"Critical to business success is the need to align workers with business strategies and to deal with the factors that drive human performance. Culture, values, and human behavior, often described as soft issues, are as important to success as hard issues such as finance, structure, and work processes. The soft issues are in many ways the hardest issues, and, around the world, senior executives are struggling to deal with them." - Excerpted from "Competing in a Global Economy" Watson Wyatt Insider
Network of Conversations
Corporate culture in an organization becomes accessible and malleable when viewed as a “network of conversations.”
Vanto Group’s methodology is based on the paradigm that people's performance is ultimately a function of conversation; by conversation we mean all of the linguistic phenomena that exist in an organization, e.g. actual conversations, e-mails, memos, branding, images, slogans, written documents, and so forth. They range from creative conversations about the future and strategies to realize it to gossip at the watercooler. All of these conversations create a linguistic environment in which people live and work.
Because conversations/linguistic phenomena are changeable, pliable, alterable, viral – by introducing productive conversations and eliminating non-productive conversations, we can alter the very substance of the corporate culture in which people function and thereby elevate the performance in a relatively short period of time.
Employing the Vanto Group Approach
The network of conversations that constitute an organizational culture is comprised of three conversational domains, which are distinct, but interrelated (that is, they are networked together in very specific ways). These domains are not hierarchical and therefore they are more like dimensions than steps on a ladder.
One domain of conversation in this network of conversations is the senior leadership/executive level conversations. The fundamental concern in conversations at this level should be the future of the organization and the pathways to realize it. Any other conversations at this level are distractions, unproductive, and leave the organization and its people without a clearly articulated and actionable direction. Vanto Group’s work supports key executives in eliminating unproductive conversations from the past and replacing them with productive, future-based conversations that inspire and mobilize the workforce. These conversations include distinguishing and communicating the organization's long-term goals and values in a way that calls forth ownership and inspired action from all levels of the organization.
"Building a business-focused, value-based organization is one of the critical tasks facing any company with global aspirations. Vanto Group partnered with us in working with a broad cross section of our workforce to develop business-based values that everyone could passionately embrace." - Brad Mills, Former Vice-President for Strategy, BHP Billiton
Another domain of conversation in this network of conversations that comprises corporate culture is the operational level. This is the level where projects that naturally fall out of the organization’s long-term goals and values are created and executed by teams as the means of achieving strategic objectives. Simply said, these are the conversations where teams of people coordinate their actions to achieve monthly, quarterly and annual operating plans.
“Vanto Group worked with senior management to design a process where we could create and deliver on project goals that were stretch goals; new world records that had never been obtained before. Our objective was to take incredibly good managers and turn them into exceptional leaders who could produce world record after world record. The outcomes were incredible. We not only met what we considered stretch budgets, we exceeded them. Our costs were lower than they were when we started the program, and we were able to improve safety by 50%. All of this was from the same leadership that was in place, but suddenly speaking and listening from a vision and a set of values that the organization’s executives had created and the organization had aligned on." - Craig Steinke, Former Senior Vice-President and Group General Manager, BHP Copper Metals
The final domain of conversation is individual. The individuals throughout the organization distinguish and eliminate their unproductive conversations such as gossiping, complaining, and blaming others and replace them with new committed conversations that leave them operating as high performance teams fulfilling breakthrough projects.
"In a high-tech industry, remaining successful and being competitive requires employees with real agility and the ability to constantly innovate and come out with new technology in a timely way. In addition to reducing product development time, shortening the cycle, and producing incremental improvements, our work with Vanto Group produced something fresh and new; really a breakthrough result. The process we used was designed to revitalize the culture to refocus employees on driving results, welcoming and even initiating change, creating a new model of leadership in our company that was available to everyone at every level. It successfully incorporated employees in the design and execution of the company's future, gaining widespread commitment to growth and change." - Beverly Mehlhoff, Former Director, Global Learning and Development, Guidant Corporation