Modern Management: Three Tips to Create a Congruent Culture

Modern Management: Start with Congruence to Change Your Culture

Do you want a more effective organizational culture that delivers more agility? Maybe you've tried agile framework for teams or products. While you've seen some improvement, you're not where you thought you'd be.

Instead of focusing on practices or team principles, consider changing your culture to use all seven Modern Management principles. A congruent culture, where you balance everyone's needs with the context, will help you create more agility. (See Practice Congruence to Create an Effective Culture for more information about congruence.)

Here are three tips that might help:

  1. Start with yourself.
  2. Build allies with a cohort.
  3. Experiment and learn as you proceed.

As with all change, start with yourself.

Tip 1: Start With Yourself

Who's the one person you know you can change? You.

Too often, we blame people for being human. Or, we placate our managers. Or we only think about the context.

Instead, how can you be more congruent regularly? You might:

  • Offer reinforcing feedback to catch people doing something right.
  • Say the word “No,” instead of placating your managers who want you to do more. (See Leadership Tip #3: Use No As a Complete Sentence for more specifics.)
  • Define an overarching goal to ensure people know what they're supposed to do.

Tina, a first-level manager, decided she wanted more of a collaborative culture. She started with herself, first with her one-on-ones.

As Tina had one-on-ones with her team members, she offered more reinforcing feedback and much less change-focused feedback. When she met with Tim, her director, she explained the team couldn't do “more with less,” but she could focus people on a specific goal.

Tina and Tim defined the overarching goal, and the team delivered most of that goal.

That's when Tim realized he could work with all the managers the same way Tina worked with her team.

Tip 2: Build Allies with a Cohort

Tim and Tina had several discussions over several weeks. That's when Tim started to change his behaviors, reducing his blaming and placating behaviors. In addition, he gathered the managers together to reduce and then focus on several department-wide goals.

Frank, one of Tina's colleagues, was quite disturbed about losing “his” goals. If Frank's goals vanished, so did his bonus.

Tim wanted Frank as part of the cohort. So Tim started to discuss management goals with HR and Finance. First, Tim protected Frank's salary and bonus. Then, Tim worked to make every manager's salary and bonus depend much more on how the managers coached their teams and much less on specific management deliveries.

And, Tim told everyone he didn't expect to get it right the first time, that he planned to experiment.

Tip 3: Experiment and Learn as You Proceed

You might think you know exactly where you want to go—until you achieve that first milestone. Then you realize, no, that's a dead end. You need to change direction—or even your destination. (I did that, writing this newsletter. Sigh.)

That's why I focus on learning fast from small experiments.

So did Tim.

Tim learned that he needed to work across the entire department to change how the company compensated managers. Instead of changing the compensation the first year, Tim and HR created experiments to compare the previous methods with their experiments—all while protecting everyone's paycheck. They had plenty of data to develop new compensation at the end of the year.

Modern Management Requires Experimentation and Learning

As you work through your cultural issues, you'll experiment and learn. Yes, you'll iterate to a congruent culture that creates a more practical environment. And will help you achieve more agility.

I hope you've enjoyed this series of Pragmatic Managers. If you have a request for a series for next year, please email me and let me know.

See the Modern Management Made Easy books for many more details about how you can create an effective culture where everyone can contribute.

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I have one open spot in the Q1 2022 Writing Workshop. If you want to become a better nonfiction writer, please register now.

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Have a wonderful holiday season. See you in 2022,


© 2021 Johanna Rothman

Pragmatic Manager: Vol 18, #12, ISSN: 2164-1196

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