An organization’s culture is made up of the collective habitual behaviors and thoughts of its members. Change the habits and you’ll change the culture.
Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Habit change requires an incredible amount of willpower. And focusing on multiple habits simultaneously is a surefire strategy for failure. So, where to begin?
Begin with the habit that has the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as it moves through the organization. Charles Duhigg, brilliantly refers to this as the keystone habit.
When Paul O’Neil first became CEO of then struggling aluminum corporation Alcoa, he didn’t concentrate on profits, productivity, or efficiency. To the dismay of everyone around him, he decided to focus on worker safety.
Unorthodox? Yes. But Paul understood something that his colleagues didn’t: the process of improving worker safety, would create a cascading effect causing other changes: attention to detail, quality control, individual responsibility, open and honest feedback, etc. These new habits would create the culture of productivity and efficiency necessary to turn the company around. And they did, quickly making Alcoa one of the world’s most profitable companies.
So what’s your organization’s keystone habit? What habit might provide the most leverage for changing your organizational culture?
I have a suggestion: meetings. Meetings are at the heart of how organizations communicate, collaborate, and make decisions. You can’t change meetings, without affecting other habits.
When meetings are purposeful, decisions are made quickly. When unecessary meetings go away, teams are forced to trust one another more. When meetings are short, intense, and run ruthlessly on schedule, attendees walk away with a sense of urgency.
Changing your meetings might just change your entire organization.