Humans of all times have used symbols and ceremonies to make people act, think or feel in a specific way. It is true for all kind of cultures, societies, churches, football teams, countries and as well for families. As a human being it is important to have ceremonies in our daily life. And it is as well true for all kinds of organization.

Some behaviors in an organization are hard to change. They are often talked about as behaviors that are “stuck in the wall”. In order to make changes, you have to identify new wanted behaviors and add ceremonies around them. Unwanted behaviors are hard to “forbid” as they do not “officially” exist. You have to tear down the walls they are stuck on and fight them down with strong ceremonies.

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What type of “ceremonies” does your company have? Which ones of these ceremonies supports wanted behaviors and which ceremonies do not?

Let me give you some example of good and bad ceremonies I’ve come across.

  • Every time a salesman have a new signed contract, she ring a bell in the office. By this all can share the positive progress and be inspired to sell more.
  • When employees send a mail, always put manager in copy-list. This shows the importance of the matter. If the sender don’t do this, the recipient may choose to ignore the mail.
  • No decisions are made unless a full business case is presented as part of decision data.
  • When a unit is audited, it is important not to expose any evidence of non-compliance towards standards. If this happens your manager will request an explanation. And in the final audit report, it will not be good to have more non-conformities compared to other.

The Management System describes wanted ways of working. To manage a change of behavior you should select some few critical procedures (ceremonies) and make these fully visible. Examples could be:

  • Use Key Performance Indicators that are evidentially important for the customers. This helps the organization to prioritize activities. Wanted behavior in the organization will be supported by the definition of target levels, monitoring of progress, asking for results and celebrating good achievements.
  • Add resources (allow staff to use some time) to share lessons learned in the organization. The quality and value of these activities will increase in an organization where people see active use of the lesson learned. By this the positive effects will increase.
  • Make assigned roles matter. If you give a person a job role, have this defined in the Management System, connect it to a carrier ladder and have regular discussions as a manager with the employee about the role and expectations. By this you make a role clear and important, not only for a specific task but as well as for the future development of the individual.

If your organization use some key elements in the Management System, as important ceremonies visible for all, your Management System will become valuable for the organization. It will be tangible elements effecting culture, not only fuzzy workshops about Culture.

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