A Cultural Conversation to diagnose workplace culture
Crop Health and Protection wanted to discover the levers that shape their culture so that they could be intentional about preserving the good things through a period of anticipated growth.
A catalyst for change in Agri-Tech
Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) is an independent catalyst for change in the agri-tech industry. Originally one of four UK Agri-Tech Centres funded by Innovate UK, they bring together researchers, industry and government to accelerate the identification, development and adoption of innovative crop solutions.
Thinking ahead of the culture curve
CHAP came to us because they thought they had a good culture, but they didn’t fully understand the drivers for it. They recognised that their increasing success might bring new stresses that could undermine the positive experience of their staff. They also wanted to maintain a strong culture in the event they were successful in securing new funding, which would lead to a growth in staff numbers.
We designed a cultural conversation with them that included a process of:
- Diagnosis – through co-designed staff surveys and interviews, analysis of the data and curation of a coherent narrative about their culture,
- Catalysing change through staff-led working groups and conversations.
We were fortunate to be able to interview all 50 staff in the organisation at that time.
What we found
CHAP does have a great culture, and they were wise to make the time to understand what contributed to this. The project also revealed the factors which had the potential to detrimentally affect their culture in the future.
Where to pay attention
Things were going really well, and there were several things that people valued and which were enabling them to succeed, including:
- The culture is open and people at all levels are accessible
- People treat each other well
- The vision is inspiring
- The work is interesting
- People feel they have autonomy.
The data also gave them lots of clues as to where they should be paying attention, to enhance and maintain what was a really good culture.
There were also some issues emerging as the organisation grew and the volume and pressure of work increased.
These issues were consistent with typical growing pains:
- Reduced clarity and differing expectations starting to emerge in parts of the organisation
- Differences in the style and delivery of managers and leaders had the potential to lead to frustration across the organisation.
We were able to identify both the strengths they could amplify and develop, and the areas of risk they could pay attention to now.
As well as equipping the leadership team with evidence-based guidance and supporting their good practice, the Cultural Conversation process helped everyone in the organisation feel included and heard. It helped the whole organisation recognise their blindspots as well as celebrate their strengths. It helped support a consistent approach across the organisation.
A little bit down the line the board invited us back to ask for more clarity around their strengths.
They were cautiously forecasting the possibility of a merger with another organisation. If that were to happen, could they still maintain a positive culture?
We were able to help them develop a clear evidence-based understanding of the risks and opportunities for their culture in the light of a merger, which helped them plan more effectively for the possibility.
The importance of a positive culture
It was incredibly refreshing to work with people across the whole organisation – from the board down – who were so motivated by and aware of the importance of a positive working culture.
CHAP is a really good example of the benefits of taking an intentional approach to managing culture and treating it as a critical performance indicator.