A framework to spot cultural perception problems

Internal culture has a lot to do with what we communicate, how we communicate it and how people perceive it. I’ve read a few articles about the subject. I was also pretty much inspired by the work of Rory Sutherland. I tried to condense all these different readings and sources in one sketch.

This framework is here to show what is the state of your internal culture on a specific aspect. Let’s take for example collaboration.

Perception

First, there is what people perceive about this cultural aspect. Do people feel that their environment is collaborative or not? Here it’s just about how people see it by themselves, it’s about their personal opinion. This is something you can find out with only a few interviews or some well-designed surveys.

Behaviors

The second aspect of the framework is about behaviors. It’s what people really do. It’s not about what they think they do. What they think others do. It’s about observed behaviors. In our example, do people share documents? Do people ask others to work on stuff together? Do people help each other? To find out about behaviors you have to go deeper. You have to do some observation, maybe in the form of a shadowing session. Or maybe you could use a mystery shopper to spot what happens.

Moving forces

The third aspect is one borrowed from to “Jobs To Be Done” theory. What are the forces (behaviors, incentives, rituals, clues) that drive the collaboration or stop it?

The different states

Once you have found out what the different elements are, you will see in what state the internal culture is.

1. The perfect match

People see that they collaborate, and they do really collaborate. The perception is positive and the behaviors too. Nothing more to do here, than maybe just be aware of the driving forces that work to not stop them later.

2. The nightmare

This is a tricky situation. People do collaborate. But they don’t feel they really do it. Or they feel they should do it more, even if they are already doing great work. The great thing here is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in training and tools. You just have to reassure people. You have to make it visible.

3. The happy illusion.

You have the feeling you are collaborating well, but you don’t. This happens often and it’s pretty tricky too. If the cultural aspect analyzed isn’t important, then you can leave the situation as it is. People are happy, so why change the situation? But if the aspect is crucial to your company, like for collaboration, then you will have a lot of work. First, you will have to let people know that no, the situation isn’t good. And then you have to fix the problem. The issue here is that it’s hard for people to solve a problem they don’t see.

4. The evil match.

This is the situation that everybody fears. People don’t collaborate and they know it. But in fact, this isn’t the hardest situation. People are already aware of the problem, so half of the problem is already solved. Here you can look at the different driving forces (behaviors, incentives, rituals, clues) that stop the behaviors. Once you have worked on that, you can do the analysis again. Then, you have to check if you have moved to one of the two first states: the perfect match or the nightmare.

When to use this framework

This little framework is to me more a tool to show to clients or teams what the result of an analysis is. It isn’t a tool to do the analysis. For that, you will need the typical user research tools.