Changing Together Series: Openness
We spend a lot of time helping organisations get more 'digital'. We mostly do this by helping them build something: we build together, learn together, change together.
An important part of that process is trying to do it as 'in the open' as possible. We believe that if organisational cultures are going to change then the little pockets of change we're making have to be as accessible and obvious as possible. They mustn't be secret, they mustn't be offsite and hidden in 'labs', they have to pervade the regular workplace.
Sometimes that's organisationally difficult, large organisations tend to optimise for confidentiality and tidiness, we tend towards openness and expression, but there are a few good techniques that strike an appropriate balance between the two.
We recently did a project for Pearson that meant working with a diverse group of people in different locations around the world. The regular sharing we might do around a wall was impossible so we created a specific little Instagram account that let the team stay in touch with the atmosphere of the project. A shared Trello board can give the informational update you might get from a stand-up, but not the 'vibe' you get from being in the same physical space. The Instagram lets you do some of that.
Or, similarly, we've recently started working with Three in the UK; helping with the development of new propositions and with sharing some of the benefits and dynamics of more agile ways of working. A small but important part of that work is making the work visible in the culture, getting it out of email and process documents. And so we've created a little space in the Three offices where all the updates happen, where work is shared and developed, and it's in a well-travelled corridor space, right by the lifts.
At one of our Australian client’s temporary office locations, the team took over nearly half of the floor’s wall space for a recent engagement. As it was an emerging location for the client, there were frequent visitors from across the client organisation coming through and talking to their various teams, so the space was on show. When it came time for the ustwo team’s fortnightly show and tell, all of the teams on the floor were able to sit in and hear the updates. Even if they weren’t able to be there physically, we videoed them in via a mobile phone. Our teams foster a principle of ‘Assume you’re invited’ in all engagements which extends to other teams within the client.
As with so much of what it takes to steer a culture this kind of open working seems like a small thing. Almost trivial. And it can be a pain to get going so it’s easy to skip. But, time and time again, we’ve seen it really help - it helps the team get traction and it helps the organisation, at all levels, engage with what’s going on. An organisation can’t change until it can see where it’s heading.