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Culture is like low code software

Updated: Apr 3

Few years ago Surf Excel launched a hit commercial with the tagline “daag ache hain”. There were many commercials made with the same theme for years.

The learning and reflection from this hit commercial is that, despite the best of efforts, our clothes will accumulate dirt. So what do you do? You just accept it and figure out a way to deal with it. Tide, Rin, Vanish, all call out with similar messages – guys, just deal with it and wash it.

In recent times, many surveys have been done about return to office and almost every other survey points out to the fact the employees overwhelmingly prefer remote work and not 100% in the office. They are ready to forego promotions and hikes in return for flexibility. The loud and clear message is “flexibility ache hain”.

A huge mental barrier for anyone opting to commute to work and embracing their office building is the frightful and wasteful time spent on the road. On any day, pre-pandemic, an average employee would possibly spend more than 50% of their “wake hours” on work or work related activities including commute. Post Pandemic, almost everyone did the same without the commute. So, why spend time on the road and suffocate ourselves. The pandemic has given many a live demo of what it means to feel suffocated and breathless. Isn’t it?

However, there are voices about the merits of returning to the office.

Kunal Shah, founder of CRED compared remote working to online learning and how it would not be good in the long run. Infosys founder Narayana Moorthy says “culture” of the organization will be lost in remote work. RPG Group Chairman Harsh Goenka says there is no substitute for water cooler banter and cafeteria chatter to build relationships.

Here are some points to ponder: Is culture practiced only in the office campus? Is it really difficult to build human connections in remote work? As Zoho Corp has done, is the way forward going to be multi-city, smaller offices and distributed workforce?

Culture is like low-code software. It requires little bit of programming and little bit of configuration, but the leadership should communicate clearly, what outcomes are needed. And every few years, it requires adaptations. Else the programming and configuration could be completely outdated and wrong.

James Keskett mentions a Duke University study that found 90% of leaders acknowledging that they need to improve organizational culture, but less than 20% actually did something about it.

A sweeping change is needed to org culture to thrive and grow in hybrid work. And the best approach would be to consider AAP – Authenticity, Autonomy, Purpose

Authenticity: “It is the daily practice of letting go who we think we were supposed to be and embracing who we are” – Brene Brown

Configuration examples:

Showing up your original self without a false armour, Appoint Culture Guardians to coach employees and keep the organizational conscience at high order, setup a system for timely feedback – both peer-peer and supervisor-team member, Create learning programs for leaders to be coaches

Programming examples:

Leaders saying “I don’t know. Lets figure out how to get this done”, employees to share their personal stories and connect with others in the team, establish a “check-in” and “check-out” in all meetings for employees to share their feelings, status updates to focus on amber and red and openly speak about bad news first, teams to setup “help” meetings and ask for help when needed.

Autonomy: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do” – Steve Jobs

Configuration examples:

Leaders to setup boundary conditions to help teams with decision making, Setup retrospection forums to learn from the past, create a psychologically safe work environment, Train managers and leaders on “step back” management. Leaders focus on outcomes rather than tasks to execute (stay away from micro mgmt.)

Programming examples:

Build a social contract with team on how to execute work, teams ask “why” questions to understand work, when there is an issue, focus on the solution rather than the person, team members volunteering and helping each other, team member facilitates and conducts all business meetings, transparent and visual dashboards reflecting work status for everyone, delegation to groom rather than delegation to do tasks while away from work

Purpose: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” – Simon Sinek

Configuration examples:

Have a stated purpose of why you exist, create a set of values and beliefs that align with purpose, help employees find meaning at work by aligning their personal values with organizational values, rewards and recognition systems serve the purpose

Programming examples:

Hire for culture and train for skills, over communicate purpose to everyone in the team and align performance goals to serve purpose, entire supply chain is aligned and measured to serving the purpose, every meeting discusses how purpose is being served

Its time to revisit your configuration and programming and adapt to the new ways of delivering results. Its no longer about decisions taken in the corner office or in exec meeting rooms. Its about enabling those closest to customers to take the right decision. Strategy implementation has moved away from action items decided by a select few and thrust down the organization to everyone in the organization understanding why work is being done and collectively contributing to serving the purpose.

To sweep yourself to success in the hybrid environment, build AAP into your work. For your personal AAP assessment, connect by clicking here.


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