“Is Your Roof Leaking?” – The Right Time to Look at Culture

by Mona Mitchell
President and CEO

The Heart of the Matter

Here’s the conundrum. When it’s raining, you can’t fix the roof.  When it’s not raining, the roof isn’t leaking and there’s no immediate need to fix it.  In either case, the roof doesn’t get fixed.  It will inevitably leak at the next rainfall. This is the wisdom of Mark Morgan, co-author of ‘Executing Your Strategy’. We couldn’t agree more.

Translating this old-world story to modern-day organizational life looks like this. Businesses get so busy doing they have no time to work on corporate culture. Or, results are so good there’s no apparent need to address culture-based barriers to performance.

The issue with these false conclusions, of course, is that the hole in the roof  (akin to the absence of a high-performance accountability culture) lies as a latent problem.  Once crisis hits anew – and it will – trying to accomplish repair at that instant is like trying to fix an in-flight kite during a storm.

The Business Case

In the most challenging times, a strong culture can mitigate the morale-lowering effects of cost-cutting and efficiency drives.  In fact, 66% of respondents to a 2010 Randstad survey indicated that trust-building efforts (evidenced within solid cultures) is “extremely important” to long-term success.  In effect, attempts to nurture employees’ engagement and happiness go far toward counter-acting the negative impacts of layoffs, reduced benefits and wages, along with other slumps.

In their 2011 book, Optimizing Talent, Dr. Linda Sharkey and Dr. Paul Eccher present research findings that  indicate a ‘supportive culture’ is highly correlated with business success and can result in a 10% improvement on business results. Supportive culture ranked #1, even above engaged leadership and strategic alignment as a driver of results.

So, Should You Care?

Since there never seems to be a perfect time or ideal set of circumstances to engage in cultural transformation, why not start NOW, before the storm, to formulate and execute actions to improve your organization’s state of affairs. Although it seems like a daunting task to wrap your arms around culture and measure it, let alone change it, it can be done!

The best place to start is with some honest reflection:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, to what extent does your organization place “culture” on a level playing field opposite “strategy”?
  2. What do you think is the CEO’s – plus executive team’s – obligation to acknowledge the critical nature of culture?
  3. If culture is acknowledged as a factor in business success, is it thought of as something that can be thoughtfully impacted or just something that “is”?
  4. On your balanced scorecard, do you place people’s “health” equal to profit, operational excellence or other “hard” measures?  (This is where the rubber meets the road.)
  5. Are your corporate values actually ‘lived’ in the organization or do the culture and incentives encourage behaviours not aligned with your stated values?

If you and your team area already ‘culture converts’ then congratulations!

If your answers paint a less-than-ideal picture, you’re not alone. Culture is tough to isolate and measure. Building the business case for transformation can be challenging. The great thing is that culture seems to be getting more press lately which means there is more research to help. Since culture is our passion, we’re thrilled to see more attention being drawn to the cause.

To learn more about why we at ACHIEVEBLUE™ think a healthy organizational culture is such a critical factor in the success and profitability of any organization, check out “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”.

Business Analysis Trends for 2012: Part 2 of 2

by Jason Questor
EVP Learning Systems

In this second installment I list business analysis trends for 2012 as described by the Board for the IIBA Toronto Chapter. These will be evaluated at our chapter meeting in January 2013 for accuracy.

  • A continued growing trend for companies who have traditionally not been investing in business analysis competency development to do so. Many companies scaled back their training and professional development budgets during the economic downturn. Employees similarly held tight. Now that the economy is rebounding companies are realizing that employees are beginning to jump ship as firms resume recruiting efforts. In response, companies are putting a greater emphasis on incenting employees to stay with training offerings.
  • An increased rate of certification as HR departments ask for it during recruitment. This will remain in pockets, rather than across the board.
  • More specializations beyond the business systems analyst:  business solution analysts operating at the enterprise,  program and portfolio levels, BA finance / banking / manufacturing  . . .
  • In a parallel trend, some employers will increase their demand for business analysts with a high degree of technical knowledge. For those firms whose solutions are deeply tied to complex technologies, the traditional business analyst whose knowledge is limited to the business only will be replaced by the Business-Systems Analyst  whose skills will not only include the general business process of a given domain but also the complex systems that make up rules engines, class libraries and the like.
  • Senior business analysts being  included at a more strategic and cross enterprise level as business architects.
  • Continued maturation of the discipline, including the ability to influence without authority and moving away from just order taking
  • Cloud Computing – There will be a heavy focus on cloud computing in 2012 as companies invest in the expected benefits it brings. Re.al potential lies with involvement by strong business analysts to help realize the true benefits within their organizations. Current focus is on monetization of Cloud Computing by consulting companies as a source of revenue – not necessarily what’s in the best interest of the business / enterprise. Key = the BA can serve as the conduit to truly extract value for the business / enterprise as they move towards using Cloud Computing.
  • Business Analysis Discipline – More focus within organizations to grow the business analysis discipline, requiring more business analyst contribution to corporate strategy (want more seasoned business analysts). Big emphasis on leaner IT and strong relationship between business and IT stakeholders – stronger business analysts who can help unite the different groups and align competing requirements, needs, objectives. Focus will be on leadership capabilities within business analysis arena – facilitation, relationship management, expectation setting and communication. Growing recognition that the business analyst is in the best position to develop the Business Case for organizational initiatives beyond projects.
  • The business analyst will play a large role on Agile projects, which might in some cases result in a business analysis specialization in agile. In the marketplace, companies are increasingly sending their business analysts to Agile /Scrum training courses.