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Transforming Organization Culture

This weekend I happened to watch a play by “Yours Truly Theatre” titled “Bhagwaan Dhoondo“, which loosely translated means “The Search for your Own God”. It was by all means an enthralling performance, which ended with a standing ovation from the audience. It was funny, thought provoking and entertaining throughout.

What was most interesting thing about the play was that it was of a genre called “Interactive Theatre”, which is a kind of Improv theatre and has two parts to the play:

  1. The first part is rehearsed and performed by the actors. This part tells a story of the protagonist. It stops at a place, where the protagonist is at a cross-road and has a decision to make.
  2. The second part of the show is decided by the audience. The moderator of the play comes on stage and leads a discussion about the situation and what options does the protagonist have and what should he/she do in this situation. Based on the audience reactions, the actors then incorporate the feedback and play out the rest of the story impromptu.

When I stood applauding the performance, it stuck me that this would be a great way for an organization to design or transform its culture.

If  as a leader, you want to transform the culture of your organization, you want everyone in your organization to understand and act according to the new values.

Gather around your employees and get them to play out the situations that they face in their day-to-day work and stop them at a moment-of-truth, a moment where they need to make a decision and act on it, a decision that defines the culture of the organization. Now, stop the role play and ensue in a discussion about the various choices that the employees have at that juncture and let them offer their choices. Most of this will be based on the current culture. Now you can either continue to steer the discussion towards the decision that you want them to make as that will reflect the new culture you want to inculcate. Then get the same set of employees to improvise and enact the rest of the scene on this course.

In order to be successful, you as a leader need to be able to determine the Keystone habits of your organization that needs to be changed and use this exercise to influence that habit, which can then start an avalanche of change within the organization.

This method of influencing the culture of the organization has some significant benefits like:

  • This leaves no scope for ambiguity in the team as to how they are expected to behave in the specific scenarios that have been staged.
  • This can also bring forth all the other ramifications that need to be taken care of, all dependencies exposed, which can then be worked upon. It is in such details that most culture transformation exercises fail.
  • This also allows you to try the different options for the teams in a way that does not cost money or lost time.
  • This is also a fun activity for the team to do. Specially, when the team is able to exaggerate the situation a bit and is able to have some fun at themselves and the current policies.
  • This also creates a sense of caraderie among the team along with a sense of ownership for the new behavior as it was arrived together with them and not ordered by someone in the “Corporate”, who doesn’t understand a thing about how things work in reality. This substantially increases the odds for the new behavior to take root.

Do share your thoughts about this approach for culture transformation.

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PS: Charles Duhigg talks about Keystone habits and how to change habits

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