• Organizational

Architecting Culture Change

CCL's David Dinwoodie discusses the need to craft developmental architecture for ‘leadership at every level’ of your organization


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A major challenge for organizations today is in shifting mindsets to a more agile and innovative attitude, and this more often than not requires senior leaders to devolve decision-making further down the line. This in theory ought to be straight-forward but the reality is that culture – and human nature – often throws barriers in the way to it being implemented successfully. Leaders are fearful of losing control, and frequently those who have not had to take decisions of any significance in their work roles previously can be frozen into inaction by the responsibility (though others may embrace it enthusiastically).

David Dinwoodie, Vice President, Global Leadership Solutions at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) sees this as a major piece of development work that CCL can bring very targeted expertise to help with. “For us a significant part of cultural transformation is developing leadership at every level. Once we work together with the executives to understDavid Dinwoodie, Vice President, Global Leadership Solutions at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) sees this as a major piece of development workand the business strategy, understand the business challenges, understand the capabilities and competencies and see the mindset that the people need, the big challenge then becomes crafting a developmental architecture which goes not just a few levels down but across the entire organization and that's where we're seeing organizations truly make cultural shift. We know studies show you need to get at least 60 percent true buy-in from people for any major cultural change to happen in the organization; so getting to 60, 70 percent of the people on-board and emotionally and functionally participating in culture change means going much further than just the first few layers of leadership.”


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CCL does ‘discovery work’ to determine what the desired cultural shift should look like, what the elements are and how that supports the business strategy and performance, this typically is the work done with the upper levels. Then the assessment of what are the networks or ecosystems that exist in the organization, identifying who are the influencers and the change agents that operate informally and help the organization strengthen the positions of those people and also attract more change agents. A further strategy is to ensure the concept of leadership is grown at every level, “making sure that it gets pushed up, down and around the organization and everybody's speaking that same common language around the few critical leadership components whether it's feedback or coaching, agility or interdependence, making sure that that's really part of the development of everybody” explains Dinwoodie.

“Another thing we do fairly extensively is help organizations identify challenges for people to work on so we do truly subscribe to that approach to leadership development, where 70 percent comes from actually facing challenging situations. We help organizations identify these developmental challenges for leaders, ensure these are the right ‘heat experiences’ for them to be experiencing to grow and to apply the learning and supporting them with coaching.”

Mapping and matching these experiences can take a surprising amount of discussion and analysis. “We tend to do focus group studies in the organization, to identify what the major business challenges are and then when we work with the leaders typically through a coaching process to identify, what should you be involved in that would help you apply this learning to a real challenge that's gonna take you out of your comfort zone? And at the same time contribute to driving the culture change in the organization. So it's fairly personalized.”

“This is something we have been doing consistently for a long-time with clients, but in addition to that, what we're doing more and more of is not just supporting that person, coaching them through the experiences that the person's working on but then how do you take that same feedback methodology to their people so that they're helping them and supporting them more actively. So that the people who don't have access to good leadership development programs, who may never attend a leadership development program, are getting the core components of support from a leadership perspective.”

Citing a large financial institution client CCL has worked with extensively in Latin America, “the big project we rolled out this year was something we refer to as ‘Each One Teach One’. So, the senior leadership have been through a leadership development program, learned how to give and receive feedback, and now have to go back and teach somebody in their team, using a workshop kit. There's a standard methodology that we use and we teach them how to do it. So they teach somebody in their team, who then teaches somebody else in their team, that person then teaches somebody else in their team who then teaches somebody else and so on, so the idea is that each person is learning a methodology, they're using a methodology and then teaching somebody else the methodology.” The power of this system is that it develops and engrains some coaching skills, but it also creates a mindset where the support and mentoring elements become second nature, and the manager shifts from being the expert and decision-maker to being the enabler and mentor.

These shifts in culture do not come without their own issues though. For some the additional responsibilities are not initially embraced. Dinwoodie understands that this has to be managed “what we're seeing at some organizations is that people are feeling disempowered and they feel like they could be doing more, they feel like they could be contributing more and this is a tool that I think helps managers release that desire to contribute in other people. Where before people were feeling, "Oh, that kind of stuff, the manager's supposed to be doing that, they get paid for that. That's their job." And now it's more like, "Wow, this is just the way we should be working together," and it does feel empowering for people. Sort of democratise leadership development.”

CCL is also using AI to help plot out how best to design culture transformation interventions. For over 40 years CCL has been collecting research data related to all aspects of challenges faced by managers and leadership effectiveness. Their data scientists can now use all this in predictive analytics applications to map how current leaders will perform in the future under different conditions. Dinwoodie is excited by one application that can crunch this data and indicate the impact different development initiatives could have on employee engagement, and with that insight they can design programs that lever specific issues within the organization, such as shaping culture or building agility or promoting effective communication, that have been shown to be most statistically relative to increasing engagement – and then build a program around that. “It gives us pointers for the design but even more interestingly it allows us to track the results of organizational transformation efforts over time with empirical data,” notes Dinwoodie.


David Dinwoodie is the Center for Creative Leadership’s Global Director, Individual and Team Leadership Solutions, a role in which he is responsible for CCL’s global portfolio of programs, products and services in Open Enrolment, Custom, Coaching and Assessment Services lines of business. David serves as Senior Faculty for the Leading Strategically program, delivers custom leadership development solutions for corporate clients, and is a member of the Organizational Leadership Solutions Team at CCL.

David brings significant international experience to his role, having held senior management positions with pan-European and global responsibilities in Ernst & Young, BICC General Cable, Planeta de Agostini and Brystol-Myers Squibb.


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