor performance, lack of innovation—the situation requires attention and implementation of corrective strategies to position the company for sustainable improvement and success. If left unexamined, these problems inevitably worsen and cut off the organization’s chances for recovery.

Enter the Role of the Change Agent

Cultural change agents, whether internal or external, provide guidance and expertise and help leadership teams understand the challenge at hand, assess next steps, and collaborate on a clear path forward.

What is a cultural change agent?

An agent of cultural change within an organization is a person who is trained and empowered to facilitate change. Sometimes this individual will be an internal member of the organization who has the perspective to see how things are and how they can improve. A cultural change agent is often external to the group—a consultant, for example—who has specific training to analyze and evaluate the organization’s culture and recommend ways that that might change. No matter the type of change agent, or their role in the organization, the work of facilitating cultural change is vital.

Examples of cultural change agents at work

In the casual setting of a recent Ultimate Culture Conference, skilled culture change agents shared the following success stories on culture transformation. Covering diverse industries such as architecture, construction, consumables (food), and healthcare, the experiences of these agents of cultural change are worth examining for useful insights to apply in your own cultural journey.

Let’s get started.

HKS Architects

Culture Change at HKS: Resilient and Responsive

Challenge

US Bank Stadium_HKSDallas, Texas-based architectural firm HKS Architects creates places that enhance the human experience, like the US Bank Stadium, home of the 2018 Super Bowl. After collecting employee satisfaction data for 10 consecutive years, leadership sought to better understand the current culture and the roadblocks that were inhibiting employees from taking the most successful actions.

Solution

A culture survey was initiated firm-wide using the Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI®) from Human Synergistics.1 Well-coordinated company-wide discussions, covering 20 offices across the globe, were conducted to review cultural attributes and the climates and prevailing behaviors of the various offices. Office leadership engaged staff in goal setting and planning. A new performance development system, ELEVATE, was implemented; not linked to compensation, the system involves managers meeting with team members three times each year. Culture change agent Cheryl Kitchner led ongoing discussions to facilitate participation and learning; vocal support from senior leadership is visible.

Outcomes

HKS reassessed its culture in 2016 using the OCI and added an assessment of the work climate with the complementary Organizational Effectiveness Inventory® (OEI).2 The retest, showing an impressive increase in survey participation, confirmed remarkable reductions in Passive/Defensive and Aggressive/Defensive styles and vital improvements along the Constructive styles. Key changes included a stronger commitment to and focus on personal and professional development.

The second phase of improvement is ongoing and includes:

  • Definition of a clear “FROM-TO” shift to consistently support the company-wide strategic priority, “Responsible Design.”
  • Implementation of a creative and engaging leadership development program, Root Compass. “Responsible Leadership Workshop” was customized based on culture assessment results and launched for use with all managers. Goal: 100 people trained by end of 2018.
  • Enhancement of the ELEVATE platform is further enhanced to include peer reviews for project teams and benchmarking by role.
  • Roll-out of personal assessments to identify individual styles and strengths. Goal: 600 people trained by end of 2018.

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Advocate Health Care*

Culture Shift + Leadership Development = Sustainable Results

Challenge

AdvocateHealthCareAs the largest health system in Illinois, Advocate’s challenge was to increase and stabilize engagement, focus on culture change, and strengthen relations within a high-profile, semi-autonomous unit that struggled with negative team dynamics, unproductive work relations, and entrenched passive-aggressive behavior.

*Advocate Health Care is now Advocate Aurora Health, April 2018

Solution

Focusing more on culture than climate, emphasis was placed on helping leaders and teams make the connection between outcomes and their actions and behaviors. Simultaneous “teach & learns” were delivered at all organizational levels with a keen focus on achieving ideal behavioral styles and impact.

The change initiative was guided by an OD professional specializing in culture transformation and leadership development. Culture change agent Diane Stuart’s 10 years of healthcare management experience qualified her to lead Advocate’s change effort through an intense and collaborative learning process using assessments like the OCI and Leadership/Impact® (L/I).1, 3

Outcomes

As leaders gained awareness of their behaviors and their impact on others, Advocate achieved a dramatic shift in culture, attained high levels of engagement, and exceeded financial goals. The impressive turnaround results realized by the focal unit have subsequently been used to motivate, guide, and transform other Advocate teams and departments.

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Johnsonville Sausage & Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development (CPED)

Ensuring a Culture for Growth

Challenge

UnivOfWisconsin_JohnsonvilleSausageMembers and leaders of Wisconsin-based Johnsonville Sausage have a bold vision to “be the best company on earth.” This requires that the leading national sausage brand be culturally prepared and poised for aggressive innovation on its way to growing and becoming a $1 billion company. An important step was determining whether the company’s Research and Development subculture would foster innovation and growth while supporting their desired culture famously cultivated in the “Johnsonville Way.”

Solution

Susan Dumke, Johnsonville’s Research & Development Senior Project Manager, partnered with CPED to coordinate a pilot culture study led by Lisa Yaffe, Program Director for Executive Leadership.

Accredited in the OCI, culture change agent Yaffe guided the Johnsonville team through the assessment and reporting process.1

Outcomes

A pilot study confirmed that the R&D employees maintained a strong Constructive subculture that helped the team stay aligned, focused, and to work together and grow. The process also confirmed that the OCI could be leveraged for assessing and developing the Johnsonville culture more broadly.

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Lessons Learned

Culture-related change efforts come in many forms. These three very different success stories provide the following lessons:

  • Recognize how your current culture is helping and hindering progress toward key strategic priorities.
  • Use a valid and reliable survey to gain a common language for and measure of both culture and climate.
  • Understand culture and climate as a foundation for adjusting strategies or plans to improve results.
  • Combine culture assessment and development efforts with leadership assessment and development.
  • Partner with experienced culture change agents for perspective and expert guidance.
  • The journey never ends. Engage leadership and all team members in additional phases of improvement as progress is measured and confirmed.

The guidance and expertise of a culture change agent can be invaluable to your change effort. For additional examples of how change agents guide leaders in transforming their organizations, check out part two of this series.

References:

1 Cooke, R. A. & Lafferty J. C. (1987). Organizational Culture Inventory®. Plymouth, MI: Human Synergistics International.

2 Cooke, R. A. (1995). Organizational Effectiveness Inventory®. Arlington Heights, IL: Human Synergistics/Center for Applied Research.

3 Cooke, R. A. (1996). Leadership/Impact®. Plymouth, MI: Human Synergistics.