Volume 2, August 2022

Welcome to the second issue of Fieldnotes, the CFAR CultureLab newsletter on organizational culture.

 If you missed our first issue, we have you covered with this link. While it’s been a long, hot summer, we hope you have found some time to slow down and reflect. We have been thinking about the complexities and power of organizational culture—the CultureLab campfire is still glowing, and we have a few things to share!

In our continuing forced experiment on culture in a hybrid work world, this piece from McKinsey piqued the interest of our Race Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee (RDEI) co-leads. It reflects on research about how diversity and inclusion are being impacted by the hybrid environment (not all positively, as you might guess). 

“The research showed a strong preference amongst employees for hybrid work to continue, and this preference is even stronger amongst employees with a disability, those who identify as LGBTQ+, or who are a member of an underrepresented racial group. It further suggests employers should focus on supporting work-life balance, team building, and mutual respect—practices that empower employees to do their best work—to foster inclusiveness in a hybrid work environment.”
Daphnie Pierre and Eliza Orleans, CFAR RDEI co-leads

How is your workplace fostering inclusivity in this world of hybrid work?

We know feedback can play a critical role in shaping a culture of learning, development, and success. Over the last six months, CultureLab has been helping our firm strengthen a culture of feedback, focusing on behaviors associated with giving and receiving feedback and understanding how to build these processes into organizational life. Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s Thanks for the Feedback has helped inspire our efforts. We created a group of Feedback Champions across the firm and invited them to experiment with feedback on projects, across roles, and through tools such as 360 reviews, role negotiation, and after-action reviews. Not easy work, but it feels like feedback behaviors are taking hold and helping us achieve cultural aspiration “to learn through reflection.” Feel free to borrow our one-page resource guide here.

Feedback is of course related to the notion of psychological safety, which we have found to be a powerful concept in our work with clients and internally. There are a lot of resources to learn more about psychological safety, most centrally our colleague Amy Edmondson’s work. We were taken by this great animationon psychological safety narrated by the behavioral economist Charles Duhigg that looks at how Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michael created an inclusive and psychologically safe environment for the original writing team at Saturday Night Live. Duhigg makes the link to Google’s famous study of team behaviors and psychological safety.

The workforce crisis in healthcare poses a huge cultural challenge, as our colleagues Carey Gallagher, Jennifer Tomasik, and Jason Pradarelli reflect in the recent July 2022 edition of The Wharton Healthcare Quarterly. They continue the series by sharing three guiding principles for “delivering care safely and effectively:”
  • Slowing down to speed up
  • Leveraging the power of stuck
  • Using resistance as feedback
They explore ways to translate these principles into action to strengthen the currently fragile state of the healthcare workforce, which as our colleagues Barry Dornfeld and Mal O’Connor, would say is facing a moment you can’t ignore. [1].

Lastly, we are excited about the news that our proposed session on the future of organizational anthropology has been accepted for the American Anthropological Association meetings later this year. Barry Dornfeld is co-chairing this panel, “Envisioning Organizational Anthropology’s Unsettled Futures: An Engaged Roundtable Discussion,” bringing together nine anthropologist colleagues who work in and do research on organizations and the future of work to facilitate a discussion using CFAR’s History of the Future process. This promises to be an exciting gathering and generative conversation—more on this soon!

If you enjoy reading this newsletter, please let us know by emailing culturelab@cfar.com. Feel free to share it with your networks, forward it to colleagues who you think may be interested, and send us your feedback!

[1] O’Connor, Malachi and Barry Dornfeld. The Moment You Can’t Ignore: When Big Trouble Leads to a Great Future: How Culture Drives Strategic Change. New York: PublicAffairs, 2014.