Culture Fitness Training
Two experiential days of understanding, exploring and influencing organisational culture. An interactive workshop with lots of practical exercises and opportunities for conversation.
“I would not hesitate to recommend this workshop to any Scrum Master, manager (with some ambitions to remove impediments) and other change agents.”
Geir Amsjø, Scrum Trainer, after the first CFT
- Do you want to start loving Mondays?
- Do you want to create an environment where people are invited to flourish?
- Do you want to create awareness of your organisation’s culture and improve it?
I dream of workplaces where people want to belong. Where we love to work. Where we want to give our best.
Such a positive culture is essential for continual improvement, resilience and agility. This workshop is suited for human beings of any role and education. The greater your influence on people in your organisation, the more effective you’ll be able to put your learning into practice.
In this workshop, you will learn to
- Recover what your organisation may have lost in growth and what made you happy and successful
- Increase the level of trust in your team to effectively communicate on eye-level
- Embrace conflicts and ambiguity to leverage diversity
- Increase personal freedom through awareness of options and choices
- Facilitate conversations about culture, raise awareness and set the stage for great performance
- Visualise and articulate the workplace you want, and
- Define simple first steps towards hacking your work culture for great results.
There will be LEGO, and drawing, and play, and conversations.
CFT is designed as an experiential learning environment. More practice than theory, more dialogue than monologue. First day focuses on awareness and understanding, second on influencing and changing.
Adapt this basic layout to the needs and wants of the group.
Timing is intended for rough guidance, for groups of 5-6 people.
Welcome everyone and give them a chance to be fully present. Reflect what’s going on in your body, mind and heart. Share as you like.
Format as you see fit. If in doubt, use Core Check-In.
People reflect, visualize and share some of their key influences on how they think and feel about work.
Example questions to focus on:
What has made me successful? Where did I get the option to be authentic? Where did I bend into a role and why?
Let everyone share their story. Invite people to listen compassionately—don’t question or advise or judge. Invite to share where we feel resonance.
Adapted version of Temenos Influence Maps.
Create alignment on the culture we want. Increase trust and connection in the group through co-creation of an organisational persona. Raise awareness that all or most of what we want is already available in the system we have. Ratchet that sensation with a name.
Create awareness of how your current work environment and culture doesn’t yet fit you, and how you don’t fit in. Sense and visualize expectations and assumptions, and share. Encourage listening and expression of resonance similar to influence maps.
Adapted version of Temenos Clean Slate.
KrisMap serves as an emotionally powerful vision. StrategicPlay using LEGO Seriousplay will enrich it with detail and make it multi-sensory and multi-dimensional.
Allow 15 min for each participant to build an individual model of their dream work environment. Offer an abundance of diverse LEGO bricks for inspiration. Then everyone explains their model.
Integrate the individual models into a shared model. Record the explanations on video if you plan to share it with other people in your company!
Make sense of what you’re dealing with when you want to work with culture. Give participants 3 min to write down as many decisions as possible on one sticky note each: from “how to open a door?” to “do I drink another cup of coffee?” to “what do I do when I’m sitting in an airplane and I’m told it’s going to crash?” Order them together from small to big (easy to hard, no need to be perfect here), sticking them around the border of a table.
Group them into four groups, marking the border between them, and re-ordering them if needed:
- For decisions of the first group the right choice is obvious (“how to open a door”).
- Decisions of the second group can be figured out in advance, yet need analysis or an expert.
- Decisions of the third group can only be proven beneficial or not (not right or wrong) in hindsight.
- The fourth group (the airplane question above) consists decisions where we can never know if what we did was good or not. (In this example, either we die or we don’t know if the we bracing was helpful.)
Use this data to explain the Cynefin model. More info on Cynefin:
- HBR 2007 article: A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making
- Cognitive Edge
- My First Time With Cynefin by Zsolt Fabók
Share understanding (background, theory) on culture using models as you prefer. This doesn’t need to be one module, spread information as you see fit. The models I use are
Culture as an iceberg, with three parts:
- visible artifacts, actions, behaviours, above water,
- espoused values beneath, and
- basic shared assumptions at the bottom.
Useful and simple model in many conversation. Helps folks to understand why they don’t see what’s hitting their change initiatives in the back.
William E. Schneider
Four types of culture, depending on your organisation’s focus on
- actuality vs. possibility
- company vs. people
This model is helpful to make some sense of your environment and prevalent preferences, it’s also a simplifying categorisation. In the video on Cynefin above, Dave Snowden explains why categorisation is a limiting idea in a complex environment. Use at your own risk. Schneider’s book where this model is from is from the 90s, and most of it is not helpful anymore.
Specifically, I think modern organisations overcome the dichotomies that make up this model. People, system, actuality, and possibility are four independent axes rather then ends of two. We can have a “yes, and” culture that distributes control through collaboration, and cultivates competence. The model is helpful to show what kind of thinking we don’t need anymore.
My Favourite: Cohen/Stewart
Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart explain human culture as a shared identity based on shared stories.
I recommend two of their books:
- Figments of Reality: The Evolution of the Curious Mind
“Figments of Reality is an immensely entertaining read that tests our ideas about evolution, and convincingly argues the case for the coevolution of mind and culture. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll not put it down until you’ve finished reading all of it.” —Amazon review
- Science of Discworld II – The Globe (with Terry Pratchett)
“This is the cue for Stewart and Cohen to develop their ideas of stories as a shaping power in the evolution of human intelligence. Whether they’re called spells, memes, creeds, theorems, artworks or lies, satisfying stories are Roundworld’s equivalent of Discworld magic. It’s just that it all happens in our heads: “headology” as top witch Granny Weatherwax puts it.” —David Langford
Real Options is a mindset of choice. At face value, it’s a mental model for better decision making, on the next level, an influencing concept to create more choices in your context. On a third level, it helps you release your thinking and feeling from oppression and coercion.
Real Options are helpful to employ Forster’s Ethical Imperative: “Act always so as to increase the number of choices.”
Design Culture Hacks
Explain the difference between Culture Design (examples below) and Culture Hacking. Pick a problem that’s relevant to some people in the group. Create an empathy map and phrase a problem statement. Brainstorm hacks to improve or to inspire a conversation about the problem.
More Background, Influences, Reading Suggestions…
Michael Sahota has focused on organisational culture for longer than I did and has inspired a lot of my thinking. I’m grateful we’re on this journey together.
The original culture fitness training was co-created with Steve Holyer.
Jef Staes offers a free ebook: My Organisation is a Jungle. Inspiring.
Recommended book: Dan Mezick’s Culture Game
Why our goals are best achieved indirectly: Obliquity by John Kay
Designed Culture for great teams: McCarthy’s Core Protocols
Zappos is a prominent example of a company which is conscious of and deliberate about their culture. They publish an annual Culture Book. They’re also immensely successful. Upon the skeptical question in the training, “how do we know they’re successful BECAUSE of their culture?” Bernhard Bockelbrink replied, “that does not matter. If we can be like that and be successful, we should be like that.”