Though almost all successful culture change efforts begin top-down, it is critical to also get the buy-in of the workforce by creating a bottom-up (and middle-out) contribution mechanism. This entails enlisting and empowering key influencers at almost every level of the organization to be involved in actively building the renovation—a practice that sustains momentum for the initiative and creates positive energy and supporters throughout the organization. Our research noted a common refrain among CEOs and others who oversaw a culture change in their organizations: make sure the employee base doesn’t see this as a top-down edict, but rather something that everyone has a say in developing.
But how do you create that mindset? One way is by organizing a “culture hackathon.”
Many are familiar with the concept: bring a large team of people together for an intense (usually a couple of days) brainstorming and ideation session. The goal is to think differently in a psychologically safe environment in which all ideas are welcome and ultimately arrive at innovations that otherwise would have remained dormant.
Normally this activity is done with software engineers who spend hours and days coming up with innovative code. Today, some companies are doing this to hack organizational culture by assembling a diverse group of employees from all experience levels and functions to either fortify elements of the culture they love or fix elements that aren’t serving the company well. This gives employees a chance to share their stories and become part of the culture renovation effort.
I’m working with one Fortune 500 company that is planning to do this over the summer with their employee base. It’s a great way to create new ideas at scale, and at the same time move away from the sense that culture renovation is directionally a top-down effort.