Dear Future Organisation…
The end of the year is approaching, and it’s natural for thoughts to turn to new year’s resolutions. Indeed, in our role as Executive Coaches for some of our senior clients, we sometimes use a simple writing tool, encouraging them to write themselves a letter to read in twelve months’ time:
- What would they like to be different about their work, their team, their life?
- How would they like to be different themselves?
- And how are they planning to make that happen?
There are even websites like FutureMe.org, which will save your letter, and send it back to you at the time you’ve selected.
It can be truly transformational. The process of writing helps us to cut through the noise and busyness, and instead focus on what really matters. It helps us to stand back and see the bigger picture of who we are and what we’ve achieved. It enables us to get clear on what we want to achieve over the next 12 months and why, and how best to do that. Plus, it provides a space for us to capture and explore questions for which we don’t yet have an answer.
But what if an organisation was to write itself that letter, envisioning how it wants to be in 12 months’ time? How it wanted its culture to be? How it wanted its people to be working together? How they might feel?
We’ve used a bit of creative licence to put ourselves in the shoes of a typical client organisation and write itself that letter. You can see our efforts below.
What would your organisation write to itself? Which aspects of its culture would it want to extend and celebrate further next year? What would be the pressing cultural issues that it wanted to address, or at least start to grapple with? How would it want to do that? And with whom?
This could be a great exercise for an executive team to do collaboratively. It’s a brilliant way of bringing people together, checking you’re on the same page (or working through differences if needed), and getting excited and focussed about the year ahead. It can also be done at functional and team levels too.
Dear Future Organisation,
We’re writing this at the end of a busy year. It feels like that’s the case every year, right? Sliding into the festive break, generally pretty pleased with what we’ve achieved together but knowing there’s a whole lot more to do next year.
We started the year feeling a bit ‘stuck’ in terms of our culture. It was clear we’d fallen into some bad habits. Several of our functional teams were operating like silos, morale was pretty patchy, and the office environment seemed much less energised than it would have been pre-pandemic. Our People Survey scores had taken a dip in some key areas, and it looked like our employee retention rate was starting to fall.
We’re pleased to see that we’re ending in a better place. We’ve made great strides in terms of inter-team collaboration, particularly between Technology and Operations. The time we spent bringing the two functions together was well worth it: building understanding and personal relationships, working through dependencies and pain-points, creating a shared vision for how the two teams mutually create value together.
The other big area of progress has been in bringing our values to life. At the start of the year, let’s be honest, they weren’t much more than a pretty screensaver graphic. By working with our culture champions across the organisation we’ve managed to reinvigorate them and make them meaningful again. Now, almost everyone within the organisation understands what we mean by each value, and what that means for how they should do their work.
Just as important as what we’ve done, is how we’ve done it. We’re thrilled that we’ve made this progress by engaging our people throughout the organisation, not just by setting a mandate from the top and hoping it flows down. We’ve not got it all right, of course. We could and should have done more to involve people in the initial stages of our values work, and we still need to get on top of our approach to hybrid working. But overall, it feels like we’re in a better place, and we can build on this to further develop our culture over the next twelve months.
This time next year, we want our people to feel focussed, upbeat, and well supported. We want the 2024 People Survey results to show that morale has improved, and that people feel more committed to us and our purpose.
To make this happen, we can see four key priorities for us as an organisation:
- Turbo-charging our adaptive capability and making it safer for teams and individuals to innovate, learn and try new things (even if they don’t always work). We already say it’s “OK to fail” – but it feels like that might not always be the case.
- Grasping the opportunity of hybrid work, by making our work environments more energising, collaborative and productive places to be for office-based days.
- Improving cooperation between other key functions, learning from and building on the Technology-Operations experience (both what worked, and what didn’t).
- Delivering ever better services to our customers, by challenging ourselves to dial up our ‘Customer-centric’ value even further, and across the entire organisation.
In terms of how we do these things, at this stage we’re not fully sure. But that’s OK. Certainly, we’ll involve our people at every level, we’ll role-model and celebrate good practice wherever we find it, and we’ll use outside expertise to build our internal capability for the long-run.
So, future organisation, we’re looking forward to re-reading this letter in twelve months’ time and seeing how we’ve done.
Very best wishes!