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3 Things We Learned Going Through a Cultural Transformation

At the beginning of this year, we embraced a cultural transformation with a simple goal of keeping the unique Blinkist traits while letting go of what is holding us back. This transformation would allow us to create a more agile, impactful, and innovative organization while decreasing negative stress for everyone.
by Mertcan Uzun | Jun 21 2021

Initially, our strategy was straightforward:
1. We would focus on a few critical behaviors and translate those critical behaviors into simple, practical steps that people can take every day.

2. We would leverage formal and informal culture ambassadors & leaders.

3. We would align programmatic HR efforts (performance management, etc.) with the critical few behaviors.

4. We would demonstrate impact quickly, for example, celebrate milestones and reward small victories and behaviors.

To achieve that, we formed a small mission group that would follow the agile principles and methodologies to deliver impactful changes regularly. We called this mission group the Cultural Transformation.

Little did we know, we would encounter so many different meaningful obstacles that would help the team learn and grow. We want to share some of the key learnings the Cultural Transformation Mission Group has experienced in this post.

1. Communication is key.

Culture could be one of the few concepts that is relevant to everyone at the organization. It is how your team members feel within an organization. Shortly after our start to the cultural transformation mission, we realized that we didn’t have suitable means of communication with the whole organization. We did not share some of the developments within the group transparently, and we didn’t create a platform where bi-directional communication would happen. This caused some siloed work as well as a team that was not fully aligned on the culture topic.

What did we do about this? We introduced the Cultural & Belonging Advice Committee, which encompasses representatives from Blinkist’s circles to review and feedback the cultural transformation Blinkist is experiencing.

2. Small wins are still significant, but they feel minor.

Especially at the beginning, a lot of trim work had to be done, which didn’t give reasonable satisfaction to the members of this mission group. At times, we felt that the work we were doing was not as impactful as we promised. The expectations were also high from the overall organization; however, it wasn’t possible to work on the “big” impactful things without working on the smaller steps first.

What did we do about this? We realised that clearly defining what you want to achieve in a specific period helps the team determine what needs to be done, regardless of the size and impact of the activities. Additionally, it is essential to share a clear timeline and plan with the overall organization to set the expectations and make them known.

3. There are some dependencies you can’t get rid of.

When it comes to cultural topics, there are a high amount of dependencies, especially to the stakeholders in your organization. Who are those stakeholders? Everyone. Starting from the leadership team you need to have a good level of alignment, which in our little group, we didn’t do so confidentially when we kicked off the cultural transformation. The moment we realized this, we gave a bit of a pause and made sure the whole leadership team was aligned and shared their feedback. These dependencies are there, and they are not going anywhere. When working on culture and values, it’s best to find a way to communicate clearly and directly with your stakeholders, aka dependencies.

What did we do about this? We started sharing more both with the leadership team and the overall organization. We created the Cultural and Belonging Advice Committee to have a more streamlined communication with our team members to understand and learn the changes and give constant feedback.

We know we will still hit unexpected hurdles and roadblocks, but we’re committed to growing, learning and continuing to move forward, so we can carry our wonderful Blinkist culture into the future.

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