How to Navigate a Successful Culture Co-Design Process

Change is never easy. Navigating a complex culture transformation process can be daunting and at times, overwhelming. On the flip side, culture change framed as “Culture Co-Design” is an empowering experience that can unlock growth opportunities and help you achieve your ambitious business goals .

What is co-design? Brief definition and context to the business world. 

Design “with” rather than “for” is an effective process when considering how us as leaders can navigate a successful culture transformation. After all, our people are the drivers of culture and can easily influence the attitudes, moods and overall feelings of the work environment.

Through prioritising relationships with people at the forefront of your everyday business operations and truly listening to their experiences you can increase the level of suitability and relevance of change for the people closest to the problem. Co-design is the difference between a mediocre cultural transformation and an extremely powerful cultural transformation. 

There are key pillars and principles of the co-design process, essential in understanding how you can utilise this in facilitating a cultural transformation in your company. 

Key Pillars & Principles

  • Share Power

Pushing beyond traditional ways of power imbalances proves to be an essential part of effective co-design. There is a real need in co-design to break down these hierarchies. 

  • Prioritise Relationships

How trust can pave the way to deeper, more genuine conversations and experience sharing. The better the connection, the better the decision making outputs.

  • Use participatory means

Like learning, people like to express themselves in all different ways. Implementing various ways for people to take part in the co-design process is essential in ensuring active participants. 

  • Build capability

In traditional ways of decision making, the company “experts” aka CEO, Founders, Directors etc made all of the decisions often with consequences that affected everyone but the actual decision makers themselves. In co-design the “experts” are considered as coaches and have more of a listening role. Here there is a notion that everyone has something valuable to share and contribute to the final decision making process. 

So, how can you navigate a culture co-design process successfully?

5 Top Tips

It takes a team

The first step to a successful culture transformation process is making sure everyone in your leadership team is aligned and committed to rolling out the co-design strategy.

But even if the leadership team is on board, what about the rest of the organisation?

Culture is the collective values and behaviours of your leaders and employees which directly impacts your customers’ experience. And so, it’s important to involve your employees in the process from the start.

And because it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s imperative to be open and transparent throughout the process to make sure everyone continues to work towards the goals and objectives.

It starts at the top

As a founder or a business leader, you are at the foundation of change within your business. Business leaders are role models that influence every little aspect of how a team works together. And yet, many executives, at times, believe that change starts anywhere but them.

Change requires vulnerability and courage to fearlessly turn this vulnerability into opportunity. This is something that can be difficult for many of us especially if we are in a leadership position.

If employees are well aligned to the company, they will see and experience the culture and behaviours you value and start to mirror those intuitively.

And so, a large part of your time and resources should be dedicated to focusing and inspiring change at the top. It’s all about being the change you want to see.

Feedback is key

Leverage feedback as much as possible to assist bringing the culture to life. At times, executives can miss the fact that feedback doesn’t always have to be formal and scheduled. Informal sit-downs make employees feel comfortable and equal, which can help them open up and discuss their thoughts and suggestions.

On the flip side, when you give feedback to your people, consider the 8 – 1 method: eight pieces of positive feedback for every piece of productive feedback. Successful culture change is all about noticing! Once culture aligned behaviour is noticed, called out and rewarded the vast majority of the organisation will catch on very quickly.

Feedback should always be a two-way street and can also involve peer sessions and reverse feedback sessions. Simply asking what’s one thing I can do to improve how I lead in-line with our Values?” at the end of every 1-1 will unearth pure gold for you and demonstrate the kind of behaviour you want to see.

Don’t be afraid to stumble

A key factor to the success of your transformation princess is knowing no one is going to be perfect – at least at the beginning anyway.

 A couple of training sessions can give managers the basics of a new skill but they are more likely to learn and master a new skill on the job, and this will surely involve some missteps.

By encouraging employees to quickly adopt new behaviours and skills, you can uncover what works for your particular company and what needs to be adjusted.

 It’s all about asking the right questions and refining as you go, ensuring the new culture changes are adopted, and evolve into something unique and purposefully yours.

Prepare for pushbacks

And finally, you need to plan, prepare for and acknowledge pushbacks. It may be that not every employee is entirely happy with these changes, regardless of how open and collaborative we are throughout the process.

 To ensure a seamless transition for everyone, create a clear and comprehensive plan for how to deal with a pushback if and when it arises. And encourage managers to not be concerned or reserved to talk to their teams about this process.

After all, a true culture transformation process requires your entire business to make it work.

Ready to start exploring how co-design could help your business with a cultural transformation?

So when it comes to cultural transformation using a co-design process is it “One day…” or Day One!

At The Culture Equation, we’ve helped several businesses transform their culture, teams and leadership. If you’d like a 30-min Free No-Obligation Consultation, we’d love to have a chat with you.