To improve Culture focus on Competency

Changing and improving organisational culture is the right ambition for organisations aiming to adapt, survive and grow. Theories and practices to achieve cultural transformation abound. Nearly two decades working on OD projects across many industries has confirmed a perspective, shared in this interview, with practical implications for leaders wanting to shift culture. The interview transcript is below.

Why are we focusing on competency?

Clients come to us when they have a business issue.

It might be about teams working more effectively together. 

It might be about improving the experience of customers; internal and external customers. 

Building the expertise of customer facing staff so they can become more of the trusted advisor to their customers. 

It might be about building capability around innovation, agility or facilitating a shift in culture. 

You know that Peter Drucker quote – culture eats strategy for breakfast? I reckon that’s been misapplied; leaders trying to change people’s behaviour before getting clear on the playbook.  

You can’t shift culture without setting new standards of performance; you have to have clarity around what you want people to do, before you can talk about the how. 

It’s like telling football players they must display courage, agility and a sense of teamwork before describing the rules of the game. 

When an operation has a playbook that defines what people need to do to deliver a great performance, then you can set higher standards, then you can train and coach and mentor. 

The competencies we define, teach and cultivate – communication, collaboration, composure and cognition – these are the molecules of performance. They are the powers and abilities that everything else is built on. 

Cognition – do people see what really happening and are they thinking clearly and critically? 

Composure – can people keep it together when they are under pressure, can they bring their best thinking and behaviour to challenging situations?

Communication – can people have the impact and influence they want, when they speak, when they coach, sell, advise, mentor, negotiate?

Collaboration – can they work effectively in teams, can they lead teams?  Can we extract more value from the countless hours spent in meetings every week?

Without high levels of competency in these skills, people will never reach their potential.

Without consistent levels of competency across the organisation, business will not adapt and grow. Some will fail.

 If it’s important to get any of the agendas driving 21st century businesses right – customer, commerciality, internal service provision, safety, innovation, agility, change, adaptation, growth – if it’s important to get these things right, then the leader of the business, or the executive in charge of people, talent or OD should give us a call.  

COUP is an Organisational Development agency that addresses specific business contexts and needs with bespoke Executive Coaching, Training and Organisational Development programs.

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