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How to align culture and performance

by The Ethics Centre
24 August 2017
This week the Australian Olympic Committee released a report into their organisational culture prepared by our team at The Ethics Centre.

It’s been a fascinating project and we’re confident that the report we produced will provide valuable input as they plan for the future – you can read the full report here. Since the report was released we’ve had a number of enquiries to ask what the process entails and what it hopes to achieve.
Using a methodology developed over 25 years, The Ethics Centre’s Everest process is a forensic review into a company’s ethical culture. It’s based on a simple proposition: that good culture can be measured. Global research shows a healthy culture is essential to sustainable, long-term performance; it enables innovation and builds trust between staff, and with clients and customers. Conversely, poor culture leads to bad decisions and an erosion of trust and credibility. The result, inevitability, is disengagement, cynicism and loss of value.
In the face of challenging conditions, many leaders are tempted to focus their efforts on compliance to prevent ‘bad’ behaviour. But this over-reliance on regulation and surveillance can be counter-productive, restricting growth of a positive ethical environment that enables people to innovate and act with a shared purpose and direction. Worst of all, an exclusive focus on compliance doesn’t work: the failures persist. A strong ethical culture is critical to managing risk and building a foundation that will support long term value and performance.
In carrying out the Everest process for leading organisations both in Australia and abroad, we’re able to evaluate culture by looking at the misalliances between what a company says it stands for, and what occurs in practice. Using this premise, we check how organisations live up to the standards they set for themselves through an audit of systems, policies, procedures and practices. We undertake extensive qualitative and quantitative research to determine how employees and key stakeholders view the organisation. Out of this process comes a set of powerful insights into the degree of alignment between purpose and practice. We identify the gaps.
Once we’ve made sense of the current state of an organisation, we’re in a position to ask our clients some tough questions about the kind of company they’d like to be.  We present clients with a Future State Framework that maps the pathway from the present to the future – asking them to imagine the pinnacle of what’s possible for their organisation.  In doing this, we examine five domains:
Culture: The operating system through which people create meaning, purpose and belonging.
Ecosystem: Organisations are complex, interconnected and interdependent. They sustain, and are sustained, through relationships, mutual dependencies and the value they bring to the whole.
Leadership: Providing the guidance, direction and consistency that allows an organisation to respond to the challenges of uncertainty and change.
Readiness: The ability of an organisation to anticipate and respond to uncertainty. The ability to pre-empt a possible future before it arrives fully formed.
Legacy: The future’s perspective on the present. The map we leave behind for others.
The nature of Everest, particularly when coupled with the independence of The Ethics Centre, is that we can confront leaders with issues that have not previously been articulated, recognised or challenged. And we do this in a way that lessens defensiveness and focuses on building on the goodwill contained in the existing culture of the organisation.
We’re proud that our process has provided leaders across business and government with the expertise to shine a spotlight on current practices and make choices about the culture and style of organisation they wish to cultivate in the future.
For more information on Everest, please contact us here.