Case Studies

Organizational culture and an example of agile change – how to achieve harmony in the company

Organizational culture and an example of agile change – how to achieve harmony in the company

 

The inside of business, its heart, its processes, people within, projects. Everything that concerns our business has an impact on how well it functions. The culture of an organization and its transformation is quite a hard nut to crack, especially if we work with a company that has a history, habits, and people who work there remember that “those were the days”. 

Where to start? How to start taking care of the culture of the organization when the company wants to grow and jump in at deep end? Are we able to control all factors and the entire plan? If not, which aspects should be taken care of so that the team feels appreciated, willing to grow, committed and motivated to work and be part of the company vision and mission? 

When designing an organization transformation strategy for one of our clients, we started as usual – with a kick-off workshop, which explored the needs and determined the direction of cooperation. 

In this case study you will learn how the work went, how the project team dealt with the obstacles of remote work and what the outcome of joint activities turned out to be.

 

Client
organization of about 30 people
Goal
organising internal processes
Period of cooperation:
7 weeks
Number of stages:
7
Number of people in the project:
2

Organizational culture and strategy – project context


Later in spring 2020 we started discussions with a client who needed support in terms of strategic activities within the organization. We have launched our efforts in June. A company with more than ten years of experience on the market in which a team of many independent units working in an almost flat structure operated. And it was this team that decided to transform internal processes and organizational culture. 

Keeping an eye on internal subjects during the business transition makes it much more peaceful and harmonious. This was also our goal – to prepare the team for a new reality, guide them through the change and develop activities and processes that will support both people and the organization in achieving their long-term goals.

From our experience we know that building a strategy for the transformation of an organization without implementation support may not be very effective. That’s why, from the very beginning of our cooperation, we have put a lot of effort into process implementation and into a series of workshops mobilizing the whole team affected by the changes. This approach turned out to be a great value for the organization. As a result of several months of transformational work, changes occurred in harmony with people, the spirit of the organization and the common vision and mission of the whole company.

We divided the work process into 7 sprints (7 weeks) with three people involved in the project at different stages.

Sprint 1: Kick-off and research of the organization

The purpose of the first sprint was to become acquainted with the dynamics of the organization, its analysis, insight into teamwork, as well as the pillars of organizational culture. For the research we’ve used:

  • interviews with board members (kick-off + interviews) 
  • interviews with the team 
  • ethnographic research  

Interview with the client – kick-off and gathering expectations 

We started working on the project with interviews with the client in order to gather information about the organization. We analyzed the whole path of the company together on the timeline of the company’s operation and wrote down the dynamics of its growth. The purpose of such interviews was to obtain specific information:

  • What is the motivation behind the project?
  • What does the client want to achieve through transformation?
  • What is the whole project team like and what values does it follow?
  • What is the history of the organization?
  • What problems is our cooperation supposed to solve?

Furthermore, we wanted to know at what point, according to the Graves model, the organization is situated so as to be able to adapt its actions to the nature of the changes it is facing.

kultura organizacji


During the kick-off workshop with the board, we also mapped out the values that the board follows.
Values Poker, the value cards created by the Project: People team, has helped us in this.

Along with the team members on the client side, Team Canvas was also filled in.

Ethnographic research and interviews with the team

After the kick-off workshop ethnographic research was conducted at the client’s premises. Ethnographic research is a non-invasive way of observing the dynamics of the organization. During the study the researcher observes the team without disturbing them, stays in the presence of team members and does not comment or ask questions. An observation log is developed, in which the researcher summarizes their thoughts on the dynamics of behavior, activities within the company.

The research part was complemented by interviews with team members, in which the following topics were addressed:

  • communication channels – formal and informal
  • internal rules – formal and informal 
  • roles in the organization – formal and informal rituals of the organization

Individual interviews provide an opportunity to quickly gather information about the key challenges in the organization, allow to explore it from different perspectives, help to map its needs and problems. In our case, they provided a great insight into the organization.

Sprint 2: Research analysis, interviews with the company founders

Research analysis

In the second sprint we analyzed the dynamics of the organization. It showed that the organization needed to reorganize issues related to communication, the structure of the company, the rules within, the definition of roles, as well as introducing rituals and celebrations in the company.

Already at this stage we suggested introducing one communication tool for the whole company. So that teams can communicate in one place and to restore one circulation of information in the company. During the lockdown, the teams were communicating on several messengers, mainly informally, and formally, communication was mainly via e-mail, which was quite difficult in reception. There was no tool for everyday, lighter design communication.

Initial doubts as to whether the channels on the Slack will not be more distracting than helpful, were dispelled when we suggested setting the rules for using each channel and its purpose together. After a few days of implementation, it turned out that this action proved to be beneficial for the company – especially as the company already knew that they would have to work remotely for many more weeks during the pandemic.

Interviews with the founders of the company

We decided to extend this sprint with interviews with the founders of the company – currently working in other companies and even countries. These interviews gave us a lot of insight into the history of the company, its natural resources and the dynamics in which it has been growing.

We gained information about the way the company-customer, company-employee relationships worked. We also learned how important the values and vision of the founders were to the company and how they built their business.

Sprint 3: Communication and key resources of the organization

Communication

The key step in working on changes in the organization is usually mapping the communication and relations within the company. Since the organization itself was already working in a hybrid way at this stage – many of the people from the office and some of the large workshops were conducted remotely – using the Miro board and videoconferencing tool.

As part of the communication, two workshops with the team were conducted to map internal communication on the communication matrix. Formal and informal communication, written and meetings/calls were mapped at all points of contact between the team, organization, heads/managers, board, founders and clients.

On the matrix, the observations and research from the first sprint were confirmed – the team on the informal level turned out to be very well communicated, there were many interactions on this level. Also on the formal level – during the design work.

The conclusions and reflections of the workshop, on the other hand, revealed areas to be developed, related to communication between different areas of the company, exchange of knowledge, as well as the refreshing of the historical outline after more than a decade of activities.

In the second part of the workshop the team was introduced to communication models that exist in other organizations and the task was to place the company’s communication on the axis of coordinates now and in which direction the company is going.



The next step in the process map of both sprints was to prioritise changes in communication. During the workshop the team addressed their needs by voting for several priority improvements. There was definitely a necessity to build a regular space for communication – both inside the projects and on an organizational scale. The team chose several urgent needs, which they could implement from the next few days:

  • implementing regular team meetings to improve work on client projects
  • introducing regular meetings with clients
  • introducing regular monthly summaries in the company

Key resources of the company

This part of the cooperation also included a workshop with the management and company leaders on key company resources. During the workshop, human, virtual and material resources of the organization were analysed. 

This kind of activity helps to see the organization from a bird’s eye view and discover potentially unused potential, because – as our Paulina Drygala once noticed: 

“You do a lot more than you think, you have a lot more than you sell.”

By analyzing the company’s resources, or virtually everything we have here and now as an organization, we are able to reflect on how we can use our resources to benefit us or turn them into products and services. And in this case, a number of ideas have been developed that the organization intends to implement. 

Sprint 4 – Internal processes 

Workshops on internal processes with the management and leaders, aimed at mapping areas to take care of, measure and develop in the organization. Organizational culture is designed to support areas where processes take place, without the support of the organization, some of the processes may simply not happen, which makes the company incomplete. As a result, you may run out of space that allows you to move forward as an organization.


During the workshop, examples of internal process areas were presented in the following categories:

  • innovation processes
  • operational processes
  • after-sales processes
  • management processes
  • supporting processes

These categories were the starting point for clarifying and mapping processes within the organization. After this task, the next step was to transfer them to the Business Model Canvas, and then the management board chose one process from which they would like to start the development of internal processes and set out adequately what the measures around this area could be. As part of the work on internal processes, goals and metrics for the coming quarters were set and written in a scoreboard with a strategic map.

But how to measure innovation, for example? Metrics are a key indicator that allows us to measure the progress of change. Innovation may not be measured by itself, but internal actions – seemingly unmeasurable – can be refined enough for us to measure it. 

Sprint 5: Roles in the organization

In this sprint there was a workshop with the management, which allowed to clarify the expectations and vision of the team concerning the development of the organization structure. The team was divided into several groups, each of which worked on their own concept of the organization’s structure and the scope of roles, considering the factors of project flow, customer contact, requirements, time and above all communication. The concepts collected were the basis for the management to create changes in the current structure of the organization. 

In the next step there was a workshop on mapping roles on the concept of a new organizational structure. The task of the team was to mark themselves in the place on the structure where employees are currently and where they would like to be next year. The workshop took place online, the work was carried out remotely on Miro of the project. 

Sprint 6: Vision, mission, development strategy 

Sprint 6 with the management was a return to the basics of the organization: vision, mission, development strategy. By analyzing the results of the research and working on interviews with the founders as well as the people in the team, the board of directors had the task to “connect the dots” again related to the culture of the organization. 

The result of this workshop was to build communication, which was to initiate the final workshop related to building a team contract in accordance with the development plan and company values.

Sprint 7: Vision, mission, development strategy and conversion to principles and contract

 

This workshop was followed by a closing meeting during which the team and the management worked on translating the vision, mission and strategy into real actions of each team member. This is another key moment in developing the culture of the organization. Sometimes what the organization offers on a declarative level is not put into practice. We wanted to avoid such a situation.

Values Poker, canvases with vision and mission, went into action again, and eventually, based on going through several exercises that bring the two perspectives – the team and the board – the team worked out together to develop team rules – that is, the rules of operation, the decalogue of the organization.

Organizational culture, an example of effective change – a summary of our work in numbers:

7

sprints

30

people working remotely

60

hours of workshops

New organizational culture – tools used in the project 

  • The resource matrix
  • Ethnographic research
  • In-depth interviews
  • Team Canvas
  • Lean Canvas
  • Communication matrix
  • Miro+Zoom
  • Values Poker

Project team, i.e. who was responsible for what

Author of the Case Study

Rita Pater Lean Marketing & Communication Strategist
Rita is a communication strategist of brands, places and events. At Project: People she builds marketing strategies and works with organisations, designing their processes and initiatives supporting company culture development. For a few years her field of exploration is focused on leadership in businesses related to the sector of new technologies. Author of #changeisfemale interviews - a series of portraits of change leaders in new technologies and business. Founder of the mentoring group for women in IT (Table Talks inspired by Lean In Circle) and Founding Partner at Leaders Hive - a mentoring club for leaders. She claims that the best investment you can make is an investment in yourself, which is why she travels a lot and also constantly explores topics related to psychology, coaching and psychotherapy.

Other members of the team

Agnieszka Pałka Lean Researcher & Strategist
She conducts research and analyses to create the best market and marketing strategies together with clients.

She ran a B2B2C startup based on the latest technologies, as well as a foundation supporting the development of entrepreneurship and awareness of innovation. Openness to various industries allows her to delve into the context of any business while researching and creating tactics. Winner of the prestigious Stanisław Wyspiański Scholarship, shared her experience in developing startups on the jubilee 10th edition of Soft Skills Academy.

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