March 2017

22 APAC / March 2017 , 1702AP40 Culture, a Conscious Choice You could write a book about corporate culture – in fact many people have. One thing experts agree on is that even though it’s challenging to articulate or describe a particular workplace’s culture – it’s vitally important. One analogy describes culture as the air around us. We rarely give it a second thought but we live every moment surrounded by it and we rely completely on it. And if anything about it changes, we realise immediately. Some of the highest performing companies attribute their success to the culture they have created – you can find case studies online that explore aspects of Amazon’s, Google’s, Zappos and countless more besides. But so much of it is ineffable – just try to accurately detail your company’s culture. It’s especially hard when you consider larger organisations, take ANZ (the bank I work for) as an example. It doesn’t have a single culture. Among our different divisions, business units, professional functions and geographies and even down to small teams – in fact wherever groups of people come together – cultures are created. Conscious choices and other factors that shift culture Instead of managing a cultural program, I chair a working group of committed and passionate volunteers - representatives from each of ANZ’s Technology teams - who have come together to lift engagement and enrich culture. Even the formation of this group marks a positive step and progress. We work and support each other, collaborating on initiatives we believe will improve us as a Technology function and help become a better bank for our customers. This approach isn’t aspirational anymore, but an imperative Cultural Revolution Look up from your smart phone and you will see that digital natives are driving the biggest social change we have seen in modern history. The growth and popularity of social media has seen the balance of power transfer from companies to the people. Customers have embraced this new power and years of carefully developed and cultivated reputations can be damaged in a tweet. Organisations are taking notice. Our customers are telling us what products and services they want and need and they’re demanding that we develop these faster than ever. Of course, it isn’t easy and many organisations wrestle with the changing norms of society, the cracking pace of technological empowerment and what it means to adopt a culture of being ‘customer centric’. Diversity of thought If we agree that we need a customer centric culture then we must also agree that diversity is a key enabler of this. After all, our customers are a diverse group, often representing even more diverse communities and we need to reflect that across our organisations. The technology industry historically hasn’t been great at this, particularly in relation to gender. We typically resort to having ‘targets’ to address this imbalance, when the remedy should have been something different entirely. The truth is, “teams behave differently when they’re more balanced. There’s not much point collaborating when everybody thinks like you. So getting that diversity of thought is really important” (Shayne Elliott ANZ CEO. AFR, Feb 2016). Instead of the metrics being the outcome – “diversity of thought” is, supported by well-defined metrics to shape behaviour. No need to throw it all away Rarely is a company’s culture built by a single ‘generation’ of its people. That’s why I prefer to focus effort on ‘enriching’ a culture, rather than changing culture. It’s important to recognise and celebrate those who came before us and the positive contributions they made. In this spirit, we have given the reigns to our people to dream and shape their culture, focusing on inspiring and invigorating, recognising and leading from a platform of diversity and inclusion. In reflection it has been a year of experimenting, working out what resonates and adopting characteristics aligned to our ideal culture At times, it felt like fireworks going off; small initiatives all over the place that lit up the night sky, were celebrated and then disappeared into the inky dark. However there were some initiatives that took a hold, where people derived a personal sense of purpose from them. Better connected through speed mentoring A simple concept; set up a series of short conversations between senior leaders and employees to share knowledge and experience on topics of mutual interest. It was an instant hit. By cutting through hierarchy and creating greater opportunities for open and authentic conversation, we gave many people a level of personal interaction with a senior leader they had not experienced. It’s an activity that opened the eyes of the leaders too – hearing firsthand about the ideas and opportunities of those delivering work and broadening their understanding of issues and trends. It created new networking opportunities and enabled people to seek out fresh coaches and mentors to help them achieve the next step in their careers. Effective leaders should inspire us to achieve new heights that we didn’t believe were possible, to realise a potential that crafting learning and development plans, frankly doesn’t. It’s our responsibility to walk through when the door is opened and sometimes, yes, we have to knock.