Following its initial work at the executive and director levels,
it therefore involved management — including supervisors and
project managers — in a training program that focused on
identifying goal behaviors considered important to AAD’s long-term success. Managers participated in group meetings and
education, as well as one-on-one meetings with directors, and
were asked to give feedback on the suggested focus behaviors
and how best to integrate them into everyday operations.
During the initial phase of AAD’s cultural change, direct feedback
was frequently solicited from management. When it came time
to get input from the full staff community, the association used
an external facilitator and trainer where appropriate in order to
ensure staff was not wearing blinders, facilitate open dialogue
and challenge assumptions. It also used the same anonymous
employee opinion survey — distributed biennially — that had
initially made clear to association leaders the need for cultural
change. As with the initial survey, the need to improve collaboration among departments continued to surface in later polls.
Because the association clearly still had work to do in tearing down silos and developing collaboration, it launched an
organization-wide training program titled “Moving From Conflict
to Collaboration,” which focused on how to identify, understand,
resolve and diffuse conflict, as well as on developing skills
that support cross-functional teaming. All staff participated in
the program, including executive leadership.
As part of the collaboration training, participants identified
barriers that were still keeping the association from achieving
its desired culture. Staff felt they would benefit from additional
training in negotiation and communication. In response, AAD
offered optional classes on “Embracing and Resolving Difficult
Conversations” and “Getting to Yes Through Negotiation,” which
had high voluntary attendance by employees who were clearly
embracing the concept of collaboration.
The feedback AAD received on these two programs led directly
to its most recent training program, “Enhancing Your Personal
Effectiveness.” Staff was demonstrating the core principles of
interdepartmental collaboration and now needed to develop tools
and skills with which to further improve organizational effectiveness. Although it was difficult to measure, the energy and
enthusiasm demonstrated during this training — which facilitated the honest, open and non-confrontational sharing of ideas
and concerns about remaining cultural barriers and solutions —
indicated that cultural change was, indeed, being embraced.
LONG-TERM SUCCESS MEASURES
Cultural change is an iterative process that requires continuous reinforcement in the form of not only education and skill
development, but also appropriate performance measures and
rewards. At AAD, for instance, collaboration has been built
into performance planning and assessment expectations, both
for individuals and departments.
Because staff requires support in addition to education and
rewards, senior staff and managers have made a commitment
to removing obstacles that prevent or hinder change. They therefore support outside education and shifting workloads, when
necessary, and have committed themselves to modeling the
desired culture with their own behavior. Sometimes, that’s
required making difficult choices — such as acknowledging
when an individual is no longer a good fit with the organization
— and executing them sensitively and appropriately.
AAD continues to solicit feedback from staff using surveys,
focus groups and one-on-one conversations during projects and
training sessions. Although management has continued to be
highly involved in implementing cultural change, next steps are
always contingent upon employee feedback at all levels so that
no opinion goes unheard.
Along with communication, cultural change requires demonstrable support for addressing barriers. For example: During
AAD’s “Enhancing Your Personal Effectiveness” program, employees learned that in order to be effective, one must set aside
uninterrupted time to deal with “big rock” projects. Although
there was some skepticism among staff as to whether this could
actually be accomplished, AAD gave employees permission —
and now actually requires them — to set aside extra time in
their schedules for projects that require concerted effort. AAD
employees call this “big rock time” and communicate it to
others by displaying a bright yellow “big rock” sign on their work
area or office door. When the sign is up, colleagues are expected
to respect their need for focused work time.
In order to successfully implement cultural change at the
organizational level, associations must be willing to take the
time that’s needed to change behaviors at all levels of the organization. They also must be willing to make time to celebrate
successes, and to remain focused on continuous improvement.
Speaking of which: AAD’s next challenge will be training its
volunteer leaders so that its cultural change can finally be fully
realized, the entire organization working together in a seamless
and collaborative fashion.
Eileen M. Murray, MM, CFRE, CAE, is deputy executive director and Sarah
Tancredi is director of human resources of the Academy of Dermatology. Murray
may be reached at (847) 240-1029 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Tancredi may be
reached at (847) 240-1039 or email@example.com.
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