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New Thinking on Culture Change

The NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) released two case studies, with Microsoft and HP, that adds insights into culture change in large organizations. Here is a brief summary:

NLI worked with Microsoft’s senior leadership team to establish which principles the company wanted to focus on most. The prior set of principles ran into the dozens, and they accompanied multiple other sets of skills and behaviors that were expected of employees. Ongoing collaboration helped Microsoft’s leadership principles shrink to just three, two-word phrases:

Create claritygenerate energydeliver success.

Together, they capture Microsoft’s desire to reduce confusion, excite employees, and execute on its vision. Joe Whittinghill, Microsoft’s general manager for talent, learning, and insight, has said these principles exploded “like wildfire” throughout the company. People can ask themselves, Did we create clarity in that meeting? and How are we delivering success? In employing the principles to interrogate their own behavior, employees end up cementing them as integral to the work they do. Microsoft used this approach to overhaul its leadership framework. But organizations of any size can use the framework to revamp all aspects of culture, from the broadest performance processes down to the subtlest biases.

NLI worked with HP to determine which leadership principles could turn priorities into concrete behavior. Hundreds of ideas were shared throughout the company, before the team arrived at three key mantras:

Imagine the futureInspire the team, and Make it happen.

The terms reflect HP’s mission to use a growth mindset, collaborate, and execute, without burdening people’s brains with an overflowing list of values. Now, in meetings and in emails, HP employees use the shared phrases to create shared understanding and ways of working. For example, employees put “Make it happen!” in their email signatures. Follow-up surveys have shown a 22% jump in employee engagement between 2016 and 2018 and stock gains to record levels.

Bottom line: Neuroscience research tells us that humans have an extremely hard time remembering exhaustive lists. This effectively makes them impossible to act on. NLI’s approach to leadership principles is to go simple — and sticky. The principles must not only be pithy, but easy to recall and use on a regular basis. They must also be coherent, in that people should have a hard time remembering one without the other two.

Here are links to short case studies to save:

Key Takeaways