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Weaving the culture web into your 2022 strategy

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We’re nearly there, another Covid-affected year on it’s way into history, and a much brighter, exciting year (please let that be the case) ahead. So surely it’s time to start thinking about those Q4 meetings and what next year will look like, right? Elements of the cultural web may just be the thing that you need to be talking about...

What is the cultural web?

Stategists Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes created the cultural web approach in 1992. The theory entails examining your organisation's existing assumptions and practises in order to develop an effective strategy that aligns with each part of the model. This comprises your organisation's tales, routines, symbols, structures, and processes. The cultural web is about challenging how you do things, breaking poor habits, and creating a productive company culture.

The easiest way to use the cultural web is to break down each of the individual elements and start asking what each of them looks like in your organisation. And you should ask everyone from top to bottom, not just your decision-makers.

The cultural web is broken down into eight sections, with ‘The Paradigm’ at the centre of all of these sections – the culture ‘pattern’ or ‘model’.

The sections are:

Stories - what are the everlasting, ever-remembered stories that your staff, customers, clients, stakeholders, managers or decision makers always bring up when culture is discussed? Are they recorded? Are there any new stories that aren’t common knowledge yet?

Symbols - What symbolism is there across your organisation when it comes to culture? Do you have a model or framework for celebrating culture? Do you have culture champions? Do you have awards that recognise great contributions to culture?

Power structures - Who owns culture in your organisation? How can culture be changed? Who holds the chips when it comes to discussing and interrogating cultural practices? Is this power structure a help or a hindrance to positive cultural change?

Organisational structures - How easy is it for someone at the bottom of an organisation to communicate their thoughts, hopes, opinions or complaints when it comes to culture? Are decision makers protected by middle management? What potential blockers are there for culture to spread across an organisation?

Control system - How is culture controlled and documented? Is there one person, team or department responsible for implementing and sharing culture? How do you stop negative cultural practices from becoming the norm?

Rituals and routines - What do you do regularly to remind your teams of your organisation culture? Do you recognise great work towards promoting culture? Do you do this daily, weekly, monthly or even annually? Do you ever ask if an action relates back to culture?

What’s the advantage of using the cultural web?

Defining your cultural web provides a comprehensive assessment of your corporate culture and can help you to identify what your strengths and weaknesses are as a company. From this, you can then identify direction and strategy change.

Naturally, with an advantage comes disadvantage, and with the cultural web, the drawback is the fact that it’s very hard to be objective when your heart’s in something, and the time it takes to explore each section of the web.

So how can I use this in my strategy?

The cultural web is a great way to analyse your current standpoint and what you’d like the future to look like. It can also be used to drive the high-performing culture that every business aspires to.

The first thing you’ll need to do is realise what your culture looks like by asking questions based around the parts of the web. Which stories do you have? Who holds the power in your organisation? How do stories feed into your narrative?

Once that’s done, and you’ve been incredibly objective about it, and maybe even got someone outside your organisation to do it for you to ensure objectivity, then you can start thinking about a clear, effective framework for change that is informed by the elements of the web.

This could be challenging the stories and coming up with new ones that are from the entire business, not just a handful of decision makers.

Best practices and implementation

Once you’ve got these truths in place, you can start communicating clearly to everyone how you’re going to improve things, or change them wholesale if everyone agrees they need to change. Oh, and you’ll of course measure and record these changes to make sure your whole strategy isn’t just for the sake of it.

Summary

The cultural web could easily fit into other HR or culture strategies, but the key takeaway is the ability to really, objectively, dig deep into what your entire team sees as important. Then you can start addressing the hopes, fears, disconnects or reasons for disengagement, rather than worrying about a fix-all strategy that no-one is really going to get onboard with.

Do you think the cultural web could be the basis of your strategy in the year to come? Or does it sound like too much effort? Have you found something more effective than the cultural web? Join the discussion on Twitter and LinkedIn and have your say.


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