General management

An example of culture change through process change

Some time ago I was speaking to a former colleague, who had been part of a team introduced to new ways of working and who was also a very senior technical person within the company. The ways of working were new to him, as well as to the rest of the team. One key change was a rigorous adherence to understanding user needs before launching into any technical solutions. That grounding of our work in some fundamental principles helped the project be a success.

When he and I spoke he told me about how our experience together had changed the way he thought about projects. “People phone me up with technical questions, and I find myself answering in new ways. I’ve started asking different questions. Last week someone called me to help choose between two different kinds of databases. I said, ‘Who are your users?’ and they were really flummoxed.” He went on to explain to them that if they didn’t know the answer to one of the most fundamental questions of their work, then the choice of database was rather moot.

That story shows a small change in culture at that company. We might describe it as a culture that puts users ahead of technology. Either way, it’s a change in culture that has come directly from a change in process. It’s another example where culture may seem intangible, but is actually grounded in tangible behaviours, which themselves stem from—among other things—accepted process.

The other positive thing about this story is that my former colleague was able to articulate what had happened. So he was not just an example of change, but could also be an agent of change. That is an example of how reflection, if we are given time for it, allows further adoption of change.

Photo by Marc Milligan

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