Perspectives from the *other side* on Software, Management and Life

Friday, May 23, 2008

Changing the office culture

In my early years of employment, I was once questioned how it felt working for one of the 'best' companies. Ofcourse, the word best being used in an extremely subjective manner. To this my response was its only as good as the manager I report to.

Now I find myself in a position of being the manager's manager, and it hits me - how do the employees feel about working here. I assume its good, after all there is a casual and open door policy maintained but .....
There is no such thing as perfect, and the culture I try to set with my direct reports may not be seeping through or not as quickly as I want. For those of you who like reading books, a good one is Growing Great Employees - Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers. But this book is great for managing direct reports, not changing the overall culture of an organization.

My experience is that its important to have the corporate culture evolved as part of your initiatives (if you're taking on a C level position). Since nothing is perfect, there will be avenues for improvement. With most organizations, the cultures are extremely crude or are different depending on division and groups, and this requires your attention.

Here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Shuffle up entry and mid management after assessing weaknesses and strengths of the managers. Entry and mid level management quickly get comfortable with status quo and thereby facilitate a stale culture. Note: be careful with shuffling, a blind shuffle often causes ruffled feathers and attrition.
2. Get employee survey feedbacks on managers. Make sure employees understand that their feedback will be given anonymously to their managers. The managers should in turn be measured
3. Insert yourself in the hiring process. Hire only the best, but ensure they're good team players. Everyone being hired should know you (assuming you're not a fortune company!), and the corporate vision from day -1.
4. Participate in random team meetings to see how the manager/team chemistry works. This isnt the best place to see it, but its better than not seeing it at all.
5. Regular all hands. For smaller companies, this means having company dinners and intermingling with employees. For larger ones, it means having an offsite etc. This allows all employees to get information direct from the source, which is immensely empowering since its not filtered by his/her manager.

And if you know of any good books on this, I'm all ears!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ali -

So glad you're finding Growing Great Employees useful!

I like your suggestions for establishing a more productive and vibrant culture. You might also want to re-look at Chapter 2 of my book, thinking about it through the frame of culture. I've found that establishing core competencies can be a powerful way to define the culture you want: you can then create that culture by building those competencies into hiring, development and promotion.



9:03 PM

Blogger Ali Syed said...

Thanks for the info. I've added a response to your blog, and am restating it here for the benefit of other readers:

"No surprise in the demand for getting your books translated, they're good! :)

Thanks for posting on my blog about relooking at chapter 2 of growing great employees. I'll look it up in a few days.

I've always been fascinated by the thought of how a corporate culture takes shape and how it impacts the lives of the employees. And hope my actions (using your book and others) allows for a team culture to develop that enables the sum of the individuals to be greater than the headcount.
Working at Sun, I always heard nice stories on how a corporate culture needs to be based on trust eg the older days at Compaq.

There is a book i plan on reading up (as soon as my local book shop gets a copy), named "tribal leadership". It seems to have some interesting angles at how cultures develop etc. But first i need to read it! "

12:44 AM

Blogger Mabel Ho said...

Some employees may be satisfied with the time spent working, while some feel more productive when working extended hours. Thus, as mentioned previously, employees should consider approaching their employees to understand their needs. Encouraging breaks through break-out rooms, spare desks for quiet times and longer lunch breaks are also good ways to encourage flexibility in the workplace. Read: creating a physically healthy company culture

9:46 AM


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