Reflecting on our experience within Mayvin and with major clients, we see that at the heart of culture is an interconnected web of relationships. Culture change comes about through changes in those very relationships.
Mayvin’s Principal Consultant Tony Nicholls shares his thoughts on how to create beneficial changes in organisations by nurturing the relationships within them.
During 2018, Mayvin embarked on an Action Research conversation that has already yielded benefits for our ways of working and our wellbeing. Our director James has summarised the process and Rachael, our operations manager, has shared her reflections. I’m very much looking forward to this journey continuing this year.
When thinking about these benefits, my reflections turn to how I feel more connected to the team, better supported and more effective in my role. There are personal, team and systemic improvements evident in our operational processes, client relationships and future business thinking.
In this post, I’d like to share my thoughts on how others might emulate this practice. How might we encourage and support our clients to share what they notice, discuss the patterns that emerge and, above all, simply spend time talking about their experiences of what life is like in their organisations?
The first thing that’s needed is a compelling argument. It seems self-evident to me that more effective organisations arise out of stronger relationships amongst individuals working within and with that organisation. It is a fallacy to assume that working only on improving business processes (whether digital or analogue) will provide the benefits we seek. Some short-term improvements in efficiency and effectiveness might be seen, but these will be limited and very possibly undermined if cultural factors are ignored.
Most sectors seem to have accepted that culture is the ‘thing’ that needs attention. Many are struggling to bring about change in this nebulous area. Reflecting on our experience within Mayvin and with major clients, we see that at the heart of culture is nothing other than a web of relationships. It follows that culture change comes about through changes in those very relationships.
An important point to make here is that I do believe we are undertaking culture change within the team here at Mayvin. However, this is not because of something that is ‘broken’. We are embarking on this journey because we recognise that working within any organisation can provide challenges to individual wellbeing. We also recognise that adaptation to the constant flux of internal and external forces acting on the team, needs constant attention to ensure we notice when we are doing things well as well as when we are off kilter.
Current best practice for culture change centres on behaviourist paradigms that assume individuals can be influenced through shaping the right ‘conditions’ that will ‘drive’ mindset and behaviour change. Of late, behavioural economics has been deployed to subconsciously ‘nudge’ individuals into new ways of thinking and working.
In our experience, a far more effective and ethically sound approach (given the rise of ‘nudge’ tactics), is to focus on the source of our cultures. This doesn’t mean working ‘on’ individuals. It means in working ‘with’ them whilst they reflect with each other, in relationship.
This approach lies at the heart of the work we have been undertaking at Mayvin. It involves us sharing our experiences and feelings, setting time aside to reflect, and exploring new meaning together. Above all, it involves us suspending judgement and postponing action. We have already found that beneficial changes to our ways of working flow quite naturally from this nurturing approach to relationship building.