Alignment & UGRs

Many organisations engage in strategic planning processes, part of which
involves the identification or confirmation of ‘values statements’.

This segment of the planning process is usually well can­vassed – with lots of discus­sion about what is really wanted in the organisation, and lots of wordsmithing. Sadly, that’s often as far as the values exercise goes. People involved in the process may view the exercise as valuable, but its impact on the organisation can be minimal…

In my work with organisations I am surprised at the unity of vision when people are asked about the corporate culture they would like to create. Many readers will know that I am keen to involve people in verbal­ising the UGRs® (Unwritten Ground Rules) they would like to character­ise the team or organisation into the future.

This is an uplifting and useful pro­cess, and it’s incredible that I have never heard a positively framed UGR with which other people disagree.

This process is a key one in getting strate­gic alignment – that is, it creates a shared under­standing of the kind of culture that a group is prepared to strive for. It’s strategic in that such a culture will help the organisation achieve its goals.

There is another form of alignment that we’ve re­cently identified and are beginning to focus on in our work with companies – this is called personal alignment.

While strategic alignment is nec­essary, it is not sufficient to achieve cultural change. What is needed as well is personal alignment, where people’s personal behaviours are in line with the culture an organisation would like to achieve.

There is plenty of evidence that shows that as human beings, we see things differently. This is as a consequence of our own ex­periences and biases. Two of us can experience exactly the same event, yet we see it completely differently.

If we see things differently, it follows that our personal behav­iours can be interpreted in different ways. We may think we are acting in accordance with a desired culture, but others may interpret this behav­iour quite differently.

This is key to achieving cultural change. Peo­ple need to learn how their per­ceptual lenses result in them coming to conclusions which may differ from others. Peo­ple also need to learn to be self questioning, indeed self critical about their own behaviours and how these may be interpreted by others.

Using UGRs to change culture re­quires more than strategic alignment. Individuals within companies need to question their own behaviours and in many instances, change them.