Background and Requirement
The Agency with a presence in 130 countries, employs over 6000 staff globally and specialises in providing technical knowhow to advance agricultural production in developing countries. The organisation was in the process of implementing transformation change; the Agency and its stakeholders were keen to build and sustain a culture of high performance and continuous improvement with the engagement, enablement and buy-in of all employees.
The overarching aim of developing the culture change strategy was to translate the vision into a reality, define the Agency’s desired culture that would enhance its performance, achieve the goals of the transformation change programme and identify actions at the organisational level that would result in visible and positive behavioural change at the individual level.
Solution and Action
ODRL formulated the ‘Culture Change Strategy and Plan of Action’ which comprised the following key processes and elements.
Defining the Desired Culture of the Agency
An initial qualitative analysis of documents, facilitated discussions with stakeholder groups, benchmarking with relevant external ‘not for profit’ and ‘for profit’ organisations and analysing the results of a staff engagement survey helped to define the desired culture which would be results-focused, interdependent, entrepreneurial, accountable, committed to the mission, leveraged on the skills and networks of people and engendered mutual respect among employees at all levels. The data was clustered under key emerging themes which formed the basis of the culture change framework.
Gap Analysis: ‘where are we now and where do we want to be in the future?’
The initial ‘gap analysis’ was conducted along the culture change, and taking into account the attributes of the current culture and the extent to which it supports/gets in the way of the Agency’s future aspirations as evidenced in various reports relevant to the transformation change programme. The analyses also drew on discussions with a range of stakeholders from the Change Project Teams and the Culture Change Support Team (CCST) and the results of the survey.
Culture Shift Actions (Corporate Level)
Based on the above work, three areas for action that would have far-reaching impact on driving visible and relevant culture change were selected to include: 1) Teamworking and Collaboration; 2) Leading to Engage, Enable and Empower People 3) Accountability for Results.
Structure and Roles and Responsibilities to Implement Culture Shift Actions
ODRL designed a structure with clearly defined roles and responsibilities of Sponsors and Change Agents. The notion of Authorising Sponsors and Implementation Sponsors was also agreed with the internal team. In implementing culture shift actions the role and involvement of the Local Change Teams (LCTs) was deemed to be fundamental to sustain culture change in the Agency. This was formally shown in the structure of the change team.
The Culture Change Strategy and Plan of Action was whole-heartedly endorsed by the Agency’s Membership Board (the funding countries).
The strategy and actions enabled the Agency to crystallise the essential tenets of the desired culture, identified culture shift actions and provided a road map to implement the actions over time. The latter included detailed documentation of action plans and the related measurable outcomes (including identified objectives, success measures, timelines, critical success factors/risks and a named sponsor). This also formed the basis for evaluating the impact of the actions on building and sustaining the desired culture in the Agency.
In order to ensure that there was a shared understanding of culture change and that the benefits of the proposed changes were sustainable over time, in addition to regular action learning sessions, a toolkit was developed for training change agents in field offices on the essence of the strategy / culture change framework.
Feedback from various stakeholders indicated that for the first time the concept of organisation culture was clarified in a practical and tangible manner. Further, the benefits of culture change were evident particularly in establishing the link between culture and organisational performance.