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Change Management
Changing an Organization’s
Culture, Without Resistance or
Blame
by Tom DiDonato and Noelle Gill
July 15, 2015
One of the biggest challenges a company can face is changing
people’s behavior — getting them to collaborate and be humble,
for example, or put the company’s long-term interests first.
Most
behavior-change initiatives accomplish little, at best.
So when we faced such a challenge at Lear Corporation, a
Fortune
200 automotive supplier with 136,000 employees worldwide, we
knew the odds were against us. We asked ourselves: What could
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we do differently?
Lear had gone into bankruptcy during the Great Recession.
Getting the company back on its feet required a major boost in
operating efficiency. We succeeded, but by 2013 we worried
that
we had taken our focus on results too far. In satisfying our
demanding customers, were we pushing the organization to the
breaking point?
In order to make our success sustainable, we decided to roll out
a
new “leadership model” for our middle- and upper-level
managers. We’ve been in HR for a combined total of more than
four decades, with multiple organizations, and we’ve been
involved in a couple such rollouts. Our model at Lear —
essentially a list of desirable behaviors — was pretty similar to
what many other companies promote. We focused on the soft
qualities that managers often overlook in their zeal for short-
term
results. “One Lear” was all about keeping the company’s
interests
ahead of one’s own division, function, or region. “Results the
Right Way” emphasized collaboration and long-term
perspective,
while “Lead with Integrity” pushed for accountability and
humility. We wanted strong but collegial leaders.
To make the implementation work, we took a four-phase
approach, focusing on awareness, learning, practice, and
accountability.
Awareness. We spent some money on publicity, including
framed
posters, mouse pads, and even a sculpture commissioned for the
headquarters lobby. The leadership model and related
descriptions went out in the 20 languages used by Lear
managers
around the world. But we knew all this was just a starting point.
We couldn’t sit back and just let the well-publicized model do
its
work. It wasn’t enough to say, “The instructions are clear, we’re
all
grownups, so people just need to follow through.”
Learning. Too many companies skimp on this step. Any change
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in behavior that matters is going to be difficult. First of all, it’s
just
hard to translate words on a page into specific behaviors,
especially when the words are about sensitive subjects. What
does
it really mean to “get results the right way”? Were managers
supposed to be more relaxed about expectations, more focused
on
the process, more forgiving when their subordinates missed
deadlines? How do you show empathy without seeming weak,
without losing your authority?
We ended up putting a lot more resources into this step than
into
awareness. People needed to see what success looked like, and
they needed to get support along the way. To make the process
manageable for HR, we divided our 250-plus middle and upper
managers into cohorts of about 65 managers each, with each
cohort getting intensive attention for a three-month period.
The work started with each manager getting an initial
assessment,
based on surveys of direct reports, on how he or she matched up
to the model. We wanted managers to know the areas they
needed
to get better at, as well as the strengths they could build upon.
The
assessments were purely for self-improvement. They had no
career consequences — no one outside of HR, not even
managers’
bosses, saw them.
Soon after receiving their assessments, each cohort attended a
two-day retreat, with the first one in August 2014 near our
Michigan headquarters. Our senior executives kicked off the
retreat by talking about the key behaviors in detail. From there,
we guided people through an online library of materials,
centered
on videos showing good and bad examples of each behavior.
Then
we put everyone into four-person peer-support groups, from
different locations, so they could talk through the behavior in
their own terms. We encouraged the groups to keep meeting
throughout the process and beyond.
Practice. I’m proudest of this step, which I’ve never seen
elsewhere. Real change is hard for anyone. If people are going
to
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muster the energy and discipline to alter their habits, they need
to
start with self-confidence. We didn’t want to castigate people
—
we wanted them to feel OK about themselves, while still
understanding the need for change. In essence we said: “Before,
the organization rewarded you only for short-term results; now
we need you to get sustainable success. It’s going to take real
change for everyone.”
Framing the situation that way made a big difference. People
didn’t feel blamed or put on the spot for their past actions. That
made them much more receptive to the message. It helped that a
lot of managers already knew that our current culture wasn’t
working so well — they just didn’t know how to fix it. Because
we
cast the issue as an organizational challenge, not a problem for
individual managers, people could talk about it and help each
other much more.
We had a good message, but I couldn’t send it, nor could HR as
a
whole. It had to come from the leadership, and it had to come
with some humility. That’s harder than you might think. It’s
rare
for a C-suite executive to publicly admit to struggling with a
corporate initiative. We put so much pressure on leaders
nowadays, and they need so much ego in order to rise to the top,
that it’s genuinely difficult for them to show vulnerability.
Showing vulnerability, though, was key to getting people to
take
the change seriously. We weren’t going to get anywhere if it
looked as though the leadership model were only for “some”
people. All the ambitious managers would figure a way to game
the assessments and come out clean. We needed people to really
embrace the change, starting at the top.
At those learning retreats, our executives made a point of saying
everyone was in this boat together. I’ll never forget our CEO,
Matt
Simoncini, getting up in front of dozens of managers and
saying,
in essence, “I’ve violated several of these model behaviors
myself
in the past. I’ve started to get better, but I still have a lot of
work to
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do.”
As for checking progress, fortunately we had overhauled our
performance management system only a year earlier. As one of
us
(Tom) explained in a previous post, instead of a big annual
evaluation tied to bonuses, we now had people meet their
supervisors on a quarterly basis, with no connection to
compensation decisions. The new leadership model fit easily
into
those conversations. With the money pressure off, managers
could talk more freely about their struggles with the key
behaviors. Instead of hearing only the bonus rating, they could
actually listen for their bosses’ feedback and advice. Managers
got
more-frequent, positive reinforcement, which is key to behavior
change.
We wanted people to have a good deal of time to figure out and
practice the new behaviors. We didn’t expect them to get it
right
the first time. A lot of behavior change is about failing your
way to
success.
Still, we did have to let several managers go, including some
vice
presidents. These were known troublemakers, at the extreme end
of the spectrum, whom we’d previously turned a blind eye to
because their results were good. People had justified their rough
leadership style by saying they had “passion,” but over the
years
I’ve learned that’s just an excuse for bad behavior. We couldn’t
have them around while we pursued the program, or we would
have lost our credibility. We had many more, not-so-extreme
managers I suspected wouldn’t make it either, but we wanted to
give them the benefit of the doubt — and some have changed.
Accountability. After six months of development, we assess
each
manager again, and this time the assessments have teeth.
Managers’ bosses see the assessments and start to factor them
into promotion and other considerations. I remember one
manager read his assessment and asked me, “Do I still have a
job?” I reassured him that we were giving everyone one more
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reviews
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Examples of Organizational Cultures Related to Diversity and
Inclusiveness
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David A. Thomas from the Harvard Business School and Robin
J. Ely from Columbia University School of International and
Public
Affairs have studied organizational culture in relation to
diversity and inclusiveness. Their research has uncovered three
types of
organizational cultures:
Discrimination-and-Fairness Culture: Assimilation
Access-and-Legitimacy Culture: Differentiation
Connecting Diversity to Work Perspectives: Integration
Thomas and Ely suggest that of the three types, only the third
provides a model for maximizing the potential of a truly
inclusive
organization. (See Bibliography: Thomas and Ely)
The following illustrates the interrelationship between the core
levels of organizational culture (surface-level culture, espoused
values,
and basic assumptions) and their expressions within the types of
organizational cultures that relate to diversity and inclusiveness
(assimilation, differentiation, or integration):
SURFACE Assimilation Images in publications and around the
facility are mostly homogeneous.
SURFACE Differentiation Images of people of color in
publications and around the facility are generally found in
specific places
where people of color are most likely to view them (e.g., a
brochure for a particular program targeted at communities of
color).
SURFACE Integration Images in publications and around the
facility are mostly heterogeneous.
ESPOUSED Assimilation The leader articulates a belief in a
color-blind management approach and states that he or she
doesn't
see differences; encourages others in the organization to do the
same.
ESPOUSED Differentiation The leader actively seeks diversity
for the staff and board with the intent of having people of color
work on programs, outreach, fundraising, etc., that are
specifically targeted at communities of color.
ESPOUSED Integration The leader communicates and actualizes
a clear vision of a diverse and inclusive organization where
the needs, viewpoints, and assets of all people are valued and
integrated into the organization.
BASIC ASSUMPTIONS Assimilation Organizational culture
reflects white dominant culture; norms go undiscussed or
unchallenged; people from diverse backgrounds are expected to
act like the dominant culture, e.g., women are expected to act
like men and people are expected to act the same regardless of
racial, ethnic, or cultural background.
BASIC ASSUMPTIONS Differentiation Organizational culture
values differences between groups, but the full contributions of
people of color are undervalued except insofar as they provide
access to communities of color.
BASIC ASSUMPTIONS Integration Organizational culture
values people from all backgrounds and encourages people of
color
to utilize their skills and knowledge to increase the
organization's relevance to communities of color; and
organization encourages
people of color to be full participants in the work of the whole
organization.
Thomas and Ely found the following components to be present
in most of the successfully inclusive organizations they studied:
The leadership understands that a diverse workforce embodies
different perspectives and approaches to work and truly values
the
variety of opinions and insights that people with different
cultural backgrounds bring to the organization.
The leadership recognizes the opportunities and challenges that
diversity presents to the organization, embraces those
opportunities, and commits to finding healthy solutions to the
challenges.
The organizational culture creates expectations of high
standards of performance from everyone regardless of their
racial or ethnic
background.
The organizational culture is such that training and education
programs nurture personal development, and carefully designed
jobs
maximize the potential of different staff people without
relegating them to isolated niche areas within the organization.
The organizational culture encourages debate and constructive
conflict.
Workers feel valued and are encouraged to apply their
background and skills in creative ways to improve the work of
the
organization.
The mission and goals of the organization are well articulated
and widely understood, which keeps discussions about
differences
focused on the organization's work.
The organizational culture and structure are relatively
egalitarian and people are encouraged to be themselves,
unencumbered by
unnecessary bureaucratic systems that control and limit the
activities of the people within the organization.
Complete Benefits of Having a More Inclusive Organizational
Culture and Analyzing Information.
Overview: Organizational Culture
Examples of Organizational Cultures Related to Diversity and
Inclusiveness
Discrimination and Fairness Culture: Assimilation
Connecting Diversity to Work Perspectives: Integration
Creating a More Inclusive Organizational Culture
Research Your Inclusiveness Guide Stories
Consultants/Training Connections Beyond Race and Ethnicity
Events and Resources
http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/
http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/print/507
http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/learn-more-about-
inclusiveness
http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/consider-comprehensive-
inclusiveness-initiative
http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/review-stories-lessons-
learned-and-best-practices
http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/consultantstraining
http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/connect-others-doing-
inclusiveness-work
http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/expand-beyond-race-and-
ethnicity
http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/ongoing-efforts
Organizational Culture
The New Analytics of Culture
What email, Slack, and Glassdoor reveal about your
organization by
Matthew Corritore, Amir Goldberg, and Sameer B. Srivastava
From the Magazine (January–February 2020)
Jean-Pierre Attal/Courtesy of Galerie Olivier Waltman
A business’s culture can catalyze or undermine success. Yet the
tools
available for measuring it—namely, employee surveys and
questionnaires—have significant shortcomings. Employee self-
reports
are often unreliable. The values and beliefs that people say are
important
to them, for example, are often not reflected in how they
actually
behave. Moreover, surveys provide static, or at best episodic,
snapshots
of organizations that are constantly evolving. And they’re
limited by
researchers’ tendency to assume that distinctive and
idiosyncratic
cultures can be neatly categorized into a few common types.
Our research focuses on a new method for assessing and
measuring
organizational culture. We used big-data processing to mine the
ubiquitous “digital traces” of culture in electronic
communications, such
as emails, Slack messages, and Glassdoor reviews. By studying
the
language employees use in these communications, we can
measure how
culture actually influences their thoughts and behavior at work.
In one study, two of us partnered with a midsize technology
company to
assess the degree of cultural fit between employees and their
colleagues
on the basis of similarity of linguistic style expressed in
internal email
messages. In a separate study, two of us analyzed the content of
Slack
messages exchanged among members of nearly 120 software
development teams. We examined the diversity of thoughts,
ideas, and
meaning expressed by team members and then measured
whether it was
beneficial or detrimental to team performance. We also
partnered with
employer-review website Glassdoor to analyze how employees
talk
about their organizations’ culture in anonymous reviews to
examine the
effects of cultural diversity on organizational efficiency and
innovation.
Jean-Pierre Attal/Courtesy of Galerie Olivier Waltman
The explosion of digital trace data such as emails and Slack
communications—together with the availability of
computational
methods that are faster, cheaper, and easier to use—has ushered
in a
new scientific approach to measuring culture. Our
computational-
lingustics approach is challenging prevailing assumptions in the
field of
people analytics and revealing novel insights about how
managers can
harness culture as a strategic resource. We believe that with
appropriate
measures to safeguard employee privacy and minimize
algorithmic bias
it holds great promise as a tool for managers grappling with
culture
issues in their firms.
The Studies
Our recent studies have focused on cultural fit versus
adaptability, the
pros and cons of fitting in, cognitive diversity, and the effects
of
diversity on organizational performance. Let’s look at each in
detail.
Fit versus adaptability.
When managers think about hiring for cultural fit, they focus
almost
exclusively on whether candidates reflect the values, norms, and
behaviors of the team or organization as it currently exists.
They often
fail to consider cultural adaptability—the ability to rapidly
learn and
conform to organizational cultural norms as they change over
time. In a
recent study two of us conducted with Stanford’s V. Govind
Manian and
Christopher Potts, we analyzed how cultural fit and cultural
adaptability
affected individual performance at a high-tech company by
comparing
linguistic styles expressed in more than 10 million internal
email
messages exchanged over five years among 601 employees. For
example, we looked at the extent to which an employee used
swear
words when communicating with colleagues who themselves
cursed
frequently or used personal pronouns (“we” or “I”) that matched
those
used by her peer group. We also tracked how employees adapted
to
their peers’ cultural conventions over time.
We found, as expected, that a high level of cultural fit led to
more
promotions, more-favorable performance evaluations, higher
bonuses,
and fewer involuntary departures. Cultural adaptability,
however,
turned out to be even more important for success. Employees
who could
quickly adapt to cultural norms as they changed over time were
more
successful than employees who exhibited high cultural fit when
first
hired. These cultural “adapters” were better able to maintain fit
when
cultural norms changed or evolved, which is common in
organizations
operating in fast-moving, dynamic environments.
These results suggest that the process of cultural alignment does
not end
at the point of hire. Indeed, our study also found that employees
followed distinct enculturation trajectories—at certain times in
their
tenure demonstrating more cultural fit with colleagues and at
other
times less. Most eventually adapted to the behavioral norms of
their
peers, and those who stayed at their company exhibited
increasing
cultural fit over time. Employees who were eventually
terminated were
those who had been unable to adapt to the culture. Employees
who left
voluntarily were the most fascinating: They quickly adapted
culturally
early in their tenures but drifted out of step later on and were
likely to
leave the firm once they became cultural outsiders.
To further assess how cultural fit and adaptability affect
performance,
Berkeley’s Jennifer Chatman and Richard Lu and two of us
surveyed
employees at the same high-tech company to measure value
congruence
(the extent to which employees’ core values and beliefs about a
desirable
workplace fit with their peers) and perceptual congruence (how
well
employees can read the “cultural code” by accurately reporting
the
values held by peers). We found that value congruence is
predictive of
retention—employees with it are less likely to voluntarily leave
the
company—but is unrelated to job performance. We found that
the
opposite is true of perceptual congruence: It is predictive of
higher job
performance but unrelated to retention. These results suggest
that
companies striving to foster a stable and committed workforce
should
focus on hiring candidates who share similar values with current
employees. Employers needing people who can quickly
assimilate and
be productive should pay greater attention to candidates who
demonstrate the ability to adapt to new cultural contexts.
The benefits of not fitting in.
When might it better to hire a cultural misfit? People who see
the world
differently and have diverse ideas and perspectives often bring
creativity
and innovation to an organization. But because of their outsider
status,
they may struggle to have their ideas recognized by colleagues
as
legitimate. In a recent study two of us conducted with V.
Govind
Manian, Christopher Potts, and William Monroe, we compared
employees’ levels of cultural fit with the extent to which they
served as a
bridge between otherwise disconnected groups in the firm’s
internal
communication network. For instance, an employee might have
connections with colleagues that bridge both the engineering
and sales
departments, allowing her to access and pass on a greater
variety of
information and ideas.
Consistent with prior work, we found that cultural fit was, on
average,
positively associated with career success. The benefits of fitting
in
culturally were especially great for individuals who served as
network
bridges. When traversing the boundary between engineering and
sales,
for example, they could hold their own in technical banter with
the
former and in customer-oriented discourse with the latter.
People who
attempted to span boundaries but could not display cultural
ambidexterity were especially penalized: They were seen as
both cultural
outsiders and social outsiders without clear membership in any
particular social clique. However, we also identified a set of
individuals
who benefited from being cultural misfits: those who did not
have
networks spanning disparate groups but instead had strong
connections
within a defined social clique. By building trusting social bonds
with
colleagues, they were able to overcome their outsider status and
leverage their distinctiveness. These results suggest that an
effective
hiring strategy should strive for a portfolio of both
conformists—or at
least those who can rapidly adapt to a company’s changing
culture—and
cultural misfits.
Cognitive diversity.
Proponents of cultural diversity in teams presume that it leads
to
cognitive diversity; that is, diversity in thoughts and ideas. But
the
findings about whether cognitive diversity helps or hinders team
performance are inconclusive. Part of the problem is that these
studies
use imperfect proxies for cognitive diversity, such as diversity
in
demographics, personalities, or self-reported beliefs and values.
Moreover, this line of research has rarely looked at how
diversity is
actually expressed in communications and interactions, which is
problematic given that team members are sometimes reluctant to
share
their real feelings and opinions. Finally, cognitive diversity is
often
assumed to be static, even though we know team dynamics
frequently
change over a project’s life cycle.
In a new study, which two of us conducted with Stanford
researchers
Katharina Lix and Melissa Valentine, we overcame these
challenges by
analyzing the content of Slack messages exchanged among team
members of 117 remote software-development teams. We
identified
instances when team members discussing similar topics used
diverse
meanings, perspectives, and styles, and then analyzed the
impact of that
diversity on performance. For example, in discussions of
customer
requirements, different interpretations of the desired look and
feel of the
user interface in some cases led developers to talk past one
another and
fail to coordinate but in other cases sparked creative new ideas.
Our results indicate that the performance consequences of
cognitive
diversity vary as a function of project milestone stages. In the
early
stages, when the team is defining the problem at hand, diversity
lowers
the chances of successfully meeting milestones. During middle
stages,
when the team is most likely to be engaged in ideation,
diversity
increases the likelihood of team success. Diversity becomes an
obstacle
again toward the end of a project, when the team is deep into
execution.
Cultural diversity and the organization as a whole.
We’ve seen that there are trade-offs associated with diversity in
teams,
but how does it affect the performance of entire organizations?
Conventional wisdom holds that firms must choose between a
homogeneous, efficient culture and a diverse, innovative
culture. A
homogeneous culture improves efficiency and coordination, the
theory
goes, because employees agree about the norms and beliefs
guiding
work, but the benefits come at the expense of fewer novel ideas
about
how to accomplish tasks. In contrast, a heterogeneous culture
sacrifices
the benefits of consensus in favor of healthy disagreement
among
employees that can promote adaptability and innovation. The
evidence
supporting this thinking, however, is scant and inconclusive.
In a recent study, we analyzed the language that employees used
when
describing their organization’s culture (for example, “our
culture is
collaborative,” “our culture is entrepreneurial,” and so on) in
anonymous reviews of nearly 500 publicly traded companies on
Glassdoor. We first measured the level of interpersonal cultural
diversity, or disagreement among employees about the norms
and
beliefs characterizing the organization. We found that
interpersonal
cultural diversity makes it difficult for employees to coordinate
with one
another and reduces the organization’s efficiency as measured
by return
on assets.
We then measured the organizations’ level of intrapersonal
cultural
diversity. Those with high intrapersonal cultural diversity had
employees with a large number of cultural ideas and beliefs
about how
to accomplish tasks within the company (measured as the
average
number of cultural topics that employees discussed in their
Glassdoor
reviews). For instance, employees at Netflix conceptualized the
work
culture in terms of autonomy, responsibility, collaboration, and
intense
internal competition. We found that organizations with greater
intrapersonal cultural diversity had higher market valuations
and
produced more and higher-quality intellectual property via
patenting,
evidence that their employees’ diverse ideas about how to do
work led
them to be more creative and innovative.
Jean-Pierre Attal/Courtesy of Galerie Olivier Waltman
About the art: In his project Cells, photographer Jean-Pierre
Attal explores the social
urban archaeology of modern office towers, revealing the
recurrence of patterns and
postures found inside.
This suggests that organizations may be able to resolve the
assumed
trade-off between efficiency and innovation by encouraging
diverse
cultural ideas while fostering agreement among employees
about the
importance of a common set of organizational norms and
beliefs. Again,
consider Netflix: Although “multicultural” employees
contributed to the
company’s diverse culture and drove innovation, the culture was
nonetheless anchored by core shared beliefs, such as the
importance of
radical transparency and accountability, which help employees
coordinate and work efficiently.
Implications for Practice
How can these findings inform leaders’ understanding of culture
as a
tool for improving the performance of employees, teams, and
the
broader organization?
First, managers can increase retention by hiring candidates
whose core
values and beliefs about a desirable workplace al ign well with
those of
current employees. However, too much emphasis on cultural fit
can
stifle diversity and cause managers to overlook promising
candidates
with unique perspectives. Hiring managers should look for
candidates
who demonstrate cultural adaptability, as these employees may
be better
able to adjust to the inevitable cultural changes that occur as
organizations navigate increasingly dynamic markets and an
evolving
workforce.
Hiring managers should also not overlook cultural misfits. They
can be
wellsprings of creativity and innovation. But to make sure they
flourish
inside the organization, managers should consider assigning
them to
roles in which they are likely to develop strong connections
within
particular social groups. That’s because misfits need the trust
and
support of colleagues to be seen as quirky innovators rather
than
outlandish outsiders.
Second, leaders should be mindful that the expression of diverse
perspectives in teams needs to be managed. Cognitive diversity
is
essential for generating novel, innovative solutions to complex
problems, especially during the planning and ideation phases of
a
project. However, the expression of diverse perspectives can
quickly
become a liability when the team needs to focus on execution
and meet
looming deadlines. It is during these times that team members
have to
unify around a common interpretation of the problem and come
to
agreement about what needs to get done to solve it. Leaders
must be
adept at switching back and forth, learning when and how to
promote
the expression of divergent opinions and meanings and when to
create a
context for convergence.
An important distinction is warranted here. The term “diversity”
is
often used to connote variation in the demographic makeup of a
firm’s
workforce. This has been particularly the case in recent years,
as
companies have tackled pernicious problems such as the
underrepresentation of women and minorities in decision-
making
positions in organizations. In our work, we use “cultural
diversity” to
refer to variation in people’s beliefs and normative
expectations,
irrespective of their demographic composition. As we pointed
out
earlier, demographic and cultural diversity are related, but a
demographically homogenous group may be culturally diverse,
and vice
versa. Our research on cultural diversity is relevant to but
ultimately
independent of efforts to increase gender, race, and ethnic
diversity in
firms.
Third, leaders should foster a culture that is diverse yet
consensual in
order to promote both innovation and efficiency. Such a culture
is
composed of multicultural employees who each subscribe to a
variety of
norms and beliefs about how to do work. These diverse ideas
help
employees excel at complex tasks, such as dreaming up the next
groundbreaking innovation. Managers should encourage
employees to
experiment with different ways of working—extensive
collaboration for
some tasks, for example, and intense competition for others. At
the
same time, a culture should also be consensual in that
employees agree
on a common set of cultural norms—shared understandings—
that helps
them successfully coordinate with one another. Leaders can
signal the
importance of these norms during onboarding and in everyday
interactions, just as leaders at Netflix do by rewarding
employees for
sharing their mistakes with colleagues in order to promote
beliefs about
the value of transparency.
A New Management Tool
Many of the tools we used in these studies are off-the-shelf
products,
and there is great potential for managers to use them to help
solve
practical challenges inside organizations. For instance, Stanford
PhD
candidate Anjali Bhatt is working with two of us to demonstrate
how
language-based culture measures can be used to anticipate the
pain
points of postmerger integration. We are studying the merger of
three
retail banks, and analysis of emails has revealed stark
differences in the
rates of cultural assimilation among individuals. Such tools can
be used
diagnostically to assess the cultural alignment between firms
during
premerger due diligence, as well as prescriptively during
integration to
identify where and how to focus managerial interventions.
Yet the accessibility of these tools also raises important ethic al
concerns.
In our work, we maintain strict employee confidentiality,
meaning that
neither we nor the organization is able to link any employee to
any
specific communication used in our studies. We also strongly
advise
against using these tools to select, reward, or punish individual
employees and teams, for at least four reasons: Accurately
predicting
individual and team performance is considerably more
challenging than
estimating average effects for broad types of individuals and
teams;
culture is only one of many factors influencing individual and
team
performance in organizations; algorithmic predictions often
create a
false sense of certainty in managers; and finally, giving any
algorithm
undue weight can have unintended consequences—for instance,
exacerbating human biases that negatively affect women and
members
of underrepresented social groups.
Algorithms make estimates, but it is ultimately humans’
responsibility to
make informed judgments using them. Managers must be
vigilant about
keeping metadata anonymous and must regularly audit
algorithmic
decision-making for bias to ensure that the use of language-
based tools
does not have unintended adverse consequences on culture
itself—for
instance, by breeding employee distrust.
These important ethical questions notwithstanding, we believe
that
these tools will continue to generate insights that allow
managers to
finally manage the culture as a strategic resource, and
ultimately lead to
more culturally diverse and inclusive teams and organizations.
A version of this article appeared in the January–February 2020
issue of Harvard Business
Review.
Read more on Organizational
culture or related topics Data
and Analytics
Matthew Corritore is an assistant professor of
strategy and organization at McGill’s Desautels
Faculty of Management.
Amir Goldberg is an associate professor of
organizational behavior at Stanford’s Graduate
School of Business. He and Sameer B.
Srivastava codirect the Berkeley-Stanford
Computational Culture Lab.
Sameer B. Srivastava is an associate professor
and the Harold Furst Chair in Management
Philosophy and Values at the University of
California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
He and Amir Goldberg codirect the Berkeley-
Stanford Computational Culture Lab.
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Summary. Culture is easy to sense but hard to measure. The
workhorses of culture research—
employee surveys and questionnaires—are often unreliable.
Studying the language that
employees use in electronic communication has opened a new
window into... more
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1. Describe the difference between dry and wet acid deposition. Ho

  • 1. 1. Describe the difference between dry and wet acid deposition. How does acid deposition affect aquatic ecosystems? Your response should be at least 300 words in length. 2. Describe the impact of air pollution on forest ecosystems. What is the difference between low-dose, intermediate-dose, and high-dose effects? Your response should be at least 300 words in length Change Management Changing an Organization’s Culture, Without Resistance or Blame by Tom DiDonato and Noelle Gill July 15, 2015 One of the biggest challenges a company can face is changing people’s behavior — getting them to collaborate and be humble, for example, or put the company’s long-term interests first. Most behavior-change initiatives accomplish little, at best. So when we faced such a challenge at Lear Corporation, a Fortune 200 automotive supplier with 136,000 employees worldwide, we
  • 2. knew the odds were against us. We asked ourselves: What could Changing an Organization’s Culture, Without Resistance or Blame https://hbr.org/2015/07/changing-an-organizations- culture-without-resist... 1 of 7 4/17/22, 5:31 PM https://hbr.org/topic/change-management https://hbr.org/topic/change-management https://hbr.org/search?term=tom%20didonato https://hbr.org/search?term=tom%20didonato https://hbr.org/search?term=noelle%20gill https://hbr.org/search?term=noelle%20gill we do differently? Lear had gone into bankruptcy during the Great Recession. Getting the company back on its feet required a major boost in operating efficiency. We succeeded, but by 2013 we worried that we had taken our focus on results too far. In satisfying our demanding customers, were we pushing the organization to the breaking point? In order to make our success sustainable, we decided to roll out a new “leadership model” for our middle- and upper-level
  • 3. managers. We’ve been in HR for a combined total of more than four decades, with multiple organizations, and we’ve been involved in a couple such rollouts. Our model at Lear — essentially a list of desirable behaviors — was pretty similar to what many other companies promote. We focused on the soft qualities that managers often overlook in their zeal for short- term results. “One Lear” was all about keeping the company’s interests ahead of one’s own division, function, or region. “Results the Right Way” emphasized collaboration and long-term perspective, while “Lead with Integrity” pushed for accountability and humility. We wanted strong but collegial leaders. To make the implementation work, we took a four-phase approach, focusing on awareness, learning, practice, and accountability. Awareness. We spent some money on publicity, including framed posters, mouse pads, and even a sculpture commissioned for the
  • 4. headquarters lobby. The leadership model and related descriptions went out in the 20 languages used by Lear managers around the world. But we knew all this was just a starting point. We couldn’t sit back and just let the well-publicized model do its work. It wasn’t enough to say, “The instructions are clear, we’re all grownups, so people just need to follow through.” Learning. Too many companies skimp on this step. Any change Changing an Organization’s Culture, Without Resistance or Blame https://hbr.org/2015/07/changing-an-organizations- culture-without-resist... 2 of 7 4/17/22, 5:31 PM in behavior that matters is going to be difficult. First of all, it’s just hard to translate words on a page into specific behaviors, especially when the words are about sensitive subjects. What does it really mean to “get results the right way”? Were managers
  • 5. supposed to be more relaxed about expectations, more focused on the process, more forgiving when their subordinates missed deadlines? How do you show empathy without seeming weak, without losing your authority? We ended up putting a lot more resources into this step than into awareness. People needed to see what success looked like, and they needed to get support along the way. To make the process manageable for HR, we divided our 250-plus middle and upper managers into cohorts of about 65 managers each, with each cohort getting intensive attention for a three-month period. The work started with each manager getting an initial assessment, based on surveys of direct reports, on how he or she matched up to the model. We wanted managers to know the areas they needed to get better at, as well as the strengths they could build upon. The assessments were purely for self-improvement. They had no career consequences — no one outside of HR, not even
  • 6. managers’ bosses, saw them. Soon after receiving their assessments, each cohort attended a two-day retreat, with the first one in August 2014 near our Michigan headquarters. Our senior executives kicked off the retreat by talking about the key behaviors in detail. From there, we guided people through an online library of materials, centered on videos showing good and bad examples of each behavior. Then we put everyone into four-person peer-support groups, from different locations, so they could talk through the behavior in their own terms. We encouraged the groups to keep meeting throughout the process and beyond. Practice. I’m proudest of this step, which I’ve never seen elsewhere. Real change is hard for anyone. If people are going to Changing an Organization’s Culture, Without Resistance or Blame https://hbr.org/2015/07/changing-an-organizations- culture-without-resist... 3 of 7 4/17/22, 5:31 PM
  • 7. muster the energy and discipline to alter their habits, they need to start with self-confidence. We didn’t want to castigate people — we wanted them to feel OK about themselves, while still understanding the need for change. In essence we said: “Before, the organization rewarded you only for short-term results; now we need you to get sustainable success. It’s going to take real change for everyone.” Framing the situation that way made a big difference. People didn’t feel blamed or put on the spot for their past actions. That made them much more receptive to the message. It helped that a lot of managers already knew that our current culture wasn’t working so well — they just didn’t know how to fix it. Because we cast the issue as an organizational challenge, not a problem for individual managers, people could talk about it and help each other much more.
  • 8. We had a good message, but I couldn’t send it, nor could HR as a whole. It had to come from the leadership, and it had to come with some humility. That’s harder than you might think. It’s rare for a C-suite executive to publicly admit to struggling with a corporate initiative. We put so much pressure on leaders nowadays, and they need so much ego in order to rise to the top, that it’s genuinely difficult for them to show vulnerability. Showing vulnerability, though, was key to getting people to take the change seriously. We weren’t going to get anywhere if it looked as though the leadership model were only for “some” people. All the ambitious managers would figure a way to game the assessments and come out clean. We needed people to really embrace the change, starting at the top. At those learning retreats, our executives made a point of saying everyone was in this boat together. I’ll never forget our CEO, Matt Simoncini, getting up in front of dozens of managers and saying,
  • 9. in essence, “I’ve violated several of these model behaviors myself in the past. I’ve started to get better, but I still have a lot of work to Changing an Organization’s Culture, Without Resistance or Blame https://hbr.org/2015/07/changing-an-organizations- culture-without-resist... 4 of 7 4/17/22, 5:31 PM do.” As for checking progress, fortunately we had overhauled our performance management system only a year earlier. As one of us (Tom) explained in a previous post, instead of a big annual evaluation tied to bonuses, we now had people meet their supervisors on a quarterly basis, with no connection to compensation decisions. The new leadership model fit easily into those conversations. With the money pressure off, managers could talk more freely about their struggles with the key behaviors. Instead of hearing only the bonus rating, they could
  • 10. actually listen for their bosses’ feedback and advice. Managers got more-frequent, positive reinforcement, which is key to behavior change. We wanted people to have a good deal of time to figure out and practice the new behaviors. We didn’t expect them to get it right the first time. A lot of behavior change is about failing your way to success. Still, we did have to let several managers go, including some vice presidents. These were known troublemakers, at the extreme end of the spectrum, whom we’d previously turned a blind eye to because their results were good. People had justified their rough leadership style by saying they had “passion,” but over the years I’ve learned that’s just an excuse for bad behavior. We couldn’t have them around while we pursued the program, or we would have lost our credibility. We had many more, not-so-extreme
  • 11. managers I suspected wouldn’t make it either, but we wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt — and some have changed. Accountability. After six months of development, we assess each manager again, and this time the assessments have teeth. Managers’ bosses see the assessments and start to factor them into promotion and other considerations. I remember one manager read his assessment and asked me, “Do I still have a job?” I reassured him that we were giving everyone one more Changing an Organization’s Culture, Without Resistance or Blame https://hbr.org/2015/07/changing-an-organizations- culture-without-resist... 5 of 7 4/17/22, 5:31 PM https://hbr.org/2014/01/stop-basing-pay-on-performance- reviews https://hbr.org/2014/01/stop-basing-pay-on-performance- reviews Are you a person of color looking to connect with the nonprofit sector? Click here to GET INVOLVED.
  • 12. The Denver Foundation | 55 Madison Street, 8th Floor Denver, CO 80206 | Phone 303-300-1790 | Fax 303-300-6547 | The Denver Foundation Home Page | Privacy Policy About Us www.denverfoundation.org FAQs Home Related Links How to Use Sitemap Contact Us Search Examples of Organizational Cultures Related to Diversity and Inclusiveness Home › Printer-friendly version David A. Thomas from the Harvard Business School and Robin J. Ely from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs have studied organizational culture in relation to diversity and inclusiveness. Their research has uncovered three types of organizational cultures: Discrimination-and-Fairness Culture: Assimilation Access-and-Legitimacy Culture: Differentiation Connecting Diversity to Work Perspectives: Integration Thomas and Ely suggest that of the three types, only the third provides a model for maximizing the potential of a truly inclusive organization. (See Bibliography: Thomas and Ely) The following illustrates the interrelationship between the core
  • 13. levels of organizational culture (surface-level culture, espoused values, and basic assumptions) and their expressions within the types of organizational cultures that relate to diversity and inclusiveness (assimilation, differentiation, or integration): SURFACE Assimilation Images in publications and around the facility are mostly homogeneous. SURFACE Differentiation Images of people of color in publications and around the facility are generally found in specific places where people of color are most likely to view them (e.g., a brochure for a particular program targeted at communities of color). SURFACE Integration Images in publications and around the facility are mostly heterogeneous. ESPOUSED Assimilation The leader articulates a belief in a color-blind management approach and states that he or she doesn't see differences; encourages others in the organization to do the same. ESPOUSED Differentiation The leader actively seeks diversity for the staff and board with the intent of having people of color work on programs, outreach, fundraising, etc., that are specifically targeted at communities of color. ESPOUSED Integration The leader communicates and actualizes a clear vision of a diverse and inclusive organization where the needs, viewpoints, and assets of all people are valued and integrated into the organization. BASIC ASSUMPTIONS Assimilation Organizational culture
  • 14. reflects white dominant culture; norms go undiscussed or unchallenged; people from diverse backgrounds are expected to act like the dominant culture, e.g., women are expected to act like men and people are expected to act the same regardless of racial, ethnic, or cultural background. BASIC ASSUMPTIONS Differentiation Organizational culture values differences between groups, but the full contributions of people of color are undervalued except insofar as they provide access to communities of color. BASIC ASSUMPTIONS Integration Organizational culture values people from all backgrounds and encourages people of color to utilize their skills and knowledge to increase the organization's relevance to communities of color; and organization encourages people of color to be full participants in the work of the whole organization. Thomas and Ely found the following components to be present in most of the successfully inclusive organizations they studied: The leadership understands that a diverse workforce embodies different perspectives and approaches to work and truly values the variety of opinions and insights that people with different cultural backgrounds bring to the organization. The leadership recognizes the opportunities and challenges that diversity presents to the organization, embraces those opportunities, and commits to finding healthy solutions to the challenges. The organizational culture creates expectations of high standards of performance from everyone regardless of their
  • 15. racial or ethnic background. The organizational culture is such that training and education programs nurture personal development, and carefully designed jobs maximize the potential of different staff people without relegating them to isolated niche areas within the organization. The organizational culture encourages debate and constructive conflict. Workers feel valued and are encouraged to apply their background and skills in creative ways to improve the work of the organization. The mission and goals of the organization are well articulated and widely understood, which keeps discussions about differences focused on the organization's work. The organizational culture and structure are relatively egalitarian and people are encouraged to be themselves, unencumbered by unnecessary bureaucratic systems that control and limit the activities of the people within the organization. Complete Benefits of Having a More Inclusive Organizational Culture and Analyzing Information. Overview: Organizational Culture Examples of Organizational Cultures Related to Diversity and Inclusiveness
  • 16. Discrimination and Fairness Culture: Assimilation Connecting Diversity to Work Perspectives: Integration Creating a More Inclusive Organizational Culture Research Your Inclusiveness Guide Stories Consultants/Training Connections Beyond Race and Ethnicity Events and Resources http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/ http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/print/507 http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/learn-more-about- inclusiveness http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/consider-comprehensive- inclusiveness-initiative http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/review-stories-lessons- learned-and-best-practices http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/consultantstraining http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/connect-others-doing- inclusiveness-work http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/expand-beyond-race-and- ethnicity http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/ongoing-efforts Organizational Culture The New Analytics of Culture What email, Slack, and Glassdoor reveal about your organization by Matthew Corritore, Amir Goldberg, and Sameer B. Srivastava
  • 17. From the Magazine (January–February 2020) Jean-Pierre Attal/Courtesy of Galerie Olivier Waltman A business’s culture can catalyze or undermine success. Yet the tools available for measuring it—namely, employee surveys and questionnaires—have significant shortcomings. Employee self- reports are often unreliable. The values and beliefs that people say are important to them, for example, are often not reflected in how they actually behave. Moreover, surveys provide static, or at best episodic, snapshots of organizations that are constantly evolving. And they’re limited by researchers’ tendency to assume that distinctive and idiosyncratic cultures can be neatly categorized into a few common types. Our research focuses on a new method for assessing and measuring organizational culture. We used big-data processing to mine the ubiquitous “digital traces” of culture in electronic
  • 18. communications, such as emails, Slack messages, and Glassdoor reviews. By studying the language employees use in these communications, we can measure how culture actually influences their thoughts and behavior at work. In one study, two of us partnered with a midsize technology company to assess the degree of cultural fit between employees and their colleagues on the basis of similarity of linguistic style expressed in internal email messages. In a separate study, two of us analyzed the content of Slack messages exchanged among members of nearly 120 software development teams. We examined the diversity of thoughts, ideas, and meaning expressed by team members and then measured whether it was beneficial or detrimental to team performance. We also partnered with employer-review website Glassdoor to analyze how employees talk
  • 19. about their organizations’ culture in anonymous reviews to examine the effects of cultural diversity on organizational efficiency and innovation. Jean-Pierre Attal/Courtesy of Galerie Olivier Waltman The explosion of digital trace data such as emails and Slack communications—together with the availability of computational methods that are faster, cheaper, and easier to use—has ushered in a new scientific approach to measuring culture. Our computational- lingustics approach is challenging prevailing assumptions in the field of people analytics and revealing novel insights about how managers can harness culture as a strategic resource. We believe that with appropriate measures to safeguard employee privacy and minimize algorithmic bias it holds great promise as a tool for managers grappling with culture issues in their firms.
  • 20. The Studies Our recent studies have focused on cultural fit versus adaptability, the pros and cons of fitting in, cognitive diversity, and the effects of diversity on organizational performance. Let’s look at each in detail. Fit versus adaptability. When managers think about hiring for cultural fit, they focus almost exclusively on whether candidates reflect the values, norms, and behaviors of the team or organization as it currently exists. They often fail to consider cultural adaptability—the ability to rapidly learn and conform to organizational cultural norms as they change over time. In a recent study two of us conducted with Stanford’s V. Govind Manian and Christopher Potts, we analyzed how cultural fit and cultural adaptability affected individual performance at a high-tech company by comparing
  • 21. linguistic styles expressed in more than 10 million internal email messages exchanged over five years among 601 employees. For example, we looked at the extent to which an employee used swear words when communicating with colleagues who themselves cursed frequently or used personal pronouns (“we” or “I”) that matched those used by her peer group. We also tracked how employees adapted to their peers’ cultural conventions over time. We found, as expected, that a high level of cultural fit led to more promotions, more-favorable performance evaluations, higher bonuses, and fewer involuntary departures. Cultural adaptability, however, turned out to be even more important for success. Employees who could quickly adapt to cultural norms as they changed over time were more successful than employees who exhibited high cultural fit when first
  • 22. hired. These cultural “adapters” were better able to maintain fit when cultural norms changed or evolved, which is common in organizations operating in fast-moving, dynamic environments. These results suggest that the process of cultural alignment does not end at the point of hire. Indeed, our study also found that employees followed distinct enculturation trajectories—at certain times in their tenure demonstrating more cultural fit with colleagues and at other times less. Most eventually adapted to the behavioral norms of their peers, and those who stayed at their company exhibited increasing cultural fit over time. Employees who were eventually terminated were those who had been unable to adapt to the culture. Employees who left voluntarily were the most fascinating: They quickly adapted culturally early in their tenures but drifted out of step later on and were
  • 23. likely to leave the firm once they became cultural outsiders. To further assess how cultural fit and adaptability affect performance, Berkeley’s Jennifer Chatman and Richard Lu and two of us surveyed employees at the same high-tech company to measure value congruence (the extent to which employees’ core values and beliefs about a desirable workplace fit with their peers) and perceptual congruence (how well employees can read the “cultural code” by accurately reporting the values held by peers). We found that value congruence is predictive of retention—employees with it are less likely to voluntarily leave the company—but is unrelated to job performance. We found that the opposite is true of perceptual congruence: It is predictive of higher job performance but unrelated to retention. These results suggest that
  • 24. companies striving to foster a stable and committed workforce should focus on hiring candidates who share similar values with current employees. Employers needing people who can quickly assimilate and be productive should pay greater attention to candidates who demonstrate the ability to adapt to new cultural contexts. The benefits of not fitting in. When might it better to hire a cultural misfit? People who see the world differently and have diverse ideas and perspectives often bring creativity and innovation to an organization. But because of their outsider status, they may struggle to have their ideas recognized by colleagues as legitimate. In a recent study two of us conducted with V. Govind Manian, Christopher Potts, and William Monroe, we compared employees’ levels of cultural fit with the extent to which they served as a bridge between otherwise disconnected groups in the firm’s
  • 25. internal communication network. For instance, an employee might have connections with colleagues that bridge both the engineering and sales departments, allowing her to access and pass on a greater variety of information and ideas. Consistent with prior work, we found that cultural fit was, on average, positively associated with career success. The benefits of fitting in culturally were especially great for individuals who served as network bridges. When traversing the boundary between engineering and sales, for example, they could hold their own in technical banter with the former and in customer-oriented discourse with the latter. People who attempted to span boundaries but could not display cultural ambidexterity were especially penalized: They were seen as both cultural outsiders and social outsiders without clear membership in any
  • 26. particular social clique. However, we also identified a set of individuals who benefited from being cultural misfits: those who did not have networks spanning disparate groups but instead had strong connections within a defined social clique. By building trusting social bonds with colleagues, they were able to overcome their outsider status and leverage their distinctiveness. These results suggest that an effective hiring strategy should strive for a portfolio of both conformists—or at least those who can rapidly adapt to a company’s changing culture—and cultural misfits. Cognitive diversity. Proponents of cultural diversity in teams presume that it leads to cognitive diversity; that is, diversity in thoughts and ideas. But the findings about whether cognitive diversity helps or hinders team
  • 27. performance are inconclusive. Part of the problem is that these studies use imperfect proxies for cognitive diversity, such as diversity in demographics, personalities, or self-reported beliefs and values. Moreover, this line of research has rarely looked at how diversity is actually expressed in communications and interactions, which is problematic given that team members are sometimes reluctant to share their real feelings and opinions. Finally, cognitive diversity is often assumed to be static, even though we know team dynamics frequently change over a project’s life cycle. In a new study, which two of us conducted with Stanford researchers Katharina Lix and Melissa Valentine, we overcame these challenges by analyzing the content of Slack messages exchanged among team members of 117 remote software-development teams. We identified instances when team members discussing similar topics used
  • 28. diverse meanings, perspectives, and styles, and then analyzed the impact of that diversity on performance. For example, in discussions of customer requirements, different interpretations of the desired look and feel of the user interface in some cases led developers to talk past one another and fail to coordinate but in other cases sparked creative new ideas. Our results indicate that the performance consequences of cognitive diversity vary as a function of project milestone stages. In the early stages, when the team is defining the problem at hand, diversity lowers the chances of successfully meeting milestones. During middle stages, when the team is most likely to be engaged in ideation, diversity increases the likelihood of team success. Diversity becomes an obstacle again toward the end of a project, when the team is deep into execution.
  • 29. Cultural diversity and the organization as a whole. We’ve seen that there are trade-offs associated with diversity in teams, but how does it affect the performance of entire organizations? Conventional wisdom holds that firms must choose between a homogeneous, efficient culture and a diverse, innovative culture. A homogeneous culture improves efficiency and coordination, the theory goes, because employees agree about the norms and beliefs guiding work, but the benefits come at the expense of fewer novel ideas about how to accomplish tasks. In contrast, a heterogeneous culture sacrifices the benefits of consensus in favor of healthy disagreement among employees that can promote adaptability and innovation. The evidence supporting this thinking, however, is scant and inconclusive. In a recent study, we analyzed the language that employees used when
  • 30. describing their organization’s culture (for example, “our culture is collaborative,” “our culture is entrepreneurial,” and so on) in anonymous reviews of nearly 500 publicly traded companies on Glassdoor. We first measured the level of interpersonal cultural diversity, or disagreement among employees about the norms and beliefs characterizing the organization. We found that interpersonal cultural diversity makes it difficult for employees to coordinate with one another and reduces the organization’s efficiency as measured by return on assets. We then measured the organizations’ level of intrapersonal cultural diversity. Those with high intrapersonal cultural diversity had employees with a large number of cultural ideas and beliefs about how to accomplish tasks within the company (measured as the average number of cultural topics that employees discussed in their Glassdoor
  • 31. reviews). For instance, employees at Netflix conceptualized the work culture in terms of autonomy, responsibility, collaboration, and intense internal competition. We found that organizations with greater intrapersonal cultural diversity had higher market valuations and produced more and higher-quality intellectual property via patenting, evidence that their employees’ diverse ideas about how to do work led them to be more creative and innovative. Jean-Pierre Attal/Courtesy of Galerie Olivier Waltman About the art: In his project Cells, photographer Jean-Pierre Attal explores the social urban archaeology of modern office towers, revealing the recurrence of patterns and postures found inside. This suggests that organizations may be able to resolve the assumed trade-off between efficiency and innovation by encouraging diverse cultural ideas while fostering agreement among employees about the
  • 32. importance of a common set of organizational norms and beliefs. Again, consider Netflix: Although “multicultural” employees contributed to the company’s diverse culture and drove innovation, the culture was nonetheless anchored by core shared beliefs, such as the importance of radical transparency and accountability, which help employees coordinate and work efficiently. Implications for Practice How can these findings inform leaders’ understanding of culture as a tool for improving the performance of employees, teams, and the broader organization? First, managers can increase retention by hiring candidates whose core values and beliefs about a desirable workplace al ign well with those of current employees. However, too much emphasis on cultural fit can stifle diversity and cause managers to overlook promising
  • 33. candidates with unique perspectives. Hiring managers should look for candidates who demonstrate cultural adaptability, as these employees may be better able to adjust to the inevitable cultural changes that occur as organizations navigate increasingly dynamic markets and an evolving workforce. Hiring managers should also not overlook cultural misfits. They can be wellsprings of creativity and innovation. But to make sure they flourish inside the organization, managers should consider assigning them to roles in which they are likely to develop strong connections within particular social groups. That’s because misfits need the trust and support of colleagues to be seen as quirky innovators rather than outlandish outsiders. Second, leaders should be mindful that the expression of diverse
  • 34. perspectives in teams needs to be managed. Cognitive diversity is essential for generating novel, innovative solutions to complex problems, especially during the planning and ideation phases of a project. However, the expression of diverse perspectives can quickly become a liability when the team needs to focus on execution and meet looming deadlines. It is during these times that team members have to unify around a common interpretation of the problem and come to agreement about what needs to get done to solve it. Leaders must be adept at switching back and forth, learning when and how to promote the expression of divergent opinions and meanings and when to create a context for convergence. An important distinction is warranted here. The term “diversity” is often used to connote variation in the demographic makeup of a
  • 35. firm’s workforce. This has been particularly the case in recent years, as companies have tackled pernicious problems such as the underrepresentation of women and minorities in decision- making positions in organizations. In our work, we use “cultural diversity” to refer to variation in people’s beliefs and normative expectations, irrespective of their demographic composition. As we pointed out earlier, demographic and cultural diversity are related, but a demographically homogenous group may be culturally diverse, and vice versa. Our research on cultural diversity is relevant to but ultimately independent of efforts to increase gender, race, and ethnic diversity in firms. Third, leaders should foster a culture that is diverse yet consensual in order to promote both innovation and efficiency. Such a culture
  • 36. is composed of multicultural employees who each subscribe to a variety of norms and beliefs about how to do work. These diverse ideas help employees excel at complex tasks, such as dreaming up the next groundbreaking innovation. Managers should encourage employees to experiment with different ways of working—extensive collaboration for some tasks, for example, and intense competition for others. At the same time, a culture should also be consensual in that employees agree on a common set of cultural norms—shared understandings— that helps them successfully coordinate with one another. Leaders can signal the importance of these norms during onboarding and in everyday interactions, just as leaders at Netflix do by rewarding employees for sharing their mistakes with colleagues in order to promote beliefs about
  • 37. the value of transparency. A New Management Tool Many of the tools we used in these studies are off-the-shelf products, and there is great potential for managers to use them to help solve practical challenges inside organizations. For instance, Stanford PhD candidate Anjali Bhatt is working with two of us to demonstrate how language-based culture measures can be used to anticipate the pain points of postmerger integration. We are studying the merger of three retail banks, and analysis of emails has revealed stark differences in the rates of cultural assimilation among individuals. Such tools can be used diagnostically to assess the cultural alignment between firms during premerger due diligence, as well as prescriptively during integration to identify where and how to focus managerial interventions.
  • 38. Yet the accessibility of these tools also raises important ethic al concerns. In our work, we maintain strict employee confidentiality, meaning that neither we nor the organization is able to link any employee to any specific communication used in our studies. We also strongly advise against using these tools to select, reward, or punish individual employees and teams, for at least four reasons: Accurately predicting individual and team performance is considerably more challenging than estimating average effects for broad types of individuals and teams; culture is only one of many factors influencing individual and team performance in organizations; algorithmic predictions often create a false sense of certainty in managers; and finally, giving any algorithm undue weight can have unintended consequences—for instance, exacerbating human biases that negatively affect women and members
  • 39. of underrepresented social groups. Algorithms make estimates, but it is ultimately humans’ responsibility to make informed judgments using them. Managers must be vigilant about keeping metadata anonymous and must regularly audit algorithmic decision-making for bias to ensure that the use of language- based tools does not have unintended adverse consequences on culture itself—for instance, by breeding employee distrust. These important ethical questions notwithstanding, we believe that these tools will continue to generate insights that allow managers to finally manage the culture as a strategic resource, and ultimately lead to more culturally diverse and inclusive teams and organizations. A version of this article appeared in the January–February 2020 issue of Harvard Business Review. Read more on Organizational
  • 40. culture or related topics Data and Analytics Matthew Corritore is an assistant professor of strategy and organization at McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management. Amir Goldberg is an associate professor of organizational behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He and Sameer B. Srivastava codirect the Berkeley-Stanford Computational Culture Lab. Sameer B. Srivastava is an associate professor and the Harold Furst Chair in Management Philosophy and Values at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He and Amir Goldberg codirect the Berkeley- Stanford Computational Culture Lab. Tweet Post Share Save Buy Copies
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  • 44. Contact Customer Service Follow HBR About Us | Careers | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | Copyright Information | Trademark Policy Harvard Business Publishing: Higher Education | Corporate Learning | Harvard Business Review | Harvard Business School Copyright ©2021 Harvard Business School Publishing. All rights reserved. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School. Summary. Culture is easy to sense but hard to measure. The workhorses of culture research— employee surveys and questionnaires—are often unreliable. Studying the language that employees use in electronic communication has opened a new window into... more Tweet Post Share Save
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