The Culture Map: a simple yet powerful tool
Alex Osterwalder introduced a valuable tool called “The Culture Map.” This tool is designed to help organizations visualize their current culture, identify their desired culture, and recognize the enablers and blockers influencing their culture. The tool helps organizations understand that cultural transformation isn't merely about changing words in a mission statement but about shifting behaviors and mindsets.
Defining the desired outcome
When discussing cultural transformation, it's essential to begin by clearly defining the desired outcome. Do you want an innovation culture, a collaborative culture, or a competitive culture? In the case of WD-40, the desired outcome was a global culture that could take their iconic product worldwide. As Gary Ridge puts it, "We exist to create positive lasting memories solving problems in factories, homes, and workshops around the world.”
Behaviors define culture
Culture is not defined by words or slogans but by observable behaviors within an organization. To understand and transform culture, it's vital to examine the patterns of behavior that lead to specific outcomes. In WD-40's case, before the transformation, the behaviors were characterized by insularity, a US-centric focus, and a lack of innovation. These behaviors directly impacted the organization's culture.
Identifying enablers and blockers
Enablers are the fertile ground for cultivating the culture you desire, while blockers must be removed. Ridge noted that the change in cultural perspective was vital for WD-40's expansion. The enablers that allowed this transformation included a commitment to becoming a global company, promoting diversity, and fostering an outward-looking approach.
Innovation and cultural shift
Before the change, innovation at WD-40 was almost non-existent. Ridge highlighted that the leadership's behavior was a blocker to innovation. A prevailing attitude was, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This mindset hindered product innovation.
By shifting behaviors and values, fostering diversity, and aligning with a global vision, WD-40 was able to become the iconic, innovative, and forward-looking company it is today. Cultural transformation is not an overnight process but a deliberate and sustained effort. It's about defining the desired culture, understanding the behaviors that shape it, and identifying enablers while eliminating blockers.
Creating the environment where people explore is the CEO's job.”
Chairman and CEO of WD-40 Company
How much time does your CEO spend on innovation each week?
Gary kicked off the discussion by emphasizing the importance of CEOs' commitment to innovation. He highlighted the need for CEOs to allocate time to creating an environment conducive to innovation, rather than just picking innovative ideas themselves. As he pointed out, "Creating the environment where people explore is the CEO's job."
Gary's insights underscore the idea that innovation is not merely about generating new ideas but nurturing a culture of curiosity and exploration. The CEO's role is pivotal in ensuring the workplace provides a safe space for these endeavors.
Psychological safety emerged as a central theme in the conversation. Creating a culture where employees feel safe to express their ideas, take risks, and acknowledge failures is a crucial aspect of fostering innovation. As Gary explained, the word "failure" was eliminated and replaced with "learning moments." This shift in vocabulary contributed to an environment where learning was celebrated, and vulnerability was not only accepted but encouraged.
Gary's approach of openly discussing what works and what doesn't, transforming mistakes into learning moments, ultimately boosted employee engagement. As he said, "Happy people create happy families, happy families create happy communities, and happy communities create a happy world."
Where does innovation live in your org chart?
While some companies create innovation-focused roles, Gary believes that "innovation lives in every job in the company." Innovation is not a standalone department but a mindset that should permeate the entire organization. Rather than limiting innovation to specific roles, it's essential to empower all employees to embrace curiosity and contribute to the innovation process. This approach aligns with the evolving concept of servant leadership, where leaders prioritize the well-being and engagement of their teams.
Eliminating the soul-sucking CEO
Gary provided valuable advice for leaders looking to boost engagement and transform their organizations. He emphasized the need for leaders to prioritize empathy over ego and create an environment where feedback is encouraged. By doing so, leaders can break away from the "soul-sucking CEO" stereotype and build organizations where employees genuinely feel they belong and make a meaningful contribution.
The power of purpose
As Gary highlighted, "people want to make a contribution to something bigger than themselves." The idea of living up to a purpose rather than just going to work. Purpose doesn't have a universal definition; it's about finding the right purpose for specific people. For organizations, making their purpose explicit is crucial to attract individuals who resonate with their mission.
“The Big Resignation”: escaping toxic culture
The "Big Resignation" phenomenon is reshaping the work landscape. It's not just about quitting a job; it's an escape from toxic cultures. The antidote? Creating a culture where people genuinely want to go to work. Purpose-driven, passionate employees create remarkable outcomes. But beyond general resignation, it's also about losing innovation talent. Companies that stifle innovation see their top innovators leaving for places where curiosity and innovation are encouraged.
You can fix The Big Resignation by creating a culture where people actually want to go to work every day. And how do you do that? Well, purpose-driven passionate people create amazing outcomes.”
Chairman and CEO of WD-40 Company
The importance of authentic corporate values
Corporate values can either be genuinely embraced or exist as mere lip service. Authenticity is paramount when it comes to values. Values are meant to protect and set people free. In organizations with weak values, employees often find themselves navigating hierarchies to make decisions. In contrast, strong values should be actively lived and integrated into the organization's daily decision-making processes. According to Gary, "Values should be on the most coffee-stain piece of paper you have in the organization and used openly to make decisions."
The role of culture in innovation
Culture doesn't merely happen; it's intentionally crafted. A comparison was made to a petri dish; just as toxins can spoil a culture, cultural consistency is vital. The formula, as shared by Gary, is Culture = Values + Behavior × Consistency.
The key to leadership is saying “I don't know”
Leadership is not about having all the answers; it's about taking care of those in your charge. The three most powerful words a leader can say are "I don't know." This admission of uncertainty creates an environment where people can collectively work towards solutions, emphasizing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Culture = Values + Behavior × Consistency.”
Chairman and CEO of WD-40 Company
The conversation between Gary Ridge and the Strategyzer team offers valuable insights into the world of business and leadership. Purpose, culture, values, and innovation are integral components that shape organizations, and they demand authenticity and thoughtful nurturing. The key takeaway is that leadership is not about having all the answers but about creating a culture of collaboration, curiosity, and continuous improvement. The lessons shared in this conversation can inspire leaders to embark on their own cultural transformation journeys, ultimately leading to thriving organizations and a happier world.
To watch the full discussion, don't forget to check out the video above this article. Don't forget to stay notified about our future webinars by signing up to our newsletter below this post.