ASSESS YOUR CULTURE
Do You Really Know Where Your Culture Stands?
One of the most common outcomes of the culture assessments I have performed for clients over the years is surprise, if not shock, at the "gaps" between different groups of employees in their understanding of "how we do things around here"!
Those "gaps" in understanding, in vision, in practice arise when:
- Mergers and acquisitions bring together different existing cultures;
- The pendulum swings too far between centralization and regional or department autonomy;
- Lack of consistent reinforcement of the common approach allows plenty of "drift" in individual units;
- Rapid change in markets, strategies, regulation, or other factors leave some employees behind, culturally speaking.
When "how we do things around here" means different things to different people, in different locations, in different roles, even the best strategies will fail to gain you a competitive advantage. A "tight" culture contributes too much to your success to leave it to assumptions or a "gut feeling".
Frankly, if you have not done an explicit assessment, you are probably overestimating the consistency of vision and practice across your institution.
How Culture Assessment Works
At its heart, the process is simple: we ask different groups of people the same questions and then focus on those questions where responses from these groups are very different. Board members may think that bankers are building relationships while the bankers think they are just taking orders. Branch managers may hear "conservative" frequently in credit discussions, but front-line credit staff may believe "do-able deal" is a more common phrase in their working environment.
What we are looking for are "gaps" in the responses, questions where different constituencies, if you will, have different opinions. (You can see those gaps in the actual responses shown in the graph to the right.) What matters is not that your front lines believe A, or B, or C, but that what they believe is different from what the leadership believes. What matters is not which practices and language management expects across the board, but the fact that Location 1 and Location 2 interpret those expectations differently. What matters is that the bankers and the credit analysts they work with have fundamentally different visions of the bank's standards, values, and practices.
Anonymous Surveys Provide Insights
Typically, institutions select the groups they want to compare -- grouping respondents by region or location is one common scheme, by job title is another -- and ask Jeff Judy & Associates to administer a survey. We collect the data electronically and summarize the results, highlighting those "gaps" or differences between different groups. By keeping all of the data collection and analysis outside the bank, anonymity can be assured, and respondents can answer questions truthfully without fear of their answers being challenged by, or even known to, their supervisors.
We use two surveys, depending on the needs and goals of the client:
- The Strategic Alignment Profile (SAP) is highly customizable. It can address primarily credit or business issues, or it can include broader questions that get at how management is perceived, how communications flow through the organization, how standards are maintained, and more.
- The Credit Culture Survey (originally developed by John McKinley and John Barriekiman) is limited to credit functions. It focuses tightly on credit vocabulary and practices, and will not address wider concerns about communication, general corporate values, and so on. Customization is limited to modifying question vocabulary to ensure understanding among participants, but the basic questions will always be the same. Because the same questions are used with every client, we can offer some insights into where your results show uncommon patterns or unusual "gaps."
For a convenient summary of our approach to assessment, and samples of the questions we have used, download my information packet on "Assessment Tools."
Assessment: Cost Factors
Because every assessment project is a unique combination of survey tools, response management, customization, and follow-up consultation, we develop individual quotes to match the goals and preferences of the client.
Here are the factors that go into your project cost:
- Number of Respondents. Naturally, the volume of processing will affect costs.
- Survey Customization. Most banks find these surveys more helpful if they at least change the wording of the questions to be more transparent to respondents. For example, do you want to refer to people as credit officers, loan officers, lenders, or bankers? For the SAP, a high degree of customization can be achieved by not only changing the wording, but by choosing questions to deal with specific areas of concern.
- Granularity of Analysis. Do you want to compare job titles? Geographic locations? Levels of experience? How many sub-categories do you need (e.g., four regions vs. eight)?
- Included Training/Consulting Services. If you know you have training needs around credit, say, or consulting needs around communication practices, booking them at the same time as you do the assessment can save you money in the long run. See "Repair Your Culture" for more about the training and communication support we offer.
All assessments include a presentation by conference call (up to two hours) to deliver the results of the survey, highlighting the key differences that need the most immediate attention to tighten the culture.
If you are interested in receiving a quote for culture assessment services, please download my Culture Assessment Planner, use it to guide your choices, and then contact me at Jeff@JeffJudy.com or at 952-903-0113 to discuss your needs.