Culture transformation is not easy, but it’s not a mystic art

A black and white photo of a tall building with a perspective from the bottom facing up. On it, it says in blue text "Culture transformation is not easy, but it's not a mystic art..." and underneath in gray text, it says "A thought piece by Jon Harley"

I have been at Coode Associates for six months now and wanted to share why I joined and more importantly the impact we have supporting our clients, with whom I feel privileged to work. We combine a focus on results with a deep understanding of what it takes to create a permanent change in an organisation’s behaviour. These two elements, effectively combined, underpin effective execution and produce lasting competitive advantage for any organisation. Ensuring the right culture in an organisation is particularly important during moments of significant change – a new strategic direction, a new leader or major structural change or when working across multiple nationalities. We support leaders in enhancing the effectiveness of their senior team, engaging their senior staff and aligning organisational culture by acting as trusted advisors and experts on what it takes to align mind sets and behaviours – something which requires insight, process, rigour and experience. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it is not a mystic art and facilitated well, it is highly impactful.  

Why I joined Coode Associates 

For the past 20 years, I have been given the opportunity to work in a variety of leadership roles, primarily on an Executive Team and Board of a high growth Consultancy. My ambition to become a leader was never primarily self-serving. Fundamentally, I wanted influence to positively impact others by creating an environment for colleagues to develop themselves and thus foster a culture of loyalty, purpose, passion and high performance. I wanted to grow a business because with growth came more clients to learn from, more service capabilities to deliver and more sectors to serve.  

Business, personal and colleague growth is the driver for every decision I make as a leader. Having had an impact in the organisations I directly worked for, I wanted to have an impact with leaders from across different business types, geographies and sectors to support their personal and their business’ performance goals. 

The impact we have  

It is one thing knowing your drivers as a leader, but another to align entire leadership teams behind a clear and explicit strategic ambition and set a culture that supports it. Cementing your desired culture in how your leadership team presents themselves in their day-to-day behaviours is critical to success. Coode’s approach is that culture is not fluffy, it’s not something that you think about as a secondary objective to your strategy, but rather it is something you can tangibly, consciously, purposefully focus on to align and drive business performance. 

We create a space, a structured approach and supportive challenge to leaders so they better individually and collectively adopt and consciously practice the defined behaviours needed for their businesses to succeed. We, ourselves, have all been business leaders, so we understand our clients’ journeys on a personal and professional level. As such we can ground our behavioural change interventions firmly in our clients’ context.   

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We focus on working on levels of listening, accountability, energy, and encourage leaders to recognise the strengths they bring, the varied strengths in others and how they can seek and give support to colleagues who offer something different.  

In my first few months, I have observed things click in the faces of leaders when we land a concept in the right way at the right time for them. I have observed teams, usually without the space to think beyond the day to day, gain clarity in their strategic goals and how they turn up more effectively as leaders. It is not easy, and habits don’t change overnight, but it is not a mystic art.  

The triangulation and alignment of strategy, leadership and culture is essential  

This is underpinned by our philosophy that it is necessary to enhance, align and focus the human element (the mindsets and behaviours) of an organisation, its mind and muscle, and balance this with the systems, structure and processes that form the backbone. We find that this brings clarity, focus and alignment to our clients’ strategic goals as well as building awareness, a shared language and competence around mindsets and behaviours. When an organisation develops more effective leadership, it results in improving alignment and enhancing employee engagement. 

Sustainably transforming culture should be approached in the same way as any other major transformation: with rigour, structure, governance and metrics.  

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Author: Jon Harley

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