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Workshop to Workplace - Transferring the Culture

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(Excerpts from a post-workshop proposal on transferring the workshop culture to the workplace. This is a response to the brief received from senior stakeholders.)


• Collaboration: Collaboration happens when every individual and function is willing to invest as much in the performance of other interdependent individuals and functions, as in their own performances. It also means being able to celebrate the success of other interdependent individuals and functions as much as they celebrate their own success. Obviously, this cannot be achieved by making people noble and saintly overnight, or by making them ‘drop their egos’. Instead, the challenge is to harness the ingrained ego-based needs of the individual and align them to the functional goals, and align the functional goals to organizational goals. This alignment can be achieved only by ensuring the following:

o Defining natural teams comprising of interdependent individuals and functions. (If my function in any way affects the performance of another function, then we are only functions. A Natural Team is a self-contained entity in terms of its performance.)

o Clearly defining the team goal – WHAT WILL MAKE US WIN AS A TEAM – and the time frame.

o Ensuring that the primary clarity and loyalty of every individual and function is towards the Team Goal. In order to create that loyalty, every individual and function must know that they can win only if that team goal is achieved. It is the responsibility of the top leadership to ensure that this primary goal, though immensely challenging, is ultimately, achievable. As experienced during the workshop, one of the fundamental rules of leadership is – “Never give a command that cannot be obeyed”.

o Creating a completely transparent Appraisal and Reward system that ensures that team performance is prioritised over individual or departmental performance. Individual star performances can and should be phenomenally rewarded, but the team must also have a major say in deciding who contributed the most towards the team’s success.

• Respect the formal structure: As experienced during the workshop, in every exercise there were clearly laid down parameters of performance with many rules that required a great deal of alertness and discipline to follow. If they were not followed, the team was penalised. In spite of that there was a great deal of respect for the rules, simply because everyone’s concept of winning as an individual was totally aligned to the team’s success. And that team success was dependant on participants following the rules.

The other element in terms of behaviour was that while there was a great deal of respect for the functional hierarchy – Kings, Generals, Dons, etc, - there was no sense of hierarchy at the level of the actor. We experienced how we can respect formal structure without letting it inhibit our freedom, our self-expression, our self esteem, or our fun.

• Role Clarity: One thing that clearly emerged repeatedly during the course of the workshop was that (Team) Goal Clarity should come before (Individual) Role Clarity. Only then can we be sure that every role is aligned to the team’s goal, while complementing the other roles. We also realised that when I was sure of what the goal was, when I was aware of the roles that others were playing, I had much better chances of adding value and adapting my role to get ‘bonus’ performances.

• Sense of Urgency: During the workshop everybody was functioning with a great sense of urgency. If someone wanted to get a bed sheet, or a table, or a chair, they did not walk. They ran. Very often you could hear people alerting others, “Hurry up. Only 10 minutes left” or “Only 5 minutes left”. During the contest, as soon as they understood what their primary actor was trying to communicate, the teams ran to take up positions. In fact, as soon as the primary actor came up, their team would be on their toes, ready to spring into action, like athletes at the starting point of a race.

• Execution Mode: Given the theatre production challenge with no formal experience, expertise, resources, rewards, and with very little time, at no point did anyone discuss why this could not be done. Clearly, they were totally into an execution mode, in an area where there was no formal experience, expertise, resources, or material rewards.

• Inclusivity Mode: Throughout the workshop, everyone was involved. Those who were not as competent as the others on a theatre platform were also roped in by the team and given roles where they also felt valued. There was a great deal of discussion, listening to each other, and taking decisions that were best for the team without ‘contradiction’ degenerating into ‘conflict’.

It is clear from the above that every single element of the culture you seek to integrate into your work environment is already behaviourally available with your people at the level of instinct and attitude. None of these ingredients need to be taught. All that is needed is the unconditional willingness of the senior leadership – the creators of the work culture – to re-create at the workplace, the environment that enabled this attitude. This would involve:

• Defining ‘Natural Teams’ – linking together interdependent functions united by the clarity of, and alignment to, a common goal and success.

• Defining Goals - There should be absolute clarity what each Natural Team needs to achieve, and by when, and within what parameters, to WIN as a team.

• Building relationships across hierarchy and functions, across the team where there is a great deal of respect for functional hierarchy without experiencing human hierarchy.

• Building trust in each other’s clarity and alignment through a policy framework that makes performance appraisals, rewards, and star performance awards, completely transparent and primarily team-based.

The process that we are now discussing cannot be done in half measure. Either we go the whole hog, or not at all. Doing it in parts could actually end up creating confusion, and will probably disorient the teams. Given the whole hearted and unconditional willingness to transfer the workshop culture to the workplace, the results as well as the rewards could be very exciting.

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