Transforming cultures from the bottom up

30. Januar 2020 by Roland Hess

Transformational conversations to navigate disruption, master change and scale it throughout your organization.

To solve big, systemic problems, you often need more than a new strategy. You need to change the culture that has contributed to them in the first place. But major cultural shifts are hard. The behavioral patterns of societies or organizations are built up over years and embedded into organizational structures, systems and processes. The unconscious behaviors that a culture creates need to be unlearned or the same patterns will continue.

However, there is a science to speeding cultural shifts. Our Transformational Methodology is built on three steps that break bad cultural habits and help groups quickly adapt to emerging challenges.

Organizations are systems which develop systemic behavior patterns (habits) based on their mental models — the basic beliefs of the organization. But those beliefs are actually acted on by teams and most importantly, individuals. So change must start with individual behavior, which changes team behavior and ultimately, the whole organization.

Identify the Mental Models that are impeding change and try to see how they manifest on a team and personal level. Then start transforming that personal and team behavior. Here’s how to do it, step by step.

The problem for many individuals pondering change is fear. But when we project our thinking into the future, we can imagine anything is possible. Instantly, the creative part of our brain is stimulated, and the fear part goes quiet. Now we can visualize a new version of ourselves, our team, or our organization without doubting. There is a simple technique that starts to create a positive future for you:

A. Getpositivelyprimed.Beforeyoustart,assumethatyouwillbesuccessful.
B. Projectyourthinkingintothefuture.
C. Fliptheperspective.Visualizehowotherswouldrealizethatthesolutionwassuccessful. D. Identifywhatboldmovesweremadeinordertoaccomplishyourgoal.

This is the most important part. Start gathering answers from your group and keep digging to build a deep list of bold moves that would make this future come true. This is how to create the compelling story of change for you, your team or organization.

Next, we need to “parallel process” that future in the here and now. To do that, we must create measurable actions that make that future happen. So, we’ll create easy-to-monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and measure them as we go. By using KPIs, we create “conscious” contact with reality to overcome our brain’s resistance to change.

STEP 3: LEAD WITH ENERGY 1% improvement every week!
When everyone recognizes that small adaptations are paying off, their enthusiasm for change grows. There is a joy of getting better which is literally the positive energy your brain needs to connect new neurons. The more you do it, the more these new connections grow— becoming the “maps” of your new behavior. The stronger these “maps” become, the less energy is required to form the new habit. That’s how 1% improvements every week multiply quickly into really big improvements.


Let’s take a look at how the process works in a familiar situation in every organization — trying to make a meeting more productive for your team.

Before the meeting starts, get everyone positively primed by imagining that the upcoming meeting will go really well. Lead from the future by having everyone imagine what would create that successful meeting. Then, flip the perspective. Assume that your upcoming meeting goes really well. How would your colleagues notice this?

Two likely answers might be that everyone feels energized and that everybody knows what they need to do next to make progress.

Now, create two KPIs around those answers that we can measure halfway through and at the end of the meeting.

  1. I feel energized.
  2. I understand my next steps very clearly.

Give meeting participants a flip board to grade their energy level and their clarity on the next steps on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being best. You’ll be shooting for scores of 4 in each.

By creating this dialogue, you’ll reveal three key insights:

  1. You will ‚really‘ see where your colleagues are and this is creates conscious contact between their reality and the group’s.
  2. Deviation from the ‚desired future‘ becomes very clear and visible.
  3. You are now able to ask participants who are scoring low what they need so that they can meet the KPIs.

Measure each person’s score midway through the meeting. If anybody is scoring low, find out why and help them get what they need to achieve the desired score.

For most groups, improvements in energy level and clarity on next steps will likely happen in the second half, helping you build on small changes to reach your desired outcome—a more productive meeting for everyone.

When our Transformation Methodology is adopted throughout our organization or society, changes that would normally take years can be made in months. By consciously building new habits that change the way individuals work, we ultimately transform their teams, their organizations and their cultures. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Roland Hess is Senior Vice President, Applied Excellence, at Innogy, a leader in renewable energy throughout Europe. Since 2014, he has led their NWOW (New Way of Working) transformation program. On behalf of Innogy, he is also a board member of Plause,a software platform that helps companies spark employee engagement, alignment and performance.