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22.11.2013
The organizational culture must be ready and capable of supporting and sustaining the change at hand. Whether embarking on a new direction, establishing a new organizational vision or questioning why your turnover rates are above industry norms, it is critical to start by assessing the present day culture of the organization. As qualified associates trained in the use of Culture-Strategy Fit™** Assessment tools we can analyze and determine which tool(s) would best serve the evaluation phase of a change initiative. Find a career you'll enjoy, become a better leader, improve your relationships, and deepen your self-awareness. Cultural Change can be successful only when you have a good understanding of the difference between the culture you currently have, and the culture you are trying to build. One way that you can achieve this measurement, and therefore understanding of the culture, is to pursue the first two steps in the life cycle of a 'top-down' cultural change programme, shown in the diagram. The audit can be repeated at various stages, most notably at the end, in order to assess the impact of the programme.
The most important feature of successful cultural change programmes is the follow-up - but one that is most often left to drift.
The behaviours and attitudes in the department often reflect those exhibited in the management team - undertake some management team building and it will have a knock-on effect throughout the whole organisation.
Changing people in influential positions can have an effect on the culture - but their personalities and approach need to be 'different' to the existing culture.
A 'bottom up' programme is more pragmatic - trying to change the culture in a few parts of the organisation and hoping it will spread out from there. In the second part of this article, we'll consider the cost and investment made into cultural change programmes. Artist Favianna Rodriguez, who co-founded the immigrant rights organization Culture Strike, reflects on how cultural undercurrents come together to make waves of political change.
Art has always been a tool for me to claim space, build power and speak out about the injustices that have shaped my social experience in the United States.
To think about how art shapes politics, we need to look far beyond the next political event to consider how we build up a cultural space. In the political world, we experience the wave’s peak moments through events like elections or policy wins, but we don’t always recognize the undercurrents and conditions that lead us there.
The environmental and human rights activist Van Jones has made an excellent graph mapping the political ecosystem.
The left side, “action,” often means quantifiable policy changes: a bit more funding here, a higher age limit there.
Artists are represented here on the side of ideas, in the “heart space.” Art is uniquely positioned to move people—inspiring them, inciting new questions and provoking curiosity or outrage. For the last 20 years, because funding for both the arts and social services has been cut, artists who wish to contribute to social change have often been tasked with holding community workshops. As artists, we need to communicate more than what we stand against or why particular policies affect us negatively, because limiting our commentary to such reactions would confine the social imaginary to existing political frameworks and systems that we do not control.
When people claim that “cultural strategy” is just the communication strategy for a political campaign, I disagree wholeheartedly. To give you a sense of the time frame in which cultural shifts happen, and how that eventually translates into policy, look at LGBTQ culture, which finally made its way onto mainstream TV in the 1990s. Imagine what it would be like if we could have a Laramie Project for immigrant rights, a play about undocumented youth, become popular in high schools. It’s especially critical for us to work together in the wake of the dismantling of support for the arts since the 1980s. More specifically, we don’t have a robust infrastructure for art committed to social justice, and social-justice organizations are not hiring artists the way they’re hiring organizers.
There have been tensions between social-justice spaces and art spaces, too, and that’s understandable; but I think it is important for us to be comfortable with such tensions and take them on in a revolutionary way.
This leads us to the third area: creating cultural policy oriented toward access and equity for artists.
In his new book, The Culture Cycle: How to Shape the Unseen Force that Transforms Performance, HBS Professor Emeritus James L. Heskett finds that as much as half of the difference in operating profit between organizations can be attributed to effective cultures.
Hotels where employees strongly believed their managers followed through on promises and demonstrated the values they preached were substantially more profitable than those whose managers scored average or lower…No other single aspect of manager behavior that we measured had as large an impact on profits. Culture is a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don’t even think about trying to do things another way. Is “pretty good performance” rewarded because we value efficiency or is it punished because we maintain a very high bar? Over time, employees realize that doing things one way gets rewarded and another way results in punishment. If these paradigms of how to work together, and of what things should be given priority over other things, are used successfully over and over again, ultimately employees won’t stop and ask each other how they should work together. If you don’t articulate a culture— or articulate one but don’t enforce it— then a culture is still going to emerge. What differentiates the two is setting values and then making sure they are consistently enforced over time. John Kotter studied the relationship between culture and performance in over 200 companies. Sounds corny but Clayton Christensen says that designing the culture of a company is no different that setting the rules for how your family treats each other at home. I finally had time to read The Reengineering Alternative: A plan for making your current culture work by William Schneider. Before reading the book, I already had a pretty good idea about it thanks to a private seminar with Michael Spayd and a conference session by Israel Gat – How we do things around here in order to succeed. It discusses one of the biggest issues for cultural change programmes - how to ensure the change is real and lasting - and outlines some of the alternative approaches that can be used. Clear and objective measurement is one common feature of successful cultural change programmes. It starts with defining in precise terms the culture you are trying to build, which can be used to determine the change you need to make.


In fact, as in many walks of life, measurement is an important key to reducing the risk of failure. Without good follow up, all the effort put into the earlier stages can be lost, and the organisation may revert to its original state, or worse. That is, you need to achieve a situation where all of management and staff are both able and willing to change. A very powerful form of measurement is to obtain customer feedback on the service provided - this provides a significant motivation for change across all levels of management and staff. They also need to be encouraged in bringing a fresh approach, or else it might be their behaviour that changes (by conforming) rather than the culture. But beware - as Caesar first observed, reorganisation can simply be a substitute for achievement. Having 'a mission' is not good enough - it has to be a 'motivating mission' that inspires people and makes them feel good about coming to work. Growing up in the age of “free trade,” amid an expansion of anti-immigrant policies, led me to develop art about these issues.
Jeff Chang, a brilliant hip-hop critic and journalist, and one of my collaborators in co-founding Culture Strike, has encouraged us to imagine a wave when we think about political change.
In the world of art and culture, many of us help construct the conditions that lead to this climax.
On the left you have action, and on the right, ideas; elites are at the top, and the masses are below. Normally, and especially when we are in campaign mode, we tend to think about what artists can contribute to the action space.
While this is important, it also means we move further away from giving artists the space, time and resources to create a body of work. We should also present our vision for who we are, and show why that vision is a positive one. With communication strategy you are still in the action space, meeting the needs of the campaign or reacting to dominant messages in the media.
Ellen DeGeneres came out in 1997, and Will & Grace started broadcasting the following year. How long would it take us to get to a place where migration was viewed as normal and natural, and where we respected the human rights of people who have crossed national borders?
Upon taking office, Ronald Reagan aimed to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) entirely.
Artists who are interested in social justice are left without a pathway, even at art schools or music schools. Collaborations between artists and political organizers have definitely happened throughout history, as we saw so clearly with liberation movements like “Black is Beautiful” or the Chicano arts movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and with the anti-apartheid struggles that peaked in the 1980s with widespread cultural boycotts of South Africa. This is how we will build the infrastructure and networks needed to help socially engaged artists thrive.
The gutting of the public sector created a huge commercial sector that dominates art schools and art institutions. In many ways, artists are seasonal workers; their practice does not bring them a steady workflow.
If a culture has formed, people will autonomously do what they need to do to be successful. However, it is going to be based on the processes and priorities that have been repeated within the organization and have worked.
This is THE foundation — the first requisite — for getting along with others. And it is the one truly difficult accomplishment you must make. The tiniest bit of disapproval can sometimes cause a resentment which will rankle — to your disadvantage — for years.
Every man knows he is imperfect, but he doesn’t want someone else trying to correct his faults. If you want to improve a person, help him to embrace a higher working goal — a standard, an ideal — and he will do his own “making over” far more effectively than you can do it for him. Watch your smile, your tone of voice, how you use your eyes, the way you greet people, the use of nicknames and remembering faces, names and dates. Conversely, you cannot build genuine interest in people until you have experienced the pleasure of working with them in an atmosphere characterized by mutual liking and respect. But when reading the book, I crystallized my thinking about a whole number of disparate experiences and open questions. For example, Control culture is more compatible with Collaboration or Competence cultures than with Cultivation culture. The book details the strengths and weaknesses of each so check it out if you are curious to learn more. Without this information, the planning stage cannot be properly focused, and is therefore a bit of a 'stab in the dark'.
It can provide an early warning system for when things are not going as planned, enabling management to take appropriate corrective action.
It will also build cynicism that makes it difficult for management to implement future programmes.
For nearly a decade, most of my art directly served the immediate, short-term needs of social movement work. Normally, when we envision a wave, we think about a climactic event, but in order to reach the peak, all kinds of forces—many of which you cannot see—need to come together. Culture is a space where we can introduce ideas, attach emotions to concrete change and win enthusiasm for our values. You may attend a rally or vote, but you also read books, listen to music, engage with visual art, turn on the radio and create your identity through culture. We are not necessarily talking about concrete things here, but rather, a “head space.” Academic institutions and think tanks, which are not always involved in the immediate policy wins, are significant in creating a culture of thought.
Artists are immediately channeled into an action space because their contributions are viewed in transactional ways.
Soon after came the Laramie Project, a play about the life of gay college student Matthew Shepard—who was tortured and murdered in 1998—that was performed in high schools across the country. He didn’t get there, but when Republicans gained control of both chambers of Congress in the mid-1990s, right-wing groups like the American Family Association pushed them to decimate NEA funding.


Not just 10 or 20 artists, but hundreds, and while they’re young and excited to shape the world around them. Many of us haven’t figured out how to measure the impact we’re having on the world of ideas because we stay in the action space. So while we think about creative strategies for mobilization, we also have to rebuild the space for artists to engage in public service. How can we conceive of artists’ roles in a more expansive way—not just making posters, but also contributing visionary ideas for social change? The advantage of this is that it effectively causes an organization to become self-managing. You can tell the health of a company’s culture by asking, “When faced with a choice on how to do something, did employees make the decision that the culture ‘wanted’ them to make? Forming a culture is not an instant loop; it’s not something you can decide on, communicate, and then expect it to suddenly work on its own. Flattery with most intelligent people gets exactly the reaction it deserves — contempt for the egotistical “phony” who stoops to it. The book suggests using this as a starting point for culture workshops with a diverse group of staff.
It provides a model that is useful for understanding some things and less useful for other things.
Separately, I would spend time developing my own body of work in my studio or collaborating with other artists. Art is where we can change the narrative, because it’s where people can imagine what change looks and feels like. On the inside, there’s big money: elites are throwing millions of dollars into political lobbying. But we should also ask ourselves, “What are the valuable contributions artists can make in the idea space?” Artists don’t think like policy folks.
We want artists to be able to work across the spectrum of “action” and “ideas,” because they have the ability to inspire masses of people through their fan bases.
Just this past week, TIME magazine published its April edition with a title claiming “Gay Marriage Already Won.” The cover story chronicles how the American public moved from considering marriage equality unthinkable to inevitable in less than 20 years.
From a budget hovering between $160 million and $180 million from 1984–1995 (a period during which funding already lagged behind the rate of inflation), Congress brought NEA funding below $100 million in 1996. Venues like the Los Angeles-based Self Help Graphics & Art, a Latino art center that has united and strengthened a community in need since 1973, are exceptions.
We’re not thinking about the kind of transformation that will happen five years from now in someone who, for example, looks at the art of Ramiro Gomez Jr. We need to push anti-migrant policies to the extreme fringes, as LGBTQ rights activists did with anti-gay messages. How are we developing artist leadership in the field of cultural organizing, which is about merging our social justice practices with our art practices? If you don’t have papers, the likelihood of your getting public arts funding is pretty much nonexistent. There are many important short-term needs right now, but we need to look beyond immediate concerns and build up all the forces in our movement, until it becomes an unstoppable wave.
You need to be sure that when you ask your children to do something, or tell your spouse you’re going to do something, you hold to that and follow through. Constantly, deliberately think of them until they become a natural part of your personality. My request is that if you are using it that you use my company logo, but this is not strictly required.
Take the new concept I have been working on, the idea that “migration is beautiful.” It’s very different to say “No on SB 1070” than to say “migration is beautiful,” because the latter message opens up a positive way of seeing migrants, whereas the former statement simply reacts to an immoral law. The injection of gay-friendly content into all aspects of our culture, from TV to high-school curricula and even sports, clearly spoke to our collective imagination.
You’re not expecting to debate the merits of a political message when you listen to music or read a book. Gay-straight alliances are now the norm in high schools, which wasn’t the case 20 years ago. Furthermore, schools focused on art or music haven’t caught up with math and science schools in accepting undocumented youth. And in this case it does help me understand why certain change initiatives have and have not worked out. Neither the art-and-culture sector nor the social-justice sector was effectively building models for creative collaboration. On the outside, we apply tremendous pressure so that our elected officials pass laws that give us power. So when we talk about tomorrow’s cultural policies, we should think about the whole spectrum of activity, from immediate actions to campaigns to ideas, because we need to give artists the space to develop their bodies of work over years. It took decades, but we’ve had major policy wins in the LGBTQ sector: hate crimes legislation in the form of the Matthew Shepard Act, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the legalization of gay marriage (in a minority of states, for now, with more progress on the horizon). You’re more open to how culture is going to transform you, so you walk into it with an open heart.
What policy changes do we need to make in the national arts infrastructure so that our field can grow, and so that we are respected by both the art world and the social-justice world? The Occupy and immigrant rights movements are forceful players in this outside game, making sure that the inside is moving.
Culture creates a ripe environment for issue-based organizing or “get out the vote” efforts. We can’t necessarily claim that reading a novel or watching a sci-fi movie—say, Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008), a dystopian film about migrant labor—will move people to action, but the experience expands our imaginations and creates a climate where we can be visionary.
We need to understand timing politically to know when it makes sense for cultural interventions to happen.




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