We talk a lot about improving workplace culture. But it isn’t just the culture that influences your business and the outcomes for your customers. Every business in your value stream has its own culture, as does the value stream itself, the ways that those organizations interact up and down the value chain.
The same thing applies when working in partnerships across organizations. The relations between different cultures can create friction. When faced with an outside group people easily revert to defensive behavior.
In both these cases you lack the control to directly step in and tell others in the process how their culture should be. So how can you improve the culture across your value stream or partnership?
Build Trust Through Small Wins
Any healthy culture is built on a bedrock of trust, and shared successes contribute to that in a big way. Start the partnership with some small, easily achievable wins. This will build bonds between employees in the different organizations, and demonstrate that they can succeed together. This will make it easier to trust each other.
Be doubly careful to avoid the kind of behavior that can undermine trust in any organization. It’s always difficult to undo the damage when people stop trusting you, but it’s even more challenging when you don’t have regular access to many of them because they work in a different company.
Make Use Of Young Attitudes
Generation Y have different expectations from those who came before them. They are used to moving often from job to job and task to task, working with new people, building new working relationships on a regular basis. They are also used to working collaboratively and expect the opportunity to do so, where others may be more likely to want to be left to their own devices.
This different outlook can be a challenge for employers looking for ways to keep generation Y engaged. But it can also be a boon if you are setting up working relationships across organizations. Those generation Y attitudes create employees who thrive in a collaborative cross-organizational setting.
Many of them will relish the uncertainties and new challenges this brings, as well as the opportunity to keep meeting and working with new people from partner organizations. They won’t just get the job done, they will energize others to rise to the task, transforming cross-organizational working into something people are excited about.
Manage By Agreement
You’re not in charge of every part of your value chain, and so you can’t influence the culture through top-down management or enforcing policies and values. So instead try using Stewart Levine’s ten steps to managing by agreement. These steps can lead to a more collaborative approach to working, one that all parties have bought into and consider to be of value.
By creating agreement about the way to work you remove the fear that may be felt by some suppliers about their relationship within the value chain. If they have experienced other organizations trying to enforce changes through penalties and threats of withdrawing business then they may walk on eggshells, acting in fear of anything going wrong. This limits their ability to becoming part of a shared, trusting, and collaborative working culture. Managing by agreement shows your willingness to listen and to collaborate, not to dominate.
Putting It All Together
By using small shared wins, the collaborative energy of your younger employees, and management by agreement you can build a culture of trust up and down your value stream. This can transform your business and those around it, improving your working life and the results for your customers.