Parrhesian work simultaneously on three pillars that hold up your current culture (and therefore can change to help evolve your culture). They are:

1) Mindsets and behaviour (of the leaders),
2) Symbolism
3) Systems

Mindsets and Behaviour

Cultures are created by the leaders of an organization. As their shadows reach far into the organization, what they value and how they behave is modeled by those further down the hierarchy within the organization.

We all have mirror neurons in our brains that help us copy other humans. This is how we learn to speak our language with the accent of the people we learn from. This is how we learn to walk as well as what is required of us to be loved and cared for when we are young. These same mirror neurons allow us to assimilate into a new culture at work by mimicking the behavior of those around us. That is why we say ‘they’ve gone native’ of someone who joins an organization from a different culture and after 6 months, has unconsciously begun to behave in the same way as those in their new organization.

Often leaders are not conscious of the behaviors, values and beliefs that they portray to their organization. This means that not all of the ‘stuff’ they are putting into the culture is useful or effective.

Often leaders will ask us to work with their organization to help create more innovation or a more commercially focused organization. What they learn by working with Parrhesian, is how their own behavior, values and beliefs are contributing to their staff NOT being innovative or commercially focused!

Symbolism

When we first begin working with an organization, we visit their work sites and walk around to pick up any immediate symbols that reflect their culture.

An example of symbolism would be a display of certificates and trophies in a glass cabinet in reception, showing that the culture values competition and winning.

Another example of symbolism would be that the CEO gets the biggest office on the top floor with the best view. This would show that the culture is potentially quite hierarchical. With a culture that give greater value to those higher up the organization in terms of role, there is a danger that new ideas, or challenges to the old ways from staff at lower levels, never reaches the ears of those in charge.

Cultures that value transparency and honesty may have no enclosed offices, but open plan and glass walled offices.

Cultures that value discretion and confidentiality (like many high street law firms where clients actually come to the office for private matters) may have walled offices with heavy doors, carpets and an air of silence about them.

When we enter a workplace there are so many things that give you symbols of what is valued as well as ways in which people work. The overall feel (vibe) of a working environment also gives us a sense of the energetic field that is mostly playing out.

Systems

This is the third area that Parrhesian addresses, and normally co-creatively with the leaders of the organization we are working with. Systems are often the most challenging category to transform. They are created through an accumulation of decisions, many of which are outdated as they were taken further back in the past.

Systems are the backbone of an organization, they include all the ways the organization is measuring itself. It’s the total dashboard between processes measured in HR, IT, Commercial, Production, Finance and Administration, and all the subsystems and procedures for getting what you need to function in your role.

When Parrhesian embarks on a cultural evolution, one of the first things that are addressed is to help create awareness of the fact that these 3 categories need to be worked on. Often we find misalignment that, inadvertently leads to the phenomena of a “schizophrenic organization”. Often a result of different messages that over time have been sent into the 3 respective categories and that under the surface have created a misfit that is experienced as a “we are doing everything we should do, but still something is not right” – kind of feeling. Parrhesian diagnoses the culture from these 3 categories in order to understand to what extend they are aligned or not, and then works on the gaps to cocreate one rock solid, tailored culture.

End Results

Very often it’s a relief for leadership teams to have clarity over what culture is, how it is created, how it can be aligned for high productivity and how it can be measured so that it becomes an asset to the organization not a headache!